Day 3- Pompei

I had been watching the weather forecast since before we left for Italy and Tuesday was the one day of our trip that was concerning to me. Forecasts were showing thunderstorms all day and I had booked a tour (rain or shine) and train tickets to Pompeii that day. :( So we grabbed our rain gear and were off! Our tour had contacted us to let us know our guide was sick and we would have Maria instead. I mentioned the weather and they said it looked like there might be a break in the storms late morning. I asked if we could move our tour up from 12:30 to 11:00 and they obliged. Our plan had been to get to Naples and do some sightseeing for an hour or two before taking the train to Pompeii, but this change in plans meant we needed to head straight to Pompeii.

We took the subway to Termini, which is the train station in Rome. Our train was leaving at 7:55 and I had planned on us eating a little earlier, not knowing at the time that the breakfast buffet at the hotel didn’t open until 6:45. We ate breakfast really fast and then hoofed it over to the subway station. We had to wait a few minutes for the subway and it was getting close to 7:30 at this point, so I was starting to get antsy, thinking we’d miss our train. I knew the ride was only around 10 minutes and the metro station was close to Termini, but wasn’t sure how close or what platform our train would be at. The subway stop turned out to be very close and we just hopped off the subway and walked (very quickly mind you) a short distance underground to get to Termini. Popped out above ground, found our platform and made it on board our train with no more than five minutes to spare. :)

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We were on a fast Trenitalia train to Napoli Centrale station. The ride was about an hour. Once we arrived in Naples, it was a quick walk to the Circumvesuviana ticket windows to buy one way tickets to Pompeii out of the Garibaldi train station. The Circumvesuviana is a regional, old and run down train that takes you to the cities around Naples. It was about a 30 minute ride to Pompeii with about 20 stops in between. We stood almost the entire time. I believe the trains do not have a/c, so I imagine it would be terribly uncomfortable in the summer. It was packed even though it was not peak tourist season.

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I had also booked this tour through the same tour company as the Vatican tour because I wanted to make sure the kids got a good understanding of what we were looking at. Our guide Maria was great! She was friendly and was continually quizzing us on what we thought we might be looking at, calling us all by name the entire time. She was a little hard to understand sometimes and I kept getting a hint of an accent that I just couldn’t place. Turns out she learned English from a British person, so she had a thick Italian/British accent.

The grand theater is well, grand. It could seat 5000 people. It’s huge and just so impressive to think about how long it’s been here. The original marble VIP seats are still intact.

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From the top of the theater, you have a great view of Mt. Vesuvius.

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Next to the grand theater was a smaller, more intimate theater that could hold 1,000 spectators. Clara wanted a picture of this statue of half a griffin.

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One of the homes we went into had just opened to the public about 20 days earlier. It’s incredible to see the frescoes that have survived all these years. And only around 2/3 of Pompeii have been excavated. They’ve mainly turned to trying to conserve what they have uncovered. Tourists and exposure to the elements has caused a lot of damage to existing structures and some of the buildings have crumbled.

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Trying out the crosswalks. The stones were raised so that you didn’t step in the sewage that was just thrown into the street to be washed downhill. They were placed a certain distance apart to allow for wheels of carts to pass through and you can still see the indentions left by the carts.

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Here Maria is explaining that this counter with it’s sunken terracotta bowls was a take-out restaurant. There are lots of them in Pompeii because most people were too poor to have a kitchen in their home.

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I noticed this older gentleman was lurking around for awhile. I believe he was soaking up some free tour guide info from Maria.

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Here are a few pictures from inside the men’s and women’s bathhouses. The cutouts are lockers in the changing areas.

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Here we are in the Forum with Mt. Vesuvius in the background.

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And a selfie before heading back to Naples.

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Notice anything about these pictures? Like the first day we’re not wearing coats? It ended up being a picture perfect day and the rain stayed away all day! It did look dark off in the distance, but we didn’t get a drop!

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We probably could have easily spent a couple more hours there, but we were hungry and had a 30 minute train ride back to Naples, so we went on. Had pizza in a shop on Piazza Garibaldi just outside of the train station and then headed back to the station via an underground shopping area that connected the piazza to the station, popping in to a few stores on the way.

Our train was leaving around 5:00 and I booked us a little bit nicer seats for the ride home since I knew we’d be tired and wasn’t sure when we’d be eating. It was nice to get a drink and snack on the ride home, along with a bit more comfy seats. Chris was impressed that I would splurge. We paid maybe $5 bucks more per person than the cheap seats. Hey, I’m a generous individual when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. 😉

We took a bus from Termini back to the hotel, but I can’t remember what we did for dinner that night. I think we were all full from our late lunch in Naples.

Day 2- Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Vatican City

We started out our day a little late on Monday. We had a private tour of the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica with a family friendly tour guide scheduled from 2:00-5:00, so I didn’t want to start out too early in the day. We left the hotel mid-morning of what would be a drizzly, overcast day and took the bus to the stop nearest the Trevi Fountain. The plan was to just slowly make our way over to Vatican City where we would get lunch and sit in a cafe for awhile before our tour.

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Wouldn’t you know it, they had the water shut off for cleaning. :( Workers in yellow rain suits were crawling all over it. We managed to get a couple of photos without them in the background. We planned on coming back on Wednesday anyway, so we didn’t linger.

