Moving On

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This space has felt tired and dead for a while.

A lot of it is that I don’t love the name, it’s too “mommy blog”, a bit narrow.  I didn’t feel excited to write in this space.

Basically, it simply seems like the time for a fresh start.

So, you can now find me over at The Shape of a Life.  I’m still getting settled but all of my previous post from Mama and More have been exported.  I’m hoping to use the new space to explore those moments (and choices) that work together to shape a life.

See you there!

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Leave it to Christmas to bring me out of my silence.  I sat down today and realized it was November 29 and that we start our Advent calendar on Saturday.  I had nothing planned.  As most of you know, this is one of my favorite traditions.  I’ve written about it before here, here, here, and for a really honest account here.

Our hope as a family is to keep this season calm, special and focused on Jesus, family and friends.  It seems that the desire scale back and focus on those in need and what really matters grows each year.  This year, Jeff and I were really impacted by the election spending numbers.  Right on the tail of that, comes the projected holiday spending figures and they make me sad.  So, so much good for those who really need help could be done with that money and instead the figurative “we” find ourselves leaving the Thanksgiving table early to add to the abundance we already have.

Some of the post I’ve seen recently that have a variety of ideas are at Rage Against the Minivan and Tara Whitney’s Blog.  There are, of course, tons others.

There are so many people and organizations ready to help make this a truly impactful and meaningful Christmas.  Since the posts have already been written, I’ll simply link to them.  I’ve already signed up for Pure Charity and can’t believe how easy it is.  We’re also doing some different things gift wise around here.  Yes, our kids and the other littles in our family are still getting gifts (though they’ve always been limited) but we’re doing something new for everyone else (and we’ve asked them to do the same for us).

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Anyway, I really came here to share this year’s advent plan.  My hope is that it will give you ideas of ways you can make this season more about people and love and less about stuff.

  • Christmas Market and Tree Lighting in Spilimbergo
  • Read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” and make candy cane cookies
  • Make cards for family and friends
  • Make paper snowflake garland
  • Choose two toys to donate
  • Make gratitude garland
  • Watch “Polar Express” and eat Christmas cookies
  • Make gingerbread house
  • Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast
  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Decorate cookies
  • Leave anonymous encouraging notes
  • Make hand and foot reindeer
  • Write a letter to our Compassion kids
  • Go see the Nativities in Pofobro
  • Make teacher gifts
  • Watch “Rudolph”
  • Have a picnic dinner under the tree
  • Take goodies to school for friends (Rollo pretzels)
  • Make treats for the birds
  • Take an evening walk and have cocoa afterward
  • Go to the Christmas Market in Villach
  • FaceTime family and sing carols
  • Read the Christmas Story from Luke

At the Apple Orchard

At the orchard

One of the things we love about where we live is that there are very few Americans.  That might sound bad, but we really hope to take full advantage of our time here in Italy by immersing ourselves in the culture and community.

Apple

We have been blessed with having wonderful neighbors on either side of us and we’ve especially connected with one family.  It’s actually the Grandma and Grandpa that live next door but as with most families here, their children and grandchildren are there very often.   They own the flower shop in our town and part of that shop is a 200 tree apple orchard.  Their apples are primarily used to make vinegar however this year they are also making something similar to prosecco.  (YUM!)

This weekend was apple harvest weekend and we spent our Saturday morning picking apples.  It was such fun. Not only were we able to enjoy the gorgeous early Autumn weather but we made connections with our friends and neighbors.  (And helped them out in the process).

Apple blossom in Autumn

Wins all around. (And clearly some of the trees are a bit confused as to the time of year.)

A and M at the orchard

Excited and Nervous

Smocks

 

Our three started school this week.  Connor returned to his Asilo for one more year while Jack and Morgan started at the elementary school in our town.  For them, this is the third school they have attended in the past year.  As one, who save the first seven months of kindergarten, attended the schools in the same neighborhood with the same kids for the first 13 years of education that’s hard to swallow.

To be honest, it’s not my first choice for them.  But as a military family there are some (okay, many) situations we can’t control and we have to make the best of those when they come our way.

For many reasons, we decided that sending the older two to the American school last year was the best choice at the time.  However, our ultimate hope was to send them to Italian school as that seems to be too good of an experience to miss.  About mid-way through last school year we knew that they would be moving even though it meant another transition.   After meeting with the teachers and seeing the school, I knew that while it would be hard, it would be a great move.

Bags are packed

 

As we prepared for school to start I asked the kids to tell me what made them excited about the transition as well as what they were nervous about.

The answer to both:  going to Italian school.

Their responses really struck me.  As I thought about it in the following days it occurred to me that the same can be said about most of the very rewarding experiences in life.  The thought of them actually happening makes you feel excited and nervous, often at the very same time.

1st day of Italian school

 

When Monday morning finally rolled around we were all a bit nervous.  Stomachs were queasy and this mama was on the brink of tears as we walked to school.  I knew this was the best decision and that it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’m so excited for all three of them to leave here fluent in Italian and for our entire family to have spent our time here so immersed in the Italian life.

