Happy 85th Birthday, Dad.

Elroy would have been 85 years old yesterday. In November, he’ll have been gone for 10 years, and the power of his personality and drive for good, ethical work continues to impact me everday.

Little Red had him wrapped around her finger.

Little Red had him wrapped around her finger.

Mom and Dad on our wedding day.

Mom and Dad on our wedding day.

He was trying so hard not to cry.

He was trying so hard not to cry.

Little George and Grandpa.

Little George and Grandpa.

James, Pam, and Grandpa

James, Pam, and Grandpa

Sister-in-law Kathy shared this one yesterday. Such a treat to get him truly smiling.

Sister-in-law Kathy shared this one yesterday. Such a treat to get him truly smiling.

Gramps and Great-grandson Nick.

Gramps and Great-grandson Nick.

Still unraveling my memories and feelings about Dad after all these years, but he taught me so many outstanding lessons I’m trying to pass on to my children. It’s been good to think of him with loving thoughts this week.

Italy Trip – Day 34 – Cinque Terre

We were nearing the end of our time at the Lucca farmhouse, and we needed to choose our last day trips. Buds and I had been to Cinque Terre on both our trips to Italy.

On our first trip, back in the mid-’90’s, Rick Steves had been recommending Cinque Terre to travelers in his books, but it was still relatively unknown. There were few other tourists, and when you got off the train there would be large-busted Italian women in dresses, wearing aprons, asking if you needed a place to stay.

Times have changed…

We left Lucca early, and drove to La Spezia to catch the train into Cinque Terre.

The travel overview.

The travel overview.

We toyed with the idea of driving and parking at one of the five towns (Cinque Terre is Italian for “Five Lands.”) As you can see from the map, the driving would be twisty, and you’d still have a decent hike to get into any of the towns.

Taking the train definitely the correct decision.

Taking the train definitely the correct decision.

As seasoned train travelers by this point, we relaxed and enjoyed the trip.

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You go through many tunnels on the journey.

You go through many tunnels on the journey.

We had plans to trek around in a couple different towns, then hike The Lovers’ Walk between two towns.

After being dropped off in the tunnel :

The long trek to the town proper.

The long trek to the town proper.

We wandered down to find some gelato:

An easy start to the day of tromping around.

An easy start to the day of tromping around.

Then back on the train to Vernazza for some time down by the water, climbing on the rocks.

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By this point in the day, we were hungry, so chose a seafood restaurant to have some lunch, then from there we’d get directions to head off on our hike.

Instead, we learned that the Lovers’ Walk was closed due to mudslides, so we relaxed, visited with the young, white, American woman seated at the table next to us who was traveling on her own through Italy, on her way to meet friends in Venice, then headed back up to jumble up with the crowds to get on a train out of town.

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We were able to catch a train, and ended up back at Lucca, ready to enjoy the remainder of our evening at “home.”

I’m glad we spent the day in Cinque Terre, and that the children had the chance to experience it, but I won’t be in a rush to return.

Italy Trip – Days 41 – 48 – Sicily

Ooooh, jeepers-creepers! We’ve finally arrived at my favorite part.

I didn’t want to go to Sicily. Sicily is sooo far south. We didn’t know anyone who had gone there. It seemed so foreign for some reason. Mobsters…you’ve heard the rumors.

Buds thought we should go. Stretch as travelers. See something new for us, too.

I told Buds, “You plan it, we’ll go.”

We left the days open on the calendar.

I waited to see what would happen.

By golly, he not only planned it all, it was fantastic, and my very favorite place of the entire adventure.

We stayed in three distinctive locations while in Sicily, and I’m going to give them each their own post because of the unique flavor of each.

This post focuses on the travel portion. To get to Sicily, if you don’t fly, you get on a train, which eventually gets loaded on a ferry. Yes. The TRAIN gets loaded onto the FERRY. It had to be seen to be believed.

We were up bright and early to have Erika take us to the ferry for our exit from Ischia.

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Reliable Felice met us one last time at the Ferry Terminal to drive us to the Naples Train Station. (And we knew he wouldn’t miss us this drive because we accidentally underpaid him for the Pompeii excursion, so we owed him money. Oops.)