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We popped into some of the shops in the streets around the fountain. Clara was dying to buy a warm hat, so she got a cheap hat in a souvenir shop and was a happy camper from there on out. We walked the short distance to the Spanish Steps and only got turned around once.

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The rain had picked up a bit by the time we got to the Piazza di Spagna, but we still managed to make our way up to the top of the steps. We went all the way up thinking the subway station was up top. There was an entrance, but it was closed. Someone pointed us back down a side way which took us down a windy, fairly hidden away passage. For a minute I thought we were being scammed and his friends were going to be waiting to mug us, but eventually we found the entrance and hopped on to the next stop, which was the Piazza del Popolo.

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We just walked around for a few minutes and checked out the fountains, the obelisk and some surrounding shops. Clara was our resident Roman god and goddess expert, so she filled us in on who we were looking at each time we came across a statue.

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Back on the subway to the next stop, which was near Vatican City. For blocks around the Vatican you are bombarded by people trying to sell you on their tours. They are so annoying and even though we were ignoring them, they kept yelling at us that we were going the wrong way. Dude! How do you know where I’m going?!

We had lunch between the metro station and Vatican City, at a busy little pizzeria called Ottavio’s. We sat for as long as we could because the rain was supposed to get heavier at any time and we still had a few minutes before we were to meet our guide. I went to the restroom which had a sink in a tiny room with two doors to a men’s and women’s toilet, each no bigger than a typical bathroom stall. As I was washing my hands, a couple had come in to change their baby’s diaper. It was comical to watch. They were behind me, just about touching me. He had stepped back into the women’s room, holding the baby against his chest facing out. Mom was stripping the baby’s bottoms off and just doing the change mid-air. They all had their winter hats and coats on, bags in tow. Oh my goodness, no. Just no. I could not handle changing a kid in an Italian public restroom. What if it was a dirty diaper? I don’t think I saw a single diaper change station in a public restroom, aside from the airport.

Just a short walk and we were at the city walls. Our guide Simone met us at the entrance to the Vatican Museums and walked us quickly through security and right up to the window to get our tickets.

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This tour agency is geared towards kids, so we were going on a scavenger hunt around the museum. We decided to be on the same team (good thing because there’s a ton of Roman mythology contained inside those walls and Clara would’ve kicked our tails). Simone would show us things on her tablet. Each time it was something done by Michaelangelo, first she’d show a pic of the ninja turtle and then the real Michaelangelo. You can see Mikey on her screen in this next pic. :)

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I thought the tour was very informative and she was very nice. We saw areas that I didn’t get to see last year. Tour guides have to talk about the Sistine Chapel before you go in since there is no talking allowed. She tried to let the kids sit on some stairs while she explained what they were about to see, but security shooed us away. She was trying to get them to make an exception for the kids, but they weren’t having it and the bench that she said all of the guides fight over was occupied, so we got to stand.

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Here we are with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the background.

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And outside of the Basilica before going in.

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We couldn’t get good pictures from inside. It is amazing. Upon entering, all Robert could say was “Wooow!” I kind of wish our tour had been earlier, because I think the kids would have loved to go to the top of the dome.

 

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It was dark out when we finished with the tour, so we didn’t get good pictures. I kept thinking it’s ok, we can swing by on Wednesday after going to the Castel San’t Angelo next door and get some good pictures from outside.

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We walked to the subway and took it and then a bus back to the hotel, so it took close to an hour total to get back. We were pretty tired from a full day of walking so we stopped in at a burger restaurant near the hotel. They had some interesting burger toppings. Their fries and onion rings were pretty good after several days of nothing but pizza and pasta.

Day 1- Colosseum, Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill

I made an awesome, color-coded itinerary in Google Sheets for our trip (which is totally unlike me btw). I just needed a good visual, especially with the kids, so I could tell if we were going to be over-doing it. I wanted to build in rest time back at the hotel and I wanted to make sure I knew which buses and subways to take and names of stops to get off at because I don’t think clearly under pressure and didn’t want to rely on the phone. My itinerary quickly went out the window that first morning when I let the kids sleep in. They didn’t sleep in too late, but we got a later start than I wanted. The Colosseum opened at 8:30 and I wanted to get there right around that time to avoid lines. Chris was up early and had been waiting for us down in the breakfast room that he spent many an early morning in during his travels. A wonderful American/English breakfast was included in our room rate which made mornings quick and easy for us. It included bacon, eggs, baked beans and weenies (we stuck with the eggs and bacon), as well as a number of pastries, cereal, fresh fruit, etc.

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Robert wanted to be a proper European and have hot tea with cream and sugar with his breakfast. He liked it and requested it most mornings.

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We consulted with the front desk as we were leaving and asked where the nearest “tabaccheria” or tobacco shop was where we could purchase bus/metro tickets. I knew Jenna and I had bought them from a shop near the hotel last year but wanted to be pointed in the right direction. We were out of luck since they’re closed on Sundays. Grrr. My well-laid plans were slowly unraveling. I also wanted confirmation that kids were free and she said that was not the case. (I looked just now and sure enough, kids under 10 can ride for free so we could have saved 24 euro.) Anyway, our best bet was to walk to the nearest subway station and buy tickets from the kiosk there. Rome’s subway system isn’t very extensive, especially outside of the city center, so it was about a 15 minute walk for us from the Hotel Panama Garden where we were staying. It wasn’t too bad. It was chilly, but the sun was shining and the kids got their first look at Rome’s streets. We made it to the station, bought our 7 day passes that are good on buses and the subway and were on our way to the colosseum.

