Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Most Special Day

I love this time of year. Winter is a distant memory. Everything is bursting into new life in vibrant shades of green. But mostly I love spring because of all the new little souls receiving Jesus for the first time in the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Jack is one of those little souls. Oh, he looked so sweet in his slightly too big suit with his hands folded solemnly, looking up at the priest and whispering "Amen". My heart was filled with joy as I gazed at this little boy, who somehow went from a tiny babe in arms to a young boy, enthusiastically anticipating his first time receiving Jesus. He wrote me a letter earlier this week. Full of misspellings, yet full of love, expressing his excitement.

Anna got him a card and wrapped up one of our prayer books. I asked Barbara if she would make a rosary for him. It is absolutely beautiful, as I knew it would be. Jack had our priest bless it right after Mass. My dear friend Misha's son also received his First Holy Communion at the same Mass. She took photos of both our boys. It was very special to me to be able to share this day with their family. We had dinner together that evening and invited our priest as well. Peter was over the moon that our priest came to his house. It was a wonderful evening and truly a most special day.



Melted my heart!



Thank you Barbara! It is exquisite!









I couldn't decide if we look better in color or black and white, so I included them both.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Italy with kids

Monday found us packing the car for our first big excursion out of Germany. We poured over travel books, and the possibilities were endless. How could we pick? But in the end, we settled on Northern Italy. Venice, Padua, and Verona to be precise.

In preparation and to save some money, I made and froze three meals for the crock pot, made three loaves of bread, and packed some of the pantry staples (cinnamon, jelly, etc.). Next time, I will add olive oil and some more spices. We found a house through Homeaway.com again. It was fifteen minutes outside of Padua, with the train station being 3km away that could whisk us to Venice in an hour.

It was a long drive, made even longer by encountering several traffic jams, some blizzard like conditions in the alps, and getting lost in the town where we were staying. It was dark by the time we arrived, the kids were starving, and we were all cranky. We quickly met with the owners of the house, took care of the business of payment and walked across the street to the restaurant. It was 10pm. We ate and all fell asleep straight away.



I awoke on Tuesday morning before the kids and tiptoed down the stairs to make some coffee and to check out our house in earnest. I felt like I was still dreaming, for I was amazed at the beauty of the house and the property. We took our time, eating a simple breakfast and exploring before heading into the town to get some groceries and check out the train schedule. We had lunch and gelato at the restaurant, played outside in the sunshine and then headed into Padua in the car. We first went to the Basilica of St. Justina. The tomb of St. Luke happens to be in this Basilica. On our short walk to St. Anthony's Basilica we got more gelato. Photography inside the Basilicas is prohibited. In St. Anthony's, you may write your petitions on a piece of paper and put them next to his tomb. You may then place your hand on the tomb and pray. There was such a reverent air as people waited their turn to touch the tomb. There were also many relics, including St. Anthony's incorrupt tongue.

We returned home to dinner simmering in the crock pot. Tony built a fire and we had a relaxing evening.

Rustico Lucia, our home for the week

The patio

The orchard


The vineyard



The Basilica of St. Justina

Gelato!

Padua



Basilica of St. Anthony




Wednesday

Slept in again. That is fine, we are on a vacation! This was a day of learning. Learning about the trains, the vaparetto, and the crowds. A nice young man saw that we had no clue and showed us how to validate our tickets, though no one ever checked them on the train. When we stepped out of the train station and saw the Grand Canal of Venice, I was overcome. The kids ran and played right there while Tony figured out the tickets for the vaparetto, which are the public water buses. We ended up buying a two day pass, which paid for itself after a few rides. We found the right vaparetto and headed to Piazza San Marco. We were very hungry and found a restaurant that had a nice view of a small canal and a bridge, so the kids kept jumping up from the table to watch the gondolas float by. Jack touched a gondola that was waiting for passengers and quipped "I touched a gondola. I'm never washing this hand again." The couple at the table behind us thought that was hysterical and we started talking. They were on their honeymoon. So Tony paid for their lunch. When they protested, he told them to wait 23 years and then pass it along.

We started our actual sightseeing with St. Mark's Cathedral. It was beautiful and amazing, don't get me wrong, but there were so many people in line and so many people trying to see all the relics and artwork that I felt rushed. It felt more like a museum than a place of worship. We also got separated from Tony for a while, and spent some time out on the portico waiting for him to find us. By the time we were done there, we did not have time to go to the Palace, so we rested outside in the piazza and the kids played with the pigeons. Then we made our way back to the train station via several gelato stands. The kids stopped at every souvenir stand too. Makes for a slow, whiny walk.

The train back to our station left at 6:42, so we decided to find a restaurant near the house. By the time we found one, parked and got seated, it was close to 9:00. I forgot when ordering pizza for the kids that I should have asked for salami, for they got peppers instead. Four year olds who are expecting pepperoni and actually get peppers on their pizza at 9:00pm are not very good at hiding their disappointment. I found a fun radio station while waiting for Tony to pay for dinner (took said disappointed kids to car) and cheered them up by doing silly dances in the front seat.

Oh, and I left the camera in the car before we got on the train, so I took no pictures this day.


 Thursday

Slept in. (Do you see a pattern here?)  The owners of house were outside doing yard work. Each day, there were more flowers and trees by the time we returned from sightseeing. They even put up a hammock for the kids and let let Jack help with the yard work. We ate lunch outside in the sunshine on our patio before heading to the train. We looked at our travel books the night before to get into Venice with a more solid plan today. We took the Vaparetto along the Grand Canal and got off at the Rialto Market. Browsed the shops, bought some fruit and then took a ride on a gondola. Oh, the kids loved this. I, however, did not. I wanted to sit and relax, but Peter kept trying to go overboard. More gelato as we walked toward the minor basilica S. Maria Gloriosa die Frari. On the way, we found a mask making shop whose owner let us watch and answered our questions. Anna was very happy. The basilica was much better than St. Mark's to me. Not as crowded, and we could go where we wanted. Back to the train and back to the house for dinner. Instead of using the crockpot, I heated the frozen sauce on the stove while the pasta cooked and cut up some cucumber and peppers for a salad.















To pass the time on the train, my kids flattened their juice boxes to make cell phones and pretended to talk to people.


Friday

Took it easy at Rustico Lucia. We went into town in the afternoon to see a castle. Tony got his hair cut by an old Italian barber, who trimmed his nose and eyebrow hairs too! Got more gelato. Sloppy Joe's and green beans for dinner. After the kids were finally in bed, we watched Moonstruck. Perfect choice!







Saturday

We drove to Verona today. The kids and Tony were excited to see the arena, which was built by the Romans and looked every bit like the Colosseum in Rome. We were all very let down however. After paying a fee to go inside, it was completely modernized and there was nothing to tell us the history of the arena. We had also made plans to visit the Museum of Natural History. Now this was worth the admission price. It was an extensive collection and the kids only grumbled their disappointment when we reached the last room and realized there was no more. Headed home and started packing for the long trip home tomorrow. None of us want to leave this beautiful place. I feel the need to find a home with more room to run and explore for our remaining time in Germany.




I think this captures the feeling of disappointment




We could have supposedly seen Juliette's balcony from Shakespeare's play, but the kids were too tired to explore any further, so we picked a balcony and pretented this was it.


Sunday

We drove into Padua for Mass before getting on the road. We attended the sung Mass which was incredible. The hymn for the recessional was Handel's Halleluiah Chorus. Oh my goodness! We stopped in Garmisch to refuel and had dinner with friends. Got home well after midnight. Monday morning came way too early and real life started up again amid the memories of a lovely week.

The view of the alps on the drive home