The Naples train station, which was large and modern and comfortable, was a good spot to pass a couple hours while we waited for our departure.

Buster was tickled he found a way to hang the tablet for easier reading.

Buster was tickled he found a way to hang the tablet for easier reading.

The two goofballs behind the column wandered around while we waited to board our train.

The two goofballs behind the column wandered around while we waited to board our train.

We had a very long train ride ahead of us, so we purchased first class tickets. We took a little food with us, and we had our water bottles filled up, but we were looking forward to enjoying some espressos and food on the train.

We found our spots on the train, and were pleased with our seats, right at the back of the train.

We could see right out the back.

We could see right out the back.

After the train set off on its long journey, the children explored the train, as had become our habit. When they returned, they had surprising news.

There was no food car.

Buds and I were sure they were wrong. This was an eleven hour train ride. The other trains we had been on, some for short runs of only a few hours, had all had food cars.

Off we went to make sure they just hadn’t missed it by not walking far enough down to the other end of the train.

Of course, they hadn’t missed it. There was no cafeteria car.

We had read that the south got little love in the train transportation area, but this was the first sign we had seen of that being true. There may be some other reason for there not being a way for folks in the train to eat, but I’m not sure what it would be.

As well-fed folks, we ended up being hungry by the end of the trip, but it was fine. The biggest issue was having several packs of saltine crackers as our main food, and running out of water because of the saltines.

A little wrinkle, and it’s funny now.

We learned our lesson: Always take extra food on the train.

Overall the trip was smooth and uneventful.

The electric window shades were a big hit.

The electric window shades were a big hit.

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Naps happened.

Naps happened.

Hello, World!

Hello, World!

The tracks run right along the coast, so it was a beautiful ride.

A beautiful trip down the coast.

A beautiful trip down the coast.

And finally, the moment of excitement arrived. Time to cross over to the Island of Sicily on the ferry.

Loading a train onto a ferry is actually a simple process when it goes smoothly, and a very slow process when it doesn’t. Having a seat at the back of the train so we could watch the folks who did all the work was fascinating. They were very kind about letting us look over their shoulders while they worked.

Getting ready to back up.

Getting ready to back up.

Yessa watches our progress.

Yessa watches our progress.

The tunnel we back down for getting on the ferry.

The tunnel we back down for getting on the ferry.

Loaded on the ferry, time to wander around.

Loaded on the ferry, time to wander around.

Enjoying the view from the upper deck of the ferry.

Enjoying the view from the upper deck of the ferry.

When our train finally arrived in Siracusa, Sicily, in the dark, on a rainy night, we were so grateful to walk out of the train station to quickly find a cab waiting to whisk us off to our first Sicilian apartment. In general, we found many fewer English speakers in Sicily, and our cab driver was no exception, but he was kind and helpful, making sure to point out the correct alley for us to walk down for the last bit of our journey on that night.

The entire journey from Ischia to Sicily was an interesting beginning to the final portion of our entire Italian Adventure.

Italy Trip – Day 39 – Pompeii

Neither Buds nor I had ever been to Pompeii, and it was high on the list of things we wanted to do with the children. Getting there was no small undertaking. We had to get tickets for the ferry…a very early morning ferry. (Buds and I walked over to the ferry the day before we were headed to Pompeii to try and get tickets, but to no avail. You could only get them the day of your trip. Sounds shockingly similar to a ferry trip we’re taking in Maine soon.)

We had to leave the house before sunrise to catch the earliest ferry. Erika was right on time to drive us to the ferry, as she insisted on doing.

We trundled across in the darkness, on this ferry that feels like a floating casino boat.

Good morning, Sun! (Or goodnight, can't really tell anymore.)

Good morning, Sun! (Or goodnight, can’t really tell anymore.)

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Felice was waiting for us, as planned. Having him as a connection, thanks to Erika, was such a tremendous blessing.

We zoomed away from the ferry terminal, slipping through morning traffic. It was interesting to see Mount Vesuvius as we made our way to Pompeii.

