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.

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 Summer

We are having a great summer but I must say, whomever named it summer vacation clearly wasn’t home all day with their three children.  Yes, we are doing fun things and it is great to have time off from the school routine but having my three home is not a vacation.  In fact, after having seven hours home alone, this is work.  I’m getting glimpses of the early years without the diapers and nursing but replacing those with attitude and fighting.

That being said, we are indeed having a great time.

One of our favorite places
Pizza festival.
Cards
Jack climbing.  All of the kids were so much more confident this time.

Exploring the Adriatic.

This is what summer is made of.  We’re enjoying it (even in spite of some grumpiness) and I’m thankful.

Week in the Life {Thursday}

(Yes, at a stoplight!)

So, I’m realizing why I don’t do this very often.  I’m not good at keeping my camera with me or taking pictures at (potentially) weird moments.

I spend Thursday mornings at the school and then had a meeting afterward so I was gone for most of the day.  Please notice the very little amount of studying that is occurring around here.  Anyway, it was another busy day.  I really don’t prefer to be gone this much as we all do better when things are less crazy.  Oh well.

Morgan got some new shoes in the mail.  They are her, sparkle and shine.

Jeff had a graduation dinner to go to last night.  At the very last minute I thought to take his picture.  Obviously, I did not think to move him to a nicer background.  (Does anyone want to come pull weeds from our gravel?)

Miss M. read bedtime stories to me and a very reluctant Connor.

Nothing says class in a photo like an athletic sock keeping my toes warm.  Real life, people.  Real life.

There’s so much in between and yet it’s hard for me to capture.  We are just doing this thing.  Sometimes it is pretty and sometimes it’s not (hello horrible earache I had Thursday night).  But it is all a blessing.  Every single minute whether I appreciate it or not.