Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Left alone with a boring mama

The Professor left for a conference in Scotland on Saturday night. He messaged me when he got there, “I made it. It’s SO cold!” Summer in Scotland is colder than winter in Beirut, I guess, because he is wearing his winter clothes; long sleeved dress shirt, a knitted vest and dress pants, and he was still freezing. Poor husband. Or not. He’s staying at a conference center in beautiful Scotland, home of the single malts, doing what he loves the most – engage in philosophical discussions with interesting colleagues from all over the world.

Last night the two older boys went with a friend to his family’s summer house in the mountains north of Beirut. It’s their first sleep-over away from home for as long as I can remember. Because of their sleep-walking. talking and night fright issues, we usually turn down sleep-over invitations, but this is a family that we trust, and we thought it was time to give it a shot. The boys are after all older now and they can look after each other. I haven’t heard anything yet, so I’m assuming all has gone well.

As a result, I found myself completely alone with our three-year old for a day and a night, realizing that’s probably a first, ever. Of course I take him out, just the two of us, sometimes, and we spend alone-time together at home, but it’s the first time ever that we were alone in the house for more than a couple of hours. I took him for a long walk around town, we went for ice-cream, spent a fair amount of time reading, had sushi take-out, and then hung out while I tried to work (unfortunately, I have a deadline).

This morning when he woke up, he walked around the house, and then came back to bed with me. (He always spends the morning with the boys.) While we cuddled I asked, “Is it nice to have mama all to yourself?”which he answered with the question, “When are my boys coming home, mama?” Got it. I’m boring and you can’t wait until your brothers get back.

So now we are waiting for their arrival, while I try to work.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer indoors activites

If you're not swimming in the sea, it's almost too hot to be outside during the middle of the day, so the kids have been spending a fair part of their summer vacation indoors - A/C blasting - doing arts, crafts, board games, Playmobil, Lego, instruments practice, iPad, Wii... Almost like a Swedish, rainy summer. Minus the rain, of course.

I too, have had to come up with projects in between jobs, and finally got around to setting up a school room. The room has always been there; it's supposed to be a maid's room, but of course we don't have a maid, and in lack of appropriate school room/office furniture we've been using it for miscellaneous purposes, like printing or storage. Over the past couple of months however, we've managed to get our hands on two desks, courtesy of moving neighbors, which made this amazing change possible.

The one thing I've disliked about home schooling the boys here is that because we've only had one table in the past, we've had to clean up our work for every meal and snack. Closing books, marking spots, and clearing the table 5 times/day takes time, is ineffective and boring. With our new set-up, the boys can leave their math/English/science/history/Latin/art books open while we eat breakfast or lunch!

I just need to get some things on the walls - we might still get a shelf from a moving neighbor - posters and pictures, and then I'll post some photos.

Enjoying the Mediterranean Sea

Since we got back from Italy we’ve been going to the beach a lot, almost every day. It’s close (a 5 minute walk), it’s free, fun and healthy, and the weather most certainly permits – between 32°C and 38°C and usually sunny! Sometimes the boys bring friends along and they all play in the pool together, but usually we go just the four of us and swim in the sea. The water has been surprisingly clean and clear. Today we spent the afternoon circling the pier, snorkeling. Abraham has got really good at swimming under water, holding his breath for almost a minute at a time, but today he actually mastered the use of a snorkel, which opens up a whole new world. For a couple of hours he swam around looking at fish, crabs, sea slugs and other interesting water creatures. The older boys were playing off the coral, letting big waves wash them up (the tide was really strong) until August’s back got scraped up so badly we had to take a break and wait for the scratches to stop bleeding. I also put Neosporin on, which I thankfully had brought. It’s not the first and most probably not the last scratch we’ll have to deal with this summer. I look forward to a lot more beach days!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Vacation, all I ever wanted.. Italy; a little more detailed

Whoa! Time went by quite quickly there. I finished up some jobs, washed clothes, packed, prepared the house, and our family was off to Italy.