Felice dropped us off at the main entrance, and we made plans for him to pick us up later in the afternoon.

We were quite early since we weren’t meeting our tour guide until noon’ish, so we grabbed a meal at an open air restaurant across the street from Pompeii’s entrance.

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A few quick photos at the entrance:

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The early morning hit some of us more than others.

The early morning hit some of us more than others.

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A little hand jive to pass the time.

A little hand jive to pass the time.

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Roberta, our guide, was our first tour guide of this trip. She was fantastic with the children, and an encyclopedia of information. She grew up in the area, and was able to immerse us in the history and culture, making Pompeii come alive.

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She had an ipad for making it a multi-sensory experience for the kids; she set up a contest between the children and the adults to keep us all interested (Adults lost.); and she condensed the ending when The Buster began to melt. So respectful and kind and fun.

Roberta guided us all over Pompeii, showing us the tiny and intriguing stories written in the walls and stones and mosaics of this city that was buried by a terrifying natural disaster.

Inside a bathhouse.

Inside a bathhouse.

Wall sculpture

Wall sculpture

Beautiful inlaid mosaic

Beautiful inlaid mosaic

Reviewing facts on the ipad app.

Reviewing facts on the ipad app.

A beautiful home

A beautiful home

Though the spigot is new, there were fountains scattered throughout the town for anyone to use.

Though the spigot is new, there were fountains scattered throughout the town for anyone to use.

Walking the walls.

Walking the walls.

In the amphitheater

In the amphitheater

Another view- where the grass is used to be all seating, too.

Another view- where the grass is used to be all seating, too.

Shiny stones reflected the moonlight for "streetlights."

Shiny stones reflected the moonlight for “streetlights.”

Stables

Stables

Another book Roberta used to help us envision the history of this amazing place.

Another book Roberta used to help us envision the history of this amazing place.

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The "Beware of Dog" mosaic at a merchant's front door.

The “Beware of Dog” mosaic at a merchant’s front door.

So excited to see ancient "Beware of Dog," I dropped my phone.

So excited to see ancient “Beware of Dog,” I dropped my phone.

Still works fine.

Still works fine.

The map of Pompeii...it's shaped like a fish!

The map of Pompeii…it’s shaped like a fish!

The children's prizes.

The children’s prizes.

Roberta's final gift to us.

Roberta’s final gift to us.

Pages from the book that show what Pompeii looked like before the eruption...

Pages from the book that show what Pompeii looked like before the eruption…

And after excavation.

And after excavation.

Notice the beautiful inlaid marble. At one time, the entire floor would have been white marble, which would have been dazzling.

Notice the beautiful inlaid marble. At one time, the entire floor would have been white marble, which would have been dazzling.

Note that the picture of Monkey and me above is us walking across the very ground featured in the book pictures above.

I’m missing pictures from Pompeii, and I know I’ve forgotten so many facts. For example, the chariots that were allowed inside the city gates had a very specific width for the wheels. The ancient grooves and blocking stones are still visible, showing how any other width would not have been able to fit through.

We saw an ancient “fast food” restaurant, as well as an ancient bakery where petrified loaves of bread were discovered when Pompeii was excavated.

On a steamier note, we did walk through the “Red Light” district where there are still mosaics on the walls showing the “options” for “services” and their cost. (Lots of quotes in that sentence.)

We saw plaster molds of the poor souls who were caught and suffocated by the ash. We saw the beautiful homes and dishes and the statues of this amazing city that once held thousands of people who laughed and worshipped and loved.

There’s an aura at Pompeii. I would be grateful to go back to listen once again to the whispering souls who rest there.

With hugs of thanks, we left Roberta and made our way back to the waiting Felice. Another careening car ride back to the ferry, and the long trek home, arriving after dark to find the dearest Erika waiting in the mist to drive us home.

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Much to discuss after a full day.

Much to discuss after a full day.

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Definitely worth the effort, and having Roberta as a guide made it spectacular.

Italy Trip – Day 27 – San Gimignano

We still had Grandma and Grandpa with us, and we were looking for a day trip near Lucca. They had stayed in San Gimignano on a previous trip, and loved it, so we headed there for the day.

