We’re In Milan!

I’ll have a much longer post about our travel days, but wanted to let people know we are settled in our hotel in Milan. We’re staying at a Hilton Garden Inn right by the airport for two nights to get our Italy time settled in our sleep patterns.

When I say “right by” the airport, I mean that driving to the hotel directly takes only 7 kilometers. We managed to put about 22 kilometers on the rental car to do it, though.

Overachievers, that’s what we are.

We’re off to get some sleep. More reports soon.

Italy Trip – First Day Complete

I’ve been texting and emailing with several of you individually, and wanted to do a general update for everyone. Plus, since the blog serves as the collective family memory, I know in years to come we’ll ask each other: How long did it take us to get to Italy?

Our day yesterday began between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m., depending on which family member you are. Our friend Paige picked us up at 4:30 to head to the airport for our 6 a.m. flight.

Both our flights yesterday were on time and about 1 1/2 hours each. All the folks we interacted with were very kind. Several times we had people offer to switch seats to try to get all of us even closer together.

Waiting for the first flight.

Waiting for the first flight.

As impressed as people are about this entire adventure, they are exponentially more impressed to learn we are taking one backpack each with our necessary supplies for the entire 7 weeks. We added two food bags for the journey, but still pretty light travelers.

Waiting at Reagan National for our second flight.

Waiting at Reagan National for our second flight.

Second flight about to get underway.

Second flight about to get underway.

Some poor soul was trapped by the window next to Buds in the picture above. Luckily it was a short flight.

Our hotel that was paid for with airline miles was, consequently, 30 minutes north of the airport. This gave us the chance to try out a new Sienna minivan. (Hello, Kel and Paula!) Buds has been itching for a new van with more room, and though I’ll admit the many seats, ample legroom, and backup camera are cool, I still prefer our zippy little mini-minivan.

We enjoyed a delicious lunch in the sun at Potbellies, then headed to the hotel where the littles got in an hour of swimming.

Delicious sun.

Delicious sun.

Splash, splash.

Splash, splash.

Buds had the superb idea that we eat dinner at Whole Foods, which was just down the road from the hotel. Everyone got to pick something delicious, and they could see the food before they chose it, which is often one of the downfalls for the Buster. Something sounds good on the menu, but when it arrives it’s been sprinkled with something or doesn’t look appetizing. Problem solved.

Whole Foods for dinner.

Whole Foods for dinner.

Whole Foods also had some fun mirrors:

Ready to wrestle.

Ready to wrestle.

The legs he's always wanted.

The legs he’s always wanted.

They got their dad's long torso.

They got their dad’s long torso.

Then we played for awhile in the “green space” in the shopping village.

Mind-blowing shot.

Mind-blowing shot.

Chess, anyone?

Chess, anyone?

Since I’m writing this at 6 a.m. on Thursday morning, I can report we all slept well, and we’re excited to spend the afternoon in Boston, then head to the airport for our overnight flight to Istanbul airport.

More updates when we can.

#NoogaStrong

Thanks to my mom’s willingness to hang out with our crew for a couple days, for the last few years Buds and I have been able to go away and focus on our All-Juice Company Off-site. Planning these off-sites is one of my major job requirements. I love doing it, but last year I was planning for 10 employees, plus a couple partners who attended, this year I was planning for 19 Juicers, plus 3 partners.

We truly work with the most amazing folks. It was 3 1/2 days of laughing, planning, goal-making, pushing, inspiring, some arguing, and more laughing.

We were in Chattanooga, which is an easy location for all three offices of people to reach. We had fantastic meals, great discussions, and with so many new folks, it was excellent to be in one place to talk face-to-face, as well as work side-by-side.

A few select pictures:

Z started us off with the "State of Juice" speech as he always does.

Z started us off with the “State of Juice” speech as he always does.

One of our smallest Juicers who always comes to our off-sites.

One of our smallest Juicers who always comes to our off-sites.

We all love him.

We all love him.

Me trying to convince my boss about something, but he doesn't look too impressed.

Me trying to convince my boss about something, but he doesn’t look too impressed.

We always have a team contest of some sort, and this year it was “Chopped.” The four teams had 50 minutes to create a “One Pot Meal.” Chef Adam said of the 10 times he has run this event, the food our company created was the best they had ever judged. (And the front desk staff said he does NOT say that to all the competitors, because we asked.)

Some of the food we had to use for our meal.

Some of the food we had to use for our meal.

Choosing what to cook with.

Choosing what to cook with.

The beautiful dishes and the friendly competitors.

The beautiful dishes and the friendly competitors.

Waiting for the winner to be announced.

Waiting for the winner to be announced.

The whole gang except for one person.

The whole gang except for one person.

We always have fantastic food.

We always have fantastic food.

Buddie's team coming up with the plan to take care of business while he's away and sometimes not available.

Buddie’s team coming up with the plan to take care of business while he’s away and sometimes not available.

Those of you who have talked to us about our work know that we love the people we work with. At Juice we hire for brilliance, but also for culture. At every meal I sat with different folks, and every meal developed into fantastic stories and tears of laughter. Getting to know more about all these people is simply splendid.