When you walk out of the subway station, you’re standing in the shadow of the colosseum. You and all of the other tourists and toy and selfie stick hawkers and tour hawkers. It was a little chaotic. Chris had to give the kids the same talk he gave me to just completely ignore them, don’t slow down and for goodness sake don’t smile or look in their direction or they’ll be following us for an hour. Y’all, that’s really hard for us native Texans. :) They caught on quickly though and were just as annoyed by them. It doesn’t take long.

Because we slept in, we got to the colosseum about an hour or two after it had opened, so we had a long wait to get in. Jenna and I got in really quickly last year and it was still packed with tourists then, so I expected the same since the lines didn’t look that long. Nope, it was a long wait, maybe 45 minutes. In the shade with 50 degree temps and a breeze. There may have been a little bit of whining involved. We should have gone over to the Roman Forum to get our tickets because the lines are supposedly shorter and the tickets get you into both, but I really thought the line wasn’t going to be too bad and looked to be moving quickly. It turns out they only let a certain number a people in and close it off for 15 minutes before they let another large group in.

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After we exited the colosseum, we headed over to the Roman Forum by way of the Palatine Hill entrance. It was kind of the scenic way to get to the Forum. We totally should’ve gotten our tickets there. It was vacant. Here’s Robert in front of the Arch of Constantine right outside of the colosseum.

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I bought a book for Robert called Mission Rome. It’s a scavenger hunt for kids that covers all of the major attractions. It was great and helped all of us gain a little bit of perspective and even I got excited when we found something in the book. One of the things to be on the lookout for was “nasoni”, water fountains that can be found all over the city. There are over 2,500 of them. He got an extra point for trying to drink from one without getting wet. The water runs continuously and most of them have a small hole on top so that if you block the flow at the end of the spout with your finger, water flows up through the top like our water fountains and is easier to drink from. I didn’t attempt a drink since the temps were in the 50s. I’m sure it’s great on a hot summer day though.

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The Forum is really amazing and you just can’t convey the sheer size and scope of these buildings in pictures. Everything is massive.

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One of the items we were looking for in Robert’s book is the plaque just beside his shoulder next to the Arch of Septimus Severus. It reads “Umbilicus Urbis Romae” or “Navel of the City of Rome”. It “was the symbolic centre of the city from which, and to which, all distances in Ancient Rome were measured” (Wikipedia).

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I had us going in a certain direction because I was sure there would be an exit at the end, but alas, we had to backtrack and figure out how to get out of this massive complex of ruins. We ended up in front of the Alter of the Fatherland and it was way past lunch time, so we walked around the streets surrounding the Piazza Venezia looking for a place to eat. We stumbled into a place called Rudy’s and it wasn’t so great. But it gave us a place to sit and rest and use the restroom. I’ve always said I wanted to take the kids out of the US to get them out of their comfort zone and experience different cultures and ways of life. I want them to figure out public transportation and how to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak English. Anyway, one such new experience happened when Robert came out of the restroom in this restaurant. His hands were covered in soap and he whispered that he couldn’t figure out the sink. :) The waiter overheard him and said it was a foot pedal. So I waited with him outside the restroom, which was now occupied, to help him find and work the foot pedal.

After lunch, we had just about had all the sight-seeing we could take for the day, but I convinced everyone we should at least try and find the statue of Remus and Romulus since I knew we were really close. We walked over to the Alter of the Fatherland, which is HUGE btw. The stairs in the second picture go up to a church between the alter and Capitoline Hill, which is where the statue is located. The kids saw the steps and asked if they could climb to the top. We said “knock yourselves out” while we waited for them at the bottom.

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The picture spacing is all off on this post and I can’t seem to easily create space between some pictures, but we’re just not going to spend a lot of time worrying about formatting. Next we walked up Capitoline Hill to the Piazza Campidoglio. Robert is pictured above with a statue of Tiber with Romulus and Remus and the She Wolf playing by his elbow. And below is a replica statue of Marcus Aurelius outside of the Capitoline Museums. I would have liked to go in, but we were pretty tired by this point.

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We continued our mission to find the statue of the She-Wolf with Romulus and Remus and knew it was around here somewhere. We turned a corner and found this small statue on top of a column. Not exactly what we were expecting. :) I think the original is larger and is located in the museum.

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And Robert found another fountain to try out. If you look closely, you can see the tiny statue in the background above his head.

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When we rounded the corner, the view that greeted us was of the Roman Forum below. The Arch of Septimus Severus with the Umbilicus plaque that I mentioned earlier is in the foreground of this photo. I was wanting to get to this spot earlier in the day and I knew we were really close, which we were, but I just didn’t know you couldn’t access it from the forum below. We ended up walking a loooong way to get to this spot, but it was worth it for this amazing view.

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From this point, it was a short walk to get to this side of the Alter of the Fatherland and to find a bus stop that would get us back to the hotel for some rest.

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It was late afternoon by the time we got off the bus near the hotel and probably only around 55 degrees, but the kids hadn’t had gelato yet, and they didn’t think they could go any longer without, so everyone but me got gelato to eat on the walk back to the hotel.