Those of you who know our family name recognize the connection. Though Buddie’s grandfather had childhood years in Lucca, somewhere back down the line, we had family in San Gimignano. And in the strangest way, walking inside the walls of this ancient city felt like coming home to me. This was my town. It was a wonderful feeling.

Ready to begin our adventure. We were glad to easily find parking in this busy, busy town.

Ready to begin our adventure. We were glad to easily find parking in this busy, busy town.

Heading inside the walls.

Heading inside the walls.

These beautiful little streets.

These beautiful little streets.

Always hold hands.

Always hold hands.

The first order of business was finding a public restroom. This actually took a great deal of wandering around, and I managed to use the men’s side of the restroom. (In my defense, it was not clearly marked, and there were separate stalls for everyone.) Still, typical of me. Gotta go, give me a place to go.

One of the first shops that captured our attention was a weapons shop. We stayed true to our “travel light” plans, but there was much here to hold our interest.

Weapons

Weapons

Weapons

Weapons

Helmets

Helmets

Weapons

Weapons

We learned our lesson about weapons in Ireland, but boy, Buster and Monkey were intrigued by this shop.

We learned our lesson about weapons in Ireland, but boy, Buster and Monkey were intrigued by this shop.

We had no specific plans for the day.

Grandma and Grandpa had some things they wanted to see. Our crew wanted to meander and drool over the weapons store. Buds and I loved looking at the artwork in windows. It was a moseying kind of day.

After some time apart, we met up with the grands in a central plaza. One of San Gimignano’s claims to fame is a “World Champion Gelateria.”

And just down the hill from a World Champion Gelateria is “The Best Ice Cream In The World.” Obviously, the way to handle a competition like this is to try one before lunch and one after.

Literally spitting distance from each other.

Literally spitting distance from each other.

Started with the World Champion:

We started with gelato at the World Champion Gelateria.

We started with gelato at the World Champion Gelateria.

Pre-or-post-lunch gelato. Tough to know.

Pre-or-post-lunch gelato. Tough to know.

San Gimignano makes its living off of the bellies of visiting hordes. Buds had rounded up what seemed to be the one non-touristy lunch spot in town Da i’ Mariani. However once we had gotten there, we discovered it was also super-typical. In this case, super-typical in that Italy seems to make space for passionate amateurs to run tiny, tiny businesses. This place was manned by this super nice guy:

The dedicated fellow who made Buddie's lunch.

The dedicated fellow who made Buddie’s lunch.

and focused exclusively on the finer forms of charcuterie.

It was a bit much for the younger crowd, so I wandered off down the street to a more kid-friendly spot with the three young-uns while Buds stayed with his parents to explore obscure meats.

He texted me a picture of his scrumptious lunch to rub it in:

Buddie's lunch.

Buddie’s lunch.

But the great thing is, the kids and I had an awesome lunch, too. Yessa chose some sort of an apple-glazed pork chop that was fantastic.

And we found a buddy for Cap-Cap, a friend Buster created from a water bottle cap early on in our trip.

The friend we found at lunch for Cap-Cap.

The friend we found at lunch for Cap-Cap.

Monkey had a hilarious name for this Lady Friend, but she’ll have to post it in the comments because she’s in bed and I can’t remember what it was.

After lunch, we had “The World’s Best Ice Cream,” and played around in the plaza.

For the record, my favorite gelato of the whole trip was from “The World’s Best Ice Cream.” I’m not sure anyone else agreed, but I’m willing to go back to test it again.

The Best Ice Cream In The World.

The Best Ice Cream In The World.

We made time to wander the walls to look out over the countryside.

The photo behind the photo.

The photo behind the photo.

What Buddie saw.

What Buddie saw.

The splendid photographer.

The splendid photographer.

Trying to be serious.

Trying to be serious.

The group photo

The group photo

The photobombing attempt.

The photobombing attempt.

Snuggles with the girls.

Snuggles with the girls.

Love this crinkly nose.

Love this crinkly nose.

And to wrap things up we had a chance for some final photos.