I went inter-railing through Italy when I was younger, and Courtney and I have been there several times together. We spent two weeks driving around Northern Italy the summer I was pregnant with our oldest, and we also went to Rome and the Vatican for the year 2000 New Year’s celebration. Since then, Courtney has been there for conferences as well. This was the first time we took the kids though, and it was quite a thrill.

We spent the first week in Rome, where we had rented an apartment found online. It was great – the owners were super friendly, and the apartment was ideal, in a quiet neighborhood but with a grocery store close by and very near public transportation; three bedrooms, a well equipped kitchen, towels, blankets, TV (which we never used), free wi-fi. We went sightseeing every day – the Coliseum, Forum Romanum, The Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, churches, museums (including a Leonardo Da Vinci museum), the mouth of truth, a Salvador Dali exhibition, we saw it all! - and then cooked great Italian food in the evenings and/or had dinner at some very nice restaurants.

After our week in Rome we packed all our stuff into a small Toyota and drove north: Sienna, Pisa, Livorno, Lucca, Florence, Venice, Chioggia, Padua, and then south again; Assisi, Pompeii, Vesuvius, and back to Rome, where we spent an entire day at one of the largest shopping centers I’ve ever seen, Porta Roma.

What a trip!!

Most expensive: The bathrooms at Santa Maria Novella (1,60 euro/person adds up!), and the Venice bus-system. It cost our family over $80/day to get around Venice on crowded shuttle boats.

Most awesome discovery: children under the age of 18 who are members of the EU enter most sites in Italy for free. The boys’ Swedish passports were literally worth their weight in gold!

Something bad that happened to us: Nothing, really. Small annoyances, like having to use tokens to shower at a camping we’re already over-paying for, or missing the IKEA exit in Naples and having to spend an hour trying to get out of a dodgy neighborhood, by means of getting on and off the highway several times and have to pay two euro each entry.

Standing in line, in 40 degrees C heat, for over an hour to get into the Accademia to see the David was pretty unpleasant as well.

If I had to pick a favorite moment: In Padua we just made it to our appointment to see the Chapel. If we had arrived 30 seconds later, they would not have let us in. Pheuw!

But then there’s the glass of wine with a view of Umbria – it tops everything. Not because it was an exceptional wine, but for the setting. Let me paint you the picture.

After Venice and Padua we were a bit weary of camping, which entails – among other things,
  • having to walk 5 minutes to get to the bathroom (which often doesn’t have any paper or toilet seat)
  • no proper showers (in Italy, campsites make you buy expensive tokens to shower, and a session often only lasts for two minutes)
  • taking down and putting up a tent, not to mention pump up air mattresses to sleep every night – in the heat
  • waking up bathing in sweat every morning, often in the sun
  • spending an hour every day trying to fit all our stuff in the rental car, without burying the kids
  • eating whatever for breakfast – no tea, nothing cold – ugh!
  • dirt and dust everywhere
  • no chairs or tables – nowhere to sit and relax or eat.

We entered Assisi pretty late and just by chance found a small Albergo with a family room at a reasonable price, plus, it turns out, a great restaurant, a pool and a terrace with a fantastic view. We had already had dinner but still ordered some antipasti and a bottle of wine. The restaurant had 1 ½ liter-bottles of soda for 3 euros for the kids. What a catch! Sitting down with that glass of wine in my hand, comfortable, clean, cool, on a terrace with an amazing view of Umbria – thinking about how lucky we were to have found this oasis in the middle of our hectic trip – THAT was a good moment.

Number of churches/basilicas/chapels visited: I lost count after 30 – it could be closer to 50. On our last day in Rome alone, we visited four, and that wasn’t on a day we visited the Vatican. Four in Assisi, three in Venice, three in Sienna, two in Lucca, one in Pisa, well over ten in Florence.

Pieces of luggage that MEA managed to lose on our 3 hour direct flight without delays: 1. (How?! you ask, How?!)

Loads of laundry after we got home: 9.

Thursday, July 12, 2012