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That night we had a nice dinner at one of Chris’ favorites near the hotel, Ristorante Mangiafuoco. It was still empty when we got there after 7:00. Robert got to sample some wine. He insists that he took a drink, but I’m pretty sure a drop never made it past his lips. :) And they finally got real pizza. Robert had diavla, which is kind of like our pepperoni and Clara had a four cheese calzone while Chris and I both had the Spaghetti alla Carbonara and we had an appetizer of proscuitto and mozzarella di bufala which is soooo good. And creme brulee for dessert :) This was our “splurge” meal while in Italy.

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7th Grade Volleyball

We’re just going to ignore the fact that it’s been a year and a half since my last post. Ahem.

Clara’s had a great start to 7th grade. She decided on a whim to try out for the volleyball team the first week of school and made it onto the B team. Her season just ended last week. By the end she was feeling discouraged because they didn’t win a game all season, but she loved it and wants to play again next year.

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Here she is after her fist scrimmage before getting their uniforms. Notice anything different? Yep, no glasses! She got contacts right after school that same day. There may have been a few tears those next couple of weeks as she learned to take them in and out. She’s got it down now and is enjoying going glasses free sometimes.

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I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures during her season, but here are a couple. In the second photo, you can’t see the ball, but you can see she’s shouting “Mine!” and she got it over!


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And here she is after her final game with Coach Barnett who’s also her Social Studies teacher. There were a few tears from all the girls as they were sad to see the season end. It was a good learning experience for her and it’s not easy to keep going every week despite the disappointment of another loss. I’m so proud of this girl; she did great getting up early all season with minimal amounts of complaining. :) And she managed to get all A’s the first six weeks which is impressive given the fact that she has 5 pre-AP classes this year. I wasn’t sure if she could keep up with early mornings, late nights, and a crazy schedule, but she sure showed me!

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There’s no rest for the weary, because basketball tryouts started today.

Next Up–April

This is like Christmas in June. I’m spoiling y’all!

Justin’s birthday party was the day after Robert got his ear infection diagnosis. He actually felt ok, but he kept having those coughing fits, so we decided he probably shouldn’t be hacking all over the party guests and we’d be almost an hour away from home if he did. Chris stayed home with him while Clara and I headed up to Spring. The newest Decarlo is the spitting image of his big brother. Clara helped keep him corralled for Danielle since he didn’t want to miss out on any of the action.

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Here’s a comparison pic. Travis is a year older here. Awww, weren’t they cute?

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It was a good thing Robert didn’t come. Before I got home, Chris called and said he was having a coughing fit and couldn’t catch his breath. He had thrown up everywhere and just could not get it under control. It wasn’t a productive cough at all. I got him into the bathroom and started the steam. I gave him a cough suppressant but he just threw it right back up. I ended up getting a syringe and giving him just a tiny bit when it slowed and he could catch his breath and then waited a minute before giving him more. It took about 20 minutes, but it stayed down.

I felt so bad for him. It was getting really late and he just wanted to sleep, but it still wasn’t slowing much. In between coughs he asked me “Am I going to die?” :( Poor guy. If he hadn’t stopped soon after, we probably would have taken him in, but the cough eventually started to subside and he was able to get a good night’s sleep. He was back to school on Monday, but fell asleep on the bus ride home. He got in trouble at school and fell asleep early on the couch the first half of the week. It really wiped him out.

I took on another project and cleaned the shower tile with an acidic cleaner that eats away all of the hard water deposits, leaving it smooth as glass, as well as re-caulked. It was not as easy a task as I had envisioned. (Is it ever?) There was crumbling grout behind a lot of the caulk, so not only did that make it harder to remove, but then I had to remove the loose grout as well. In the end though, I’m happy with the lovely bright white.

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Chris has made friends with a man at church that is a car aficionado and he told him how much Robert loves cars, so one night after church, he let Robert sit in his cool car. I don’t know what it is. BMW something or other, maybe?

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We went to Temple for Easter weekend.

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Saturday night before bed, the Easter bunny’s assistants had convened to discuss the gameplan for distributing each of their batches of eggs on Sunday. It was decided to wait until after church to hide eggs outside while lunch was being prepared. Well, during the night, an impostor entered the home and left eggs all over the house. Neither of the bunny’s true assistants said anything but both were wondering, “What the heck? Didn’t we just talk about this?” The reason I know this was an impostor is because the eggs contained Hot Tamales (which the kids hate, but which look a lot like red Mike and Ike’s that were intermingled in the eggs) and also Jelly Belly beanboozled flavored jelly beans. I didn’t realize this until I got what I believe to be a mouthful of dog food flavored jelly bean. Linda found eggs hidden in random places for days after we left, including in her purse.

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I just took a picture of a worksheet Robert brought home one day because I’m pretty sure I didn’t learn the term “oviparous” or “non-oviparous” in first grade. In fact, I think I learned the two new words that day.

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The kids had their field days at the end of the month. Clara and other RDR members got to help with the two sessions for the younger grades, so she enjoyed missing almost two full days of class between her own field day and the other two sessions. She was “working” the hula hoop station during this session. And that’s the only picture I took because I was busy helping pass out snacks the rest of the time.