Another event was a tour of a Bourbon/Whisky factory. All bourbon is whisky, but not all whisky is bourbon, is one fact I learned. Also that the liquor isn’t distilled in TN, but up in Indiana because…laws.

Yet another hilarious time was had.

One team sampled the product first, one team took the tour first. We were all ready to have some food when dinner time rolled around.

My tour team. We had lots of questions, and no one fussed at us for asking them. Another reason to love these people.

My tour team. We had lots of questions, and no one fussed at us for asking them. Another reason to love these people.

The beautiful drinks and cocktails created to give us suggestions on using the liquor.

The beautiful drinks and cocktails created to give us suggestions on using the liquor.

Two of our fearless leaders helping to shape future designs by answering questions from one of our interns.

Two of our fearless leaders helping to shape future designs by answering questions from one of our interns.

Our final meal together.

Our final meal together.

And on a somber note, the final day of our off-site was the three-month anniversary of the shootings in Chattanooga. There was a parade and a concert, which we weren’t in town to see, but I did take this picture of a motorcycle that would be in the parade in honor of the fallen soldiers. Samuel L. Jackson, who is from Chattanooga, was there to emcee the service, and three of our co-workers got their picture taken with him, and I shook his hand. (Good handshake, firm, not clammy.)

Note the empty boots on the back.

Note the empty boots on the back.

Though a fantastic time was had, the parade was a reminder to me that there is still work to do, both in my job, but more importantly, in our world

Keeping It Exciting Here At Home

Preparing to be away from your home for any length of time takes some planning. I’m grateful to have friends and family who will be checking in, ready to let us know if there are any problems while we are away. (There will be problems. Hopefully less exciting than a tree crushing a car or the freezer going bad on the fridge, as happened on previous journeys, but there will be something. That’s just life.)

We’ve been eating ourselves through all the built up food, but apparently there was some other build up I should have been taking care of.

We were making dinner last night, when Monkey looked at the toaster oven, where the fish sticks were baking and said, “Um, Mom, fire!”

Yup, toaster oven had a robust fire going in the debris on the bottom.

https://goo.gl/photos/YpBkb3sJBpiyNJgM7

The audio is as fascinating as the toasty little fire. It really does look very pretty.

You’ll hear the children discuss my need to clean out the toaster oven more, as well as all our various ideas for putting out the fire. And there is one mild curse word. I didn’t realize video was recording the whole adventure.

Sad to say, not the first oven fire we’ve had, probably won’t be the last.

And unplugging the toaster oven is on the list of things to do before we leave.

And So It Begins…

We’re trying something new with this adventure.

We pack light. We’ve always packed light. Buds is often the one who thinks of “just one more thing,” but the children and I are pretty good at keeping it to a minimum. The kids (except for Yessa) and I don’t care much about clothes, so that helps.

This trip, we’re taking it even lighter. Each person is packing three outfits, plus pj’s if you like. The children are wearing one pair of shoes. Buds and I will have two pair (this counts the shoes we will wear.) We’ll each have a jacket. Outfits and jackets are packed into zip lock baggies with the air squeezed out. This means when you want to get something out on the plane, you don’t have to pull out everything else to find what you need.

Here are the children’s piles of clothes, ready to be zip locked.

IMG_20150919_160805080

Here are the backpacks they will each carry:

Ready to go!

Ready to go!

Each of us will have a water bottle, the toiletries for the whole family will be spread around, as well as snacks we’ll all share during travel.

I’m feeling good about this.

Then, it got even better.

Buds has been organizing, backing up, and encrypting all devices that are going with us. He has a plan for stolen laptops, stolen wallets…he’s thought it through. He cleaned out the storage on my phone so I had lots of space then said, “Load up the books you want for reading on the trip.”

Load up the books you want for reading on the trip.

Our children are at an age where they won’t need constant attention on the flights. We have four flights of various durations winging toward us.

I just went through our kindle bookshelves and put 20 books on my phone that I would like to read. I’m as giddy about that as I am about being in Italy right now.

Time to read, time with the people I enjoy most in the world, only having three pair of underwear to worry about keeping clean…I am so incredibly blessed.

Monkey Visits Grandma

Things work out, as they will. Monkey was the last child to recover from the dreaded plague that landed Buster with walking pneumonia and two of the three children on antibiotics for the first time ever. (And a walking pneumonia diagnosis and antibiotics for at least 2 of the children in the families we visited in Virginia. Our friends have amazingly huge hearts and forgiving spirits.)

Because of her wracking cough, we kept pushing back the trip to Iowa to deliver Monkey for an extended visit with my mom on her own. We HAD to make the trip because Mom was watching Nutmeg during our Italian adventure, and Nutmeg hates to fly alone, hence we had to drive her.