Yet it will be hard.  It already has been.

We are now three days in and so far things are going even better than I’d hoped.   There are still nerves, of course.  But each day both kids walk out of those school doors with big smiles on their faces and tell me that they had a great day.

 

 

 

 

 

Connor's first day of School

 

As for Connor, he too had a big adjustment.  Last year.  We had days when he clung to me crying because he didn’t want me to leave.  Yet this year, he couldn’t get back to school fast enough.  He’s nearly fluent in Italian (for a 5 year old) and he loves his teachers and classmates.  That is an amazing reward.

Canned

Pear butter

This year, we decided to take our first steps into the world of canning.  Jeff’s mom and grandma passed on a huge love of, and tradition for, canning (My MIL’s pickled green beans are to die for as is her sauerkraut.)

While we’ve done some preserving in the past,  this year we’re stepping up.  Thankfully, Jeff is all in when it comes to this endeavor.  I even bought him a pressure canner for his birthday and he was thrilled.  In fact, if anything,  he might be even more into this than I am.

This past weekend was busy in our kitchen.

We have five pear trees in our yard and they were ready to be picked and processed.  This caught us a bit off guard as it seemed early but our Italian neighbors assured us that now was the time to get started.  Jeff started Saturday off with a batch of pear butter and then I wrapped it up with a double batch of pear sauce.

Basil for Tomato Basil Sauce

Prepping for Tomato Basil Sauce

I was so motivated to keep going that on Monday I hit our local market and bought 9 kilos of roma tomatoes (at .79 euro per kg!!).  I knocked out a double batch of Tomato Basil Sauce from Ashley English’s  “Canning and Preserving.”  I also got a batch of Pomodori al Forno into the oven.  Both are great but please, make the Pomodori al Forno immediately.  Jeff and I scheduled a mini date night at home with it, some crusty bread, goat cheese and  prosecco.  YUM!  I regretted not making up a double batch immediately.  (Though I did chop up the two remaining tomatoes and mix them with my scrambled egg the following morning.)

Done.

Up next, pickles and salsa.

Summering

At the pool

Though I hate to admit it, for me this summer has been mainly about survival.  Simply getting through the day (or hour as the case may be).

From where I stand right now, Summer 2012 is the year that I was (still) bitter about moving and missing my life in Colorado, frustrated that Jeff seemed to always be working or sleeping thanks to his crazy schedule or wishing that I was more connected in my new life here in Italy.  It’s been tough and sadly I’ve found myself wishing too many days away.

C at the ocean

Thankfully, given all of the “you’re the best mom ever” and “can we go back to the river” comments, I think the children enjoyed themselves and will remember it fondly.  (Of course as is likely true in any house with three school aged kids there has been plenty of “you’re the worst mom ever” and “this is so boring” so maybe I’m kidding myself).

Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

Ljubljana, Slovenia

 

 

Lake Bled, Slovenia

 

Lake Bled, Slovenia

Yet, if I step aside, take a deep breath and reflect a bit.  The truth is that despite the grumpiness, frustrating schedule, and moments of loneliness, it wasn’t so bad.  While there weren’t any huge trips or grand plans, simply throwing in some breathing room, many days spent at the river and a little bit of travel amongst the daily life of our little family ended up being just about right.

On My Nightstand

On my nightstand recently.

One of my favorite things to do is spend hours deep in a good book.  These days my expectations are even higher as I spend so much time reading for school and my leisure reading time is limited.  So, I’m that person at the library that requests every book recommended to her and gives them a try.  Some are hits  and some, like The Paris Wife are misses.  It came highly recommend and I felt like I should love it.  But 100 pages in I was still forcing myself to read it.  So, I closed it and turned it in.

Some recents hits are:

Let’s Take the Long Way Home  This is the one I picked up right after I gave up on The Paris Wife and I’m finding myself having to force myself to put it away so that I can get enough sleep.  I’m only 3 or so days into it and almost done.  Such a wonderful memoir of friendship.

Love Does This is another memoir type book full of stories of how Bob Goff lives out his faith in practical ways.  So often I find myself frustrated with the church as a whole and books like this give me hope that not everyone has lost touch with who Jesus really is and what it looks like to live like He did.

An Everlasting Meal This one also came highly recommended.  The writing is beautiful and the kitchen inspiration is amazing.  I’m working through this one slowly with pencil in hand.

Then there’s Taproot.  Have you seen it?  This is a magazine that one of my favorite bloggers, Amanda Soule of Soulemama, co-founded.  It’s such a breath of fresh air.  Last I heard you can find it at Whole Foods stores nationwide (or subscribe, like I did.)

Next up, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, by Anna Quindlen.  Yes, another memoir.  I also have requests in at the library for Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson (yet another memoir) and The Unhealthy Truth by Robin O’Bryan (about the influences of our country’s food supply)

What are you reading these days?