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Robert fell off of his bike about five times over the course of a few days. He got back up pretty quickly with minimal tears each time, even this time when he hit his lip and almost busted it.
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I’m going to get in trouble for posting this next picture. We’ve decided to finish out one of our attics. It already has a full size door going into it, so we’re adding flooring and insulation and it will have an area for storage, as well as a space for Chris to spread out his hobbies. We had worked on it over the course of a month, and as he was laying down the second to last piece of plywood, he stood up fast and hit his head hard on the rafter above, falling off the plywood, one leg in the garage. We just added it to the quote the drywall/painter guy gave us, so no biggie. :)

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The science lab teacher had asked me several months back if I would help chaperone the 5th grade field trip to the Museum of Natural Science. The district changed chaperone rules this year and official chaperones must ride the bus with the group. I don’t want to re-live all the gory details, but suffice it to say, I was traumatized for a week. Some of the kids were awful, even after getting a huge lecture before leaving the school. We were late getting off (b/c of lecture) and then hit traffic, so we got to the museum an hour late, having missed our scheduled IMAX movie. Everything had to be re-arranged and we never did really get things under control. It was awful. One boy got in trouble and ended up having to sit on the bus with the principal the entire time. In the end, we watched a different IMAX about the Galapagos and the kids did calm down and enjoy that thankfully, so I was able to calm down and breathe for almost an hour. I think a lot of them had never seen a 3D movie. We also watched a film in the planetarium. We only had a short amount of time between the two, so we had to scrap the initial plans of splitting into groups and ended up just winding our way through the dinosaur exhibit quickly in one long line of 130 kids and then had to eat lunch out front quickly before getting back on the buses. No pictures because I was trying not to flip out on kids the entire time. :)

5th Grade End of Year Party

A couple of months back, 5th graders came home with flyers asking for parent volunteers to be on a planning committee for the kids’ end of year party. Fifth grade is the only grade that gets such a party, so the kids really look forward to it. About 10 people said they’d be on the committee. Beginning of May rolls around (less than a month before the party) and we have our first meeting. I was the only parent to show up. We don’t have a functioning PTA this year and staff is too swamped with end of year stuff to put on a big party. Sooooooo, unless we wanted to scrap the party and just have ice cream in their classrooms, I had to take it over. It was me, an asst. principal and two 5th grade teachers at the meeting. The 5th grade student council had decided on what they’d like to do, so we went over a few ideas for the party.

I sent out an email to everyone informing them that I was the only one to show and so I would coordinate. I made it very clear that I didn’t actually want the job, am terrible at planning, had never planned a party in my life and would gladly hand it over to any interested party :) No one took me up on my offer. A few were apologetic and asked if we could meet again, so we set a date a week later because having a closed campus due to STAAR testing got in the way. I was the only one who knew what was going on and then I went and got sick and couldn’t attend. Grrrrr. So I sent them my notes and the few that showed came up with other ideas. It was so frustrating trying to get on the same page. I begged for feedback or for someone to take on a portion of the party, but everyone just kept saying that they’d “help”. Needless to say, these last few weeks have been quite frustrating for me. In the end, only about 3 or 4 people helped with any of the planning or prep involved. The rest never even replied back to me. One mom shared plenty of criticism with me and others for how badly this party was being organized and how horrible the school is. Some were under the impression that it was a dance and weren’t happy that we didn’t hire a DJ. Even when told that the party ideas came from the kids themselves, this mom was still was upset. Apparently the 8th grade has a fantastic PTA that goes all out for their dance. Ok fine, but why should we force a dance on 11 year olds that said they don’t want a dance? Mind boggling.

Ok, rant over (mostly). The kids decided they wanted a glow in the dark themed party. They wanted to play games, including ping pong and Just Dance on the Wii. They wanted blacklights, fog machines and disco balls and wanted to paint t-shirts for the party with glow in the dark paint. We added glow in the dark bowling, face painting, a photo booth, posters with the class pictures to have signed by classmates, Twister and sno cones, popcorn and cupcakes.

No one wanted to take on decorations, so we just bought a few glow in the dark stars and balloons and I made this poster the night before. The stage was supposed to be completely dark for glow bowling and we had borrowed a couple of blacklights so they could come on stage and hang out for a bit and see themselves glowing. I put two volunteers up there to keep the kids under control and to only let a handful up at a time. Well, a few minutes into the party, I saw the lights come on and turns out some kids were throwing the softball too hard for bowling. They’d hit the volunteer twice and then hit a blacklight and broke it. I had borrowed it from a teacher and feel terrible. So what I thought would be a highlight of the party for the kids, being able to hangout under the blacklights, got axed :(
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We had lots of prizes to be given away as drawings and the kids hovered around the prize table like vultures. I had to guard it like a hawk and send them away the whole time. In hindsight, I should have had someone stationed there, because I couldn’t check on everyone during the party without grabbing an adult to stand guard for a minute. I incorrectly assumed that my other party planning volunteers could figure out if there was a problem and fix it. I was totally overwhelmed at that point, so I was counting on everyone to do their part. I had lots of parent volunteers but no body takes any initiative. They only want to be told exactly what to do. There were even parents who said they were unable to volunteer but would be at the party, but they couldn’t be bothered to pitch in when there was a problem. I probably could have prevented the blacklight fiasco if I had seen they were getting rowdy. Chris took the pictures for the photo booth. Halfway through the party, some kids found the table with photo booth props 20 ft. away and asked if they could move it closer. My few set-up volunteers hadn’t moved the table near the backdrop and Chris didn’t even know they existed. I’m like, “Come on people! Work with me!” Then my class picture volunteer forgot to tell the kids to sign the posters for their teachers and to bring their posters back when they were done so they didn’t get messed up, so the kids carried them around the whole time and I saw them laying around, getting stepped on. Rant #2 over.