Gratefully, due to Monkey’s illness, we were home when Buds suffered a partial bicep tear while lifting impressively heavy weights. Uncle Z, Buster, Yessa, and I were able to drive and pick up Buds and the car from CrossFit and transport him safely home. Though we feared a full tear at first, his arm quickly improved, and a visit to a sports physician reassured us. He’s on his way to full recovery now.

Waiting for an X-Ray

Waiting for an X-Ray

Once we knew Buds could dress and drive himself, we finally began the journey over the river and through the woods.

Some good sleeping happened. Nutmeg’s back in that pile somewhere, too.

IMG_20150825_131432030_HDR (1)

The youngers and I had only two days at Grandma’s before we headed back home. The new minister was being installed at our church, and I could not miss that.

It was lovely and relaxing to be there. My great-nephew spent one of the days/nights with us, and it’s always fun to spend time with him or his brother.

He loves playing with Nutmeg.

He loves playing with Nutmeg.

I love my great nieces and nephews, all of them, but I am ever amazed by my nephew George Jr.’s sons. They have both looked exactly like him as a wee one, which brings such a pang of love to my heart. He was the sweetest little boy, and his offspring are no different.

He likes to be with the big kids.

He likes to be with the big kids.

Can't take the little kid out of the big one.

Can’t take the little kid out of the big one.

And the little one wants to join in.

And the little one wants to join in.

Play, play, play

Play, play, play

Checking on Nutmeg who was taking a break from being followed:

Whattcha' doin', Mutmeg?

Whattcha’ doin’, Mutmeg?

After the littles and I headed back to Buds, Monkey and Grandma would periodically send me updates:

Day 1 from Monkey:

It rained a lot. There was a flash flood warning out somewhere else in Iowa. Mom left at 6:00, I took a nap till 9:30, then we went to the library. I got Shel Silverstein and books on Genealogy. After that we went to a gas station. Grandma got coffee. I got sprite. Then we went to a nail salon and got manicures and pedicures. I got mine in silver with varnish-type stuff. Color number 74. Grandma got burgundy with varnish-stuff. It felt really weird, but good too. I’m scared I’m going to chip my nails. The feeling is very strange. That took 2 hours. Then we went to Hy-vee. I got to get a doughnut. Grandma got one too. We found a energy drink mix thing that I remembered from when we lived in Iowa. I used to love it. I discovered I still do. It is called Propel. Being here is kinda scary. I know I’m going to love it for the 9 days I have left here, but I’m still scared. Tomorrow Grandma is going to teach me to use the lawn mower. If it doesn’t rain. I hope it doesn’t. I miss home. I miss my own bed, even though I haven’t slept in it in weeks. I miss Mom. But I’m going to enjoy being here. I’m pretty sure. Goodnight.

Day 2:

I woke up late, maybe around 10:00. After breakfast, Grandma and I went out to trim the forsythia. Grandma has 2. The other one was already trimmed. Grandma used an electric weed trimmer. I think it looked more like a chainsaw. It looks like this.

Hedge Trimmer

Hedge Trimmer

‚ÄčI used a pair of small trimmers. They looked kinda like this.

Hand Trimmer

Hand Trimmer

‚ÄčThere were a lot of branches to trim. After we trimmed them, we loaded them in a wagon. After that, we hitched the wagon to the mower. It looks something like this.

Lawn Mower

Lawn Mower

Grandma showed me how to drive the mower. I drove it down to a fire-pit type place, where we unloaded. Then I got to drive back. Once we got back, Grandma had me drive the mower in straight lines. It was fun! Then we went inside. We kinda just sat around reading most of the day. Later we watched Ella Enchanted, then Princess Protection Program. While we were watching that, Grandma’s sister showed up.

Mom’s updates were all pictorial:

Monkey made an apple pie.

Monkey made an apple pie.

This happened today.

This happened today.

I love seeing this!

I love seeing this!

They had a comfortable, relaxed 10 days together, then flew down to be with the rest of us.

We missed having Monkey around the house. The artistic level of activity increased exponentially the minute she walked in the door.

I had cleaned, organized, and rearranged her room while she was away, and that seemed to be a hit. I love having her sleeping back upstairs.

She’s growing up, this girl. And we love the person she is, and the person she’s becoming.

The Countdown Is Here

Four days before our kind neighbor appears at 0 dark o’clock to take us to the airport.

Lots has gone on this week, including my mom staying with the children for four days while Buds and I were out of town on an annual work retreat. It was fantastic, our whole company all together, but that was the last domino to fall before reality set in.

I’m vacillating between extreme excitement, sheer panic at the work that needs to be accomplished before we leave, and nightly waking at 2:30 a.m. to jot one more item on the packing list.

Gratefully, this is the same process we went through before the trip to Ireland last year, so we know that before the joy comes the anxiety, and we’ll get past this now, just as we did then.

I’m very behind on posting what’s been going on in our recent lives, but I’m planning to catch up while we’re away.

Writing as I’m gazing into the distance at this:

From here: http://geology.com/rocks/pictures/dolomites.jpg

From here: http://geology.com/rocks/pictures/dolomites.jpg

Seems like that ought to inspire.

We’ll keep you updated…