Tackle time

Tackle time

Dancing in the streets.

Dancing in the streets.

Family photo.

Family photo.

The bigger family photo.

The bigger family photo.

Several photos in this post were taken by Buddie’s Dad. Thanks for sharing them so generously.

Sicily and San Gimignano, my two favorite spots of the whole trip. I look forward to our return and actually staying in San Gimignano to experience it at night.

Italy Trip – Days 35 – 41 – The Island Of Ischia

Editor’s Note: This post contains video. If you receive the post via email, click through to the website to view the video.

It’s been seven months since we returned from Italy. Not a week goes by without at least one member of the family saying, “I miss Italy.”

I was talking with The Buster about some recent blog posts and he said, “Are you done with the Italy posts yet?”

“No,” I replied. “Would you like me to finish them?”

“Yes, please!” he responded.

So, with my Juice position growing ever-further in the past, and family time my highest priority, recording the final memories of that far-away trip rises to the top of the list.

Thanks for the inspiration, Buster.

Travel to Ischia was covered in this post long ago. We arrived late at night, then settled in for a week in this new paradise.

The full moon that lit our way on the first ferry to Ischia.

The full moon that lit our way on the first ferry to Ischia.

Of all the places we stayed, Erika was the most responsive, most helpful, most generous host. And I do not say that lightly because we met some amazing, generous, splendid people.

You can read about the apartment and Erika here: Apartment On The Beach. As you can see from the reviews, she is beloved, and deservedly so.

The big picture perspective on the location of The Island Of Ischia:

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The apartment first:

The steps up to the porch and front door.

The steps up to the porch and front door.

The front porch- fabulous place to eat and work, lots of space for hanging clothes to dry, and a dry area for Buddie workouts.

The front porch- fabulous place to eat and work, lots of space for hanging clothes to dry, and a dry area for Buddie workouts.

The "screened" front door.

The “screened” front door.

Looking in from the front door.

Looking in from the front door.

Kitchen to the left as you walked in the door.

Kitchen to the left as you walked in the door.

Stove, washing machine, meat slicer on the back table. ('Cause who doesn't need one of those on vacation?!)

Stove, washing machine, meat slicer on the back table. (‘Cause who doesn’t need one of those on vacation?!)

The fridge and microwave.

The fridge and microwave.

Couch to the right after you walked in the front door.

Couch to the right after you walked in the front door.

The electronic area, plus the stairs to the children's room on the left, the adult's room on the right.

The electronic area, plus the stairs to the children’s room on the left, the adult’s room on the right.

The bathroom area in the apartment was interesting. From the back door, which I post later in this essay, you walked right into the bathroom area.

It actually worked well because the shower room was separate from the two toilet rooms with sinks, but an unusual design nevertheless.

The three bathrooms: Shower in first door on the right, toilets and sinks in the other two doors.

The three bathrooms: Shower in first door on the right, toilets and sinks in the other two doors.

A simple bathroom.

A simple bathroom.

The other bathroom.

The other bathroom.

The little shower- leaked all over the floor, but still felt great.

The little shower- leaked all over the floor, but still felt great.

The back entrance out into the courtyard with restaurants and shops. Our door was to the left inside this mini-courtyard.

The back entrance out into the courtyard with restaurants and shops. Our door was to the left inside this mini-courtyard.

The courtyard outside our back door. Wrestling children for scale.

The courtyard outside our back door. Wrestling children for scale.

The apartment looked right out on the water, with the gorgeous castle to our right.

The sea wall in front of our apartment.

The sea wall in front of our apartment.

We loved looking out on the water every day.

We loved looking out on the water every day.

Sunrise over our castle.

Sunrise over our castle.

At the end of the street walking down toward the castle was a gelato place.

Thanks, google maps, for the shot of the gelato shop.

Thanks, google maps, for the shot of the gelato shop.

With Monkey as their fearless leader, the children got into the pleasurable habit of walking down to the gelato shop all on their own to have gelato each day. It was a great opportunity to stretch their comfort zone, with a very delicious goal.

Right by the gelato spot was a pier where boats with fresh fish would appear each early morning to sell that day’s catch.