I didn’t get many pictures (see above rant) and because it was so dark in the gym. Here is Clara and Ivonne playing the game where you see who can get the most cotton balls from a bowl on your head and into the bowl on your lap with a spoon in 30 seconds.

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Chris’ friend Scott let us borrow his party disco light. It was huge and sat on top of a speaker. We just plugged in a laptop and played kids bop songs. The kids started requesting songs from the asst. principal, so she ended up being my impromptu dj. They wanted a few line dances and had lots of fun doing that as a group. One of the teachers even joined in a couple of the dances.

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Clara and Kaneeze plopped down for a rest in front of the prize table, so I was able to snap a quick pic.

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The person who said they’d decorate for the photo booth was unable to, so about 15 minutes before party time, people were running to the workroom and grabbing paper to slap over the window. Sigh. Oh well. I couldn’t do every single thing and my party volunteers were showing up and asking where to go and what to do, so I just had to lower my expectations a bit and go with the flow.

Here’s before and after finding the photo booth props. Ha!

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And having a bit of fun with her blinking ring.

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Chris took this pic of the party light across the gym. That thing filled up the entire gym ceiling. It was so cool and I’m glad we were able to borrow it and even more glad that we didn’t break it :)

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In the end, despite the hiccups and headaches, I’m glad I took it on. I do NOT want to be in charge of something that large again any time soon though! Ha! It felt completely out of control, but I have gotten countless compliments on how well organized it was, how age appropriate the activities were, and how much fun the kids had. The teachers and staff who came in told me it was the best party they’ve had at least in the years they had been there. Even people who didn’t come in to the gym were telling me they heard how great it was and kids were thanking me in the hallways :) I aim to please.

Meet the Teacher

The kids’ school grew so much in enrollment last year that every grade except 3rd added an extra teacher this year. It’s so nice to have their class size go down a bit. Between those 5 new teachers, about 5 who switched jobs to non-classroom positions still at the school and about 7 who left the school, there are lots of new faces in the hallways. Both kids got “new to us” teachers. This is Ms. C.

Robert has had a rough start to his school year. He seemed to settle in a bit in week three. He has a hard time with change and misses his kindergarten teacher and friends. They’ve added a second recess to the day for K and 1st students, which has me so excited! I really hope it helps the kids stay more focused.

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Clara’s getting a little too old for pictures with her teachers, so I spared her the embarrassment :) She has three this year and loves them all. Her homeroom/science/social studies teacher is a male and is very enthusiastic and energetic and was at our principal’s old school several years ago. I think it’s going to be a great year for Clara. She’s decided not to continue doing orff ensemble and pep squad but I’m sure she’ll want to replace them with something. She really wants to do dance class, but I’m not sure I want to pay for dance class. And I’m fairly certain she’s going to want to be on student council. She was made for student leadership :)

I really liked what I heard at Clara’s orientation last week. Science is about 50% hands on experiments along with keeping a science journal and they still have their trip to the science lab every other week. Math is still doing timed multiplication/division quizzes to keep those times tables fresh in their minds. Reading and writing will be going back to doing some spelling practice, cursive instruction, in class book clubs in small groups with aides reading three different books on varying reading levels, and they will be writing and performing puppet shows. It sounds very engaging. There seems to be a lot of new things they are trying and I love it!

New Bibles

We started going to a new church at the beginning of the year and placed membership a couple of months ago. When kids move up to kindergarten here, the church presents them with a “big kid” bible. Since Robert didn’t have one yet, they gave him one last week. And then yesterday, Clara also got one unexpectedly. The kids promote to the next grade at the beginning of the summer, so incoming 5th graders get one as they move from the children’s ministry up to what they call “The Bridge”. It’s well, like a bridge into the youth group and is made up of 5th and 6th graders. I kind of like the idea; 6th grade is part of junior high and has always seemed really young to me to be going into the youth group.

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Dental Work

I’ve spent an exorbitant amount of time in dental professional’s offices since March. I had put off my regular teeth cleanings, as I am wont to do, since we moved to the area 3 years ago. I just get such terrible anxiety about the dentist that I find it’s much easier to just ignore the problem and hope it goes away. This post is whiney and long winded, so you probably don’t want to read it.

At the end of February, a piece of tooth or filling came out while I was flossing my teeth so that sealed the deal. I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had another small hole in another tooth that I kept having to pick food out of too. So I Googled “sedation dentistry” and found a dentist that had great reviews. Although I didn’t need to be completely under (hello, that pill is like $600!), I wanted someone who would be sensitive and patient with me and who would understand when I asked for nitrous and not make me feel like the big baby that I am. I realized that a lot of my anxiety probably stems from the fact that I white knuckle it when I have to have something done when I just need to admit I need a little “help” getting through the appointment. I told him that I needed a pediatric dentist for adults. You know how women will tell new moms-to-be “Don’t be a hero. You don’t get a trophy for a natural birth; get the epidural.”? Well, I decided to tell myself the same thing only, you know, in dental terms.

They were sooooo nice to me. They wanted to know if it was something in particular that bothered me and I told them it was everything. The sounds, smells, sensations, vibrations, tastes, gag reflex, cold water, everything. The hygienist was sweet and switched tools when she saw me tense up at one point. They all said how proud they were of me for getting in and I even got a card in the mail from the hygienist :) I would need a couple of appointments with my dentist and I had a root canal that looked concerning to the dentist, so he referred me to an endodontist to have it looked at. I also needed to get my wisdom teeth pulled in preparation for braces. My teeth are so crowded and worn down that the front bottom ones are starting to chip. I’ve had more than one dentist say that they are just going to continue deteriorating until I get them straightened. And unfortunately they’re too bad for Invisalign.

We scheduled me for my first appointment the week before Easter. I was having a partial crown removed and needed a full crown. When I got to the appointment, the receptionist told me that they were out of nitrous. It was supposed to be delivered an hour earlier but he still wasn’t there. I was holding in some fairly strong emotions as I told her I would be ok without it. When we got back to the room and the assistant started getting everything ready, my eyes started watering. Her back was to me and I was trying to hold it together, but the tears just kept coming and I had to grab a kleenex. She finally noticed me and asked what was wrong. I told her what they had said about being out of nitrous and apologized for being such a baby. I was so embarrassed. That’s the first time I’ve actually cried at the dentist.

When the dentist came in, he asked if I was ok. He didn’t even know they had run out. I told him I could do it without but he told me no. He wanted me to be comfortable and calm and we would wait. They tuned on the tv, turned off the light and gave me headphones and a blanket. Thankfully Mr. Nitrous Deliveryman got there about 15 minutes later. They hooked me up and a few seconds later I was giving the doc the thumbs up to do his thing. It took close to two hours and I even dozed off at one point. It is so very nice to not care one bit what’s going on in my mouth.

That was a Monday. On Friday night of Easter weekend I started having horrible pain on the other side of my mouth. Up until then, I hadn’t had a bit of pain. I wrote all about that in my Easter post. I got in on Monday and the dentist said he thought that tooth might need a root canal :( So I got right into the endodontist the next day. By then, the pain had shifted to a bottom tooth on that same side. Lovely. He did hot/cold tests on several teeth, as well as hit them with a little tool to see how sensitive they were. Heaven help me, I just about fell out of my chair on a couple of my teeth. He said he was afraid I was going to slap him if he tested any more, so he stopped after the couple of teeth that were concerning. So yes, I needed a root canal on the top right, a root canal restoration on the bottom left which looked to be infected, and probably a root canal on the bottom right, but we could wait and keep an eye on that one. Sigh. The bottom right one was the one that just about killed me with the cold. The tooth ached for the rest of the day after that.

I told him to give me the nitrous. I wasn’t going to try and be a hero. No shame here. He wasn’t quite as generous with the gas as the dentist, so my second visit I told him to up it a bit; I cared a bit too much about what was happening that first time around. I had almost no pain from that root canal. It was awesome. I was going in to my appointments with very little anxiety, and I haven’t procrastinated on making appointments. I’ve felt like a rockstar these last couple of months :)

So since my root canal went so well, I scheduled my root canal restoration for the Monday that we were keeping Abby. Welllll, that one did knock me for a loop. Because of the infection, the endodontist said that it’s like stirring up a hornet’s nest. I was in quite a lot of pain and I was sooooo tired for a little over a week. I spent a lot of time on the couch that week while Abby was there. The restoration required two visits. The first one he drilled out the old stuff and stuffed it full of antibiotic and filled it in. This needed to sit and work for a few weeks and then I went back to have the antibiotic stuff pulled out and finish the restoration off. We kept my crown, but I’ll go back in 6 months to make sure the infection has stayed away. If it didn’t work, which I guess is common with restorations, I will have to have it pulled.

During this time I also went to the dentist to get two permanent crowns and another small hole filled, I had a consultation with the oral surgeon about my wisdom teeth extraction and also a consultation with the orthodontist. All told, I had about 12 dental visits of some sort in an 8 week period.

Last Thursday I had my wisdom teeth pulled. They were all fully emerged and they all had cavities and have for some time. This was the big one that I had been putting off and putting off. I could’ve waited to have them out (and probably should have since I hit my maximum dental benefits for the year after just one crown), but I was on a roll and just needed to keep going til I was all done.

When the day came to have them out, I was actually excited. I think having the nitrous for all of these appointments has made a world of difference for me. I was hardly nervous at all. And the surgeon was amazing. He was preparing me for a pretty difficult recovery due to my age, so I was ready for that and planning on taking it easy the whole next week in case I was in pain. Well, it went off without a hitch and I’ve had almost zero pain! I took about 4 half doses of the good stuff and I took the ibuprofen for the swelling for a couple of days, but I never had a lot of pain. I was groggy and out of it the first day, but I’ve been so pleased with how things have gone. I do still have a numb spot on one side of the roof of my mouth, but hopefully that will return to normal eventually. If it is permanent, at least it’s not too terrible. It’s really just annoying. It feels like when you burn the roof of your mouth with pizza.

And so I don’t forget, here are a couple of funnies with the nitrous. At one of the appointments, I kept hearing a Beatles song playing. I think it was “I Want to Hold Your Hand”. It was funny because I was aware enough that I was eventually really confused about where it was coming from. HGTV was playing in my headphones but the Beatles was loud and clear in my head. Chris and I had gone to see that Beatles cover band a week or so earlier. I thought it odd that it wasn’t one of their psychedelic songs playing like “I Am the Walrus.” That would have been more appropriate.