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I already talked about the day the children and I wandered to the beach.

We had several other grand adventures while in our Ischia home. The Pompeii Adventure will receive a separate write up shortly, but two other days I’ll reminisce about in this post.

As you can tell from any of our discussions about Ischia, the castle was a large part of our daily lives. One morning, while Monkey had time to work, Buds and I headed off on a tour with the littles.

On a walk the previous day, Buds and I had wandered down to find the hours and cost of entrance, and we knew there was somewhere to eat inside. Feeling well-informed, we gathered The Buster and Yessa, and walked on down.

This video shows the bouncy progress the children made, walking on rocks and walls to make their way to the castle.

This way to the castle!

This way to the castle!

Once in the castle, we began our self-guided tour. The rooms you can tour are numbered, and our brochure gave us the names and descriptions in English.

Tour of the castle.

Tour of the castle.

The castle from above.

The castle from above.

We meandered our way up and around:

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Please note the description of the Nuns’ Cemetery. Of all the places we visited, this was the spookiest to me. The cement seats, which looked like port-a-potties, were horrifying once you understood their purpose.

The long hallway to enter.

The long hallway to enter.

A courtyard area past the cafe.

A courtyard area past the cafe.

Family shot.

Family shot.

Yessa obliged us with a photo.

Yessa obliged us with a photo.

We deserved a cappuccino after the nuns' cemetery.

We deserved a cappuccino after the nuns’ cemetery.

It took awhile for our food to arrive at the cafe, so the children made a lovely pile of money.

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View toward our apartment from the patio at the castle.

View toward our apartment from the patio at the castle.

The last part of the castle tour is an exhibit on torture devices. Photos were not allowed, but suffice it to say humans have had horrific ways to injure each other for a very long time.

On to the next adventure:

Ischia made its way onto our list of places to visit because Uncle Z and Aunt A had spent time there on an Italy trip before they had children. It was one of Uncle Z’s favorite places due to the hot baths from the volcanic water around the island.

Once again, Buds and I headed off on a very long walk to hunt down one of these hidden paradise beaches we suspected were just out of our reach somewhere. Our very long walk helped us narrow down one path not to take when we headed out on our beach treasure hunt with Buster and Yessa the next day. (Ischia is a hilly island.)

Monkey cheerfully waved us off as she settled in to her work, while we headed out the door in our swimming suits with a backpack of supplies to spend the day out. We walked for miles, up and down and around. We finally had success when Buds wandered down a long, twisting road, hoping to discover a beach, while the children and I waited at the top of the road. An Ischian came out of the house across the road from us, and we asked him how we could find the beach.

Turns out Buds had taken the wrong path, but once he meandered his way back to us, we had directions to follow from a local, and down the long, long path we went.

Yessa took a terrible tumble on the long steps down, actually bouncing as she landed, but being the tough spirit she is, she popped back up and we continued on our way.

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We found the beach, the water was warm, and we made our own fun:

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Of course, he did a workout.

Of course, he did a workout.

As we prepared to leave the beach, the rain began to set in. We worked our way up and away from the beach, eventually caught a bus, and got off at the wrong stop.

As luck would have it, it turned out to be a beautifully wrong spot. Despite the gloomy weather, an Ischian cemetery was filled with people cleaning up. While Buster and Yessa waited under a tree, Buds and I took the opportunity to wander around in this different style of resting spot.

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After that impromptu visit, we made our way to the bus terminal where we squeezed onto the bus that would eventually get us back to our part of the island.

Partial Family Photo on the bus.

Partial Family Photo on the bus.

With a delightful restaurant right outside our back door, Buds and I slipped out for a quick dinner one of our nights in Ischia.

The patio of the restaurant, with our back door in the background. Pretty close to home.

The patio of the restaurant, with our back door in the background. Pretty close to home.

One of the dishes we got to share.

One of the dishes we got to share.

Ischia was a relaxing, comfortable week. It was a mid-way point for the start of our journey to the South, and gave us a relatively convenient location for a visit to Pompeii, while also having plenty of adventure options closer to home.