And then during one of my appointments at the dentist, I had the nitrous, but the work didn’t require too much numbing, just a little because I had had the root canal. After it was over, I was super hungry and could actually eat because my whole mouth wasn’t numb. Every other time I could only get a milkshake. I texted Chris afterwards and asked, “Does nitrous give you the munchies? Because I’m STARVING!” and then I headed to Arby’s because that sounded sooooo good. I was telling that story to the endodontist and his assistant after he had hooked up the nitrous and they were waiting for me to get numb. The assistant was like, “Where is there an Arby’s around here?” and mentioned she hadn’t had it in forever and there was something new that looked really good. Halfway through the procedure she says, “Man, I really want Arby’s now.” Ha!

I’m very glad to have all of that behind me and hope I can get to 2017 before needing any more work done.

April

April seems like a really long time ago. I’ll do the quick run down.

First off, dental work. Lots and lots of dental work.

Clara’s friend Abby came to stay with us for a week. The girls had been counting down the days for a couple of months. Her parents went on a cruise and sent the four oldest kiddos to stay with friends while the grandparents watched the two youngest at home. The girls had a lot of fun on their extended sleepover.

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Around this time I also started watching my friend Becky’s daughter Emily some after school. Becky has a brain tumor and is having a really hard time getting brain surgery scheduled. Long story, but it should have been done weeks ago but she’s still waiting for a surgery date. The tumor has grown, she has swelling on her brain now and is having seizures and can’t get out of bed most days, so I’m trying to help her out with Emily as much as possible. She’s gotten worse, so now Emily rides the bus home with my kids and I take her home about the time her dad gets home from work. I’ve been taking them dinner most nights and Chris’ friend Kelly from work has been making her meals for me to take too. So that helps at least a little. Becky has been assured she will have surgery by June 1st (even though they still haven’t given her a date), so Emily will stay with us until she’s home from the hospital. This picture was from a trip to the yogurt shop on an early release Friday when I had both Abby and Emily.

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The day after that, Clara and Abby attended the Children’s Music Festival where they performed with the choir and brought home a trophy. Clara’s music teacher asked her to join the Orff Ensemble in March. (She had tried out at the beginning of the year but didn’t make it.) I’m guessing some kids had dropped out or were no longer eligible and she needed to fill spots. Anyway, Clara enthusiastically said yes, so since then she’s had either choir or ensemble practice almost every morning. Abby is also in both, so it worked out fine taking them both early the week she was with us. Abby was also in the honor choir, so I had to unexpectedly take her to a practice at a nearby high school one night.

The following Sunday night we had lots and lots and lots of rain. At the time, Chris was dealing with a situation at work that required him to be up between about midnight and 3:00 a.m. every night. Our electricity went out that night so he had to go into the office. Our electricity actually came back on after only a few minutes, but he had already left for the office. When he got ready to leave his office around 4:00 to come home, the roads were beginning to flood and they were starting to close some of them. To be safe, he decided to sleep in the jeep in the parking garage and wait til it was light out.

Because I’m technologically impaired, I couldn’t get my internet back up on Monday morning. Turns out there’s some “master switch” in some drawer that needed to be turned back on. We don’t have tv either, so I had no idea how bad the flooding was. I finally found a phone book and called the school district hotline to find out if school was cancelled and it said it was operating on normal schedule. I called three different times to see if it had been updated before getting in the car to take the kids to wait at the bus stop in the rain.

The road was dry right in front of our house, which is why I didn’t know it was so bad, but by the time I got to the bus stop that’s just up the street, the water was really high. I noticed a car on the street a few houses down that was partly under water. I figured it was probably flooded coming into our neighborhood too, so I turned around.

I called Chris to see if he had heard if school was cancelled and woke him up in the process. Oopsie. Yep, it was and had been called around 4:00 a.m. I guess they don’t update their old-fashioned hotline anymore. He decided to try to come on home since it was light out. Water was pretty deep in some places, but when he got about .5 mile from the house, he could tell it was getting high quickly so he decided to pull into some stranger’s driveway to wait it out. That was the only way in to our neighborhood. The other way always floods so he knew it would be impassable. About three hours later, he could tell that it had gone down and after watching a few trucks get through, decided to come through as well. It was still really deep, but he made it through unscathed.

He had started feeling sick while he was waiting it out, which was part of the reason he didn’t want to wait any longer. Sure enough, he felt worse and worse on Tuesday and was on breathing treatments every few hours. By Wednesday morning I was calling to get him in to the doctor. Thankfully we were able to get out of the subdivision and he was able to be seen right away. He had strep, so after getting a shot of steroids he was feeling much better a few hours later.

These pictures were taken on Thursday. No homes in our neighborhood flooded, but several cars on the street did. The water made it up to the sidewalks on a couple of the streets. Our house just had water up to the curb on the first day and there wasn’t even any standing water in our backyard so we were very lucky.

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School was canceled all week. Even though no schools in the district flooded, many district employees were unable to get to their schools due to high water and there were some families in the district that flooded. A highway and several main roads near our house were flooded and only reopened a couple of weeks ago, so traffic has been diverted to roads on either side of us making traffic a nightmare this past month.

Cabin fever started to set in by the end of the week. The kids watched some original Batman tv episodes and then went to work making masks for themselves.

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Here is Robert wearing his mask and utility belt, holding a batarang he made :)

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I started worrying about their sanity when I looked over and saw this getup. This would be Robert doing a little light reading in a batman mask, along with an Indian headdress he made at school at Thanksgiving, topped with a pair of bloodshot Halloween eye glasses while wielding a pirate sword.

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