Pompeii up next!!

CrossFit Regionals

In another bit of serendipity, much like finding Kel, Paula, and the girls in Ohio at the same time we were, Buds and I realized that the folks he and Monkey work out with at CrossFit Vector would be competing at Regionals in Columbus, Ohio on the weekend the children and I would be returning from the Kalihari.

After leaving behind the loved ones in Holy Toledo!, we headed to our hotel in Columbus.

Kind stranger took our pic. at Steak and Shake.

Kind stranger took our pic. at Steak and Shake.

The hotel was awesome. Kids and I had a great time settling in.

Buds ran into a black hole on his drive, so didn’t get to us until late. But to be back together with him after a week apart…priceless.

Staying on campus means awesome places to eat all around.

See my crew waving inside?

See my crew waving inside?

It was excellent to be at another year of regionals. This year Monkey is a CrossFitter, which makes it all the more special.

The excitement builds.

The excitement builds.

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The younger two, not currently bitten by the CF-Bug, managed to pass the time while the rest of us cheered.

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They look thrilled here.

They look thrilled here.

We had a great time, despite the loud noise.

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And after everyone except Buds and me was tired of seeing the super-fit athletes:

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We went out for pizza back on campus:

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Then headed home to our new kitchen. It was a great wrap-up to an excellent week.

Bubbly Memories

When I was about five years old, my mother was, I suspect, desperate to come up with a way to get me to leave her alone for ten minutes. With my next oldest brother 10 years older than me, I essentially grew up an only child, and with a working mother, which was unusual in my neighborhood out in the country, I’m sure she when she was home from work she was trying to accomplish 25 things at once.

She handed me a styrofoam cup into which she had inserted a straw, dumped in some dish soap and water and told me, “Go outside, blow in this, and see what happens.”

I trotted out on our front porch, and began to blow. I was so excited to see the bounty of bubbles that burst forth from my styrofoam cup, I drew in a big breath to call out to her my joy…and inhaled a large amount of dish soap and water. I can almost remember the bubbles and soap and slobber dripping from my mouth.

Despite that rather wheezy memory, when it was our family’s turn to lead Religious Exploration (Sunday School) this last weekend, those bubbles came to mind.

We had laid out plans for several water play/water cycle activities for the children, and we were excited about the special bubble mixture we had mixed up. It was going to make “BIG, UNPOPPABLE BUBBLES!!!”

It did not.

So, we had to come up with an alternative quickly.

I popped into the pantry in the church kitchen, grabbed a stack of styrofoam cups, Yessa popped holes into all of the cups which allowed us to insert straws in the bottom like a very large pipe, and the kids began to blow.

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It was a huge hit.

I did feel the need to say several times, “Don’t suck in!”

No one did. Kids are much more savvy these days.

I have no idea how my mom came up with the idea, back in those days without the internet, but I’m so thankful she did.

Magic

Magic

Water and bubbles, always a hit.

The Potter Bug Bites Again

Monkey had read through Book 6 years ago.

Buster had gotten through Book 5 years ago.

Then their inner voices told them it was time to stop. Things in the World of Hogwarts and Voldemort and Harry, Ron, and Hermione…it was getting too intense for that point in their lives.

Last week, for a reason unknown to me, Buster picked up the 1st Potter once again.

Not to be outdone, Monkey dived in again, too.

It’s so much fun for all of us to talk about them, although we’re trying to protect Yessa until she’s ready to go through them, too.

Both the older children are reading all the way through the series in the hopes that getting a running start will propel them through the difficulties of Book 7.

We’ll see how it goes, but I am so excited to finally be able to talk about all the nuances and sorrows and thrills of the whole series with them.

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I just suggested to Monkey that it might be time to take a break to complete some chores. She looked at with me with crazy eyes and I slunk away. I know the pull and promise of a good book.

I won’t break the spell.

Editor’s Update:

The Buster has finished book 7. Buster, Yessa, and I are watching the Potter movies we own. We are up through #3. Monkey has finished 6, but is taking a break before diving into 7.

Buster loved 7, despite the tears.

Give me a place to read and I can imagine a world.

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