Sunday, April 6, 2014

Italy

Sorry long post.

Matt and I decided to take our 10th wedding anniversary trip early so we could still take a trip to the beach this summer.  I think the last trip we took by ourselves was when I was I pregnant with Mati Claire and we went to Hawaii (7 years ago).  As hard as it is/was to leave my babies, I do think its good for me and Matt.  On any normal given day, we see each other for about 10 minutes in passing in the morning and for about 30 minutes in the evening.  Sometimes I wonder how we have 3 kids already ;)

Wow.  Italy is one of the must see countries for anyone.  Absolutely amazing!  Words really can't describe it.  Its historical, its romantic, its spiritual, its beautiful, its intellectual, its philosophical, its just amazing!  I felt like any minute another tourist was going to physically pick my jaw up off the floor.  I felt like I was walking around with my mouth open all the time in awe of the sights.

March/April is a GREAT time to go to Italy. The busy season hasn't started yet and the weather was fantastic!  Cold in the shade, in the mornings, and if sitting still… but hot in afternoons, walking, and because most of the hotels don't use their air conditioning except in the middle of summer.

I also have to recommend a private tour guide.  We used Miles&Miles group to set up the itinerary and help us plan.  My sister and I both loved our guides.  They procure your tickets for all the museums and attractions before you arrive.  We also got to SKIP all the LONG lines everywhere.  You could spend all day just standing in line for the David sculpture.  All the guides are history buffs and/or majors.  They show you and explain what is important so you don't waste any time.  They also pick you up from your hotel and taxi you to and from places - again, so you don't waste any time getting lost or trying to drive in the craziest traffic I have ever seen.  Miles&Miles is HIGHLY recommended and worth every penny.  We had tour guides Giuseppe, Elena, Marco, Roberto, and Letizia.

I will sum up the itinerary short as possible:
Wednesday - fly out… with layovers, time changes, and 2 flights = a full 24 hours later we arrived on…
Thursday - immediately got off plane and took a 5 hour train ride to Venice.  Took a ferry to the Rialto Bridge stop and got lost trying to find our hotel.  Checked into Hotel Ai Reali.
Had time to take a quick gondola ride, grab our FIRST food in over 24 hours, and then went to SLEEP! Finally.
Friday - took a 4 hour city walking tour of Venice with our tour guide named Giuseppe "Josie" from Miles&Miles, Inc.  She ended the tour at a FABULOUS restaurant called AcquaPazza Ristorante Amalfitano.  Quite possibly the best food we had the entire trip.
We then took a 2-3 hour train to Florence.  Arrived in Florence that night to our favorite hotel the entire trip, the Hotel Brunelleschi.  A medieval building with spacious rooms and an amazing view of the Duomo.
Saturday - took a 4 hour city walking tour of Florence with our tour guide Elena.  Ate at an awesome restaurant called Da Tito's.  My first rare Florentine steak ever.
Sunday - we were picked up from our hotel by tour guide Marco.  He drove us about an hour outside of Florence into the countryside area of Tuscany/Chianti areas.  We visited a medieval village called San Gimignano and visited two wineries with a homemade lunch provided.  My absolute favorite day of the entire trip!  A very nice break from the crowds of people.  Returned to Florence to take a 1 hour train to Rome.  Checked into Hotel San Anselmo.
Monday - took a 5 hour city tour of Rome with Roberto (the owner of the travel tour guide company we used).  The Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon were our favorites of the day.
Tuesday - took a 3 hour walking tour of the Vatican City with tour guide Letizia.
Wednesday - took a 5 hour walking tour of Ancient Rome, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum with tour guide Letizia.
Thursday - flew home!  2 days later, I still have jet lag. ugh!

Its really hard to say what my favorite sight was.  You can't really compare an art painting to a sculpture or to a building.  And you can't compare a building still being used to a rock foundation of a building that used to be.  But having said that, my favorite highlights:
1)  the David sculpture in Florence is pretty amazing.  And not because he's a 12 foot naked man.  I had never learned in history class exactly why he was naked.  It represented that fact that he had no defense.  He had no shield, no defense armor to fight Goliath.  Just the slingshot and his courage.  He only had God defending him.  That is pretty cool.  And then you add the level of detail of a 12 foot beautifully naked man by Michaelangelo in a marble sculpture.   We had a camera-Nazi for a tour guide that day so I couldn't sneak a picture of David.  Cameras are not allowed at the David or the Sistine Chapel.
2)  St. Peter's Basilica.  The most beautiful church ever.  And it didn't even have the level of mosaics that churches in Florence and Venice had.  Actually all the churches will move you in some way.  I loved how they ALL told the stories of the Bible on their ceilings.  If you walk into any square building I assure you there will be some representation of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in those 4 corners.  I could go on and on about this but I'll stop here.  Much to say on this subject!
3)  Colosseum.  The fact that the "building" is still standing is amazing.  Its currently surrounded with scaffolds and reinforcements because the vibrations from the subway and cars is causing it to be unstable.  They are also in the process of cleaning it because pollution has caused it to turn black in some areas.  Personally, I would have to say if you ever plan to go to Italy, do it now.  Before most of the buildings fall the rest of the way down.  The only point in the trip that I regretted not bringing my kids to see something.  The level of engineering from ancient times is also amazing.  Very smart people even back then without modern technology.
4)  Venice.  Gondola ride in Venice.  That was on my bucket list.  I had always wondered how they built a city on water.  Its actually built on marble that is on small islands… its very neat to see a city that is completely dependent on boats.  We saw a boat "ambulance", police boats, a boat "garbage truck", water taxis, everything is by boat!  There are no cars in Venice.  Plus you add Venetian history, art, and ancient buildings that are STILL standing despite the high tides…. on top of water.  Beautiful.  Did I mention the word amazing???  It kinda sorta reminded me of New Orleans - but even cooler.
5)  The Sistine Chapel.  Its not as breathtaking as one might expect.  The room is much smaller and darker than I expected.  I also expected a dome shape chapel that you see in all the other churches…not the case.  But its still amazing.  Michaelangelo was a real genius.

I took notes on my phone because I wish I had kept a journal.  Its a very moving country if that makes any sense.  It invokes alot of thought.  And not just about the art, sculptures, history, churches, etc.  ;)
1)  Water is not free flowing.
2)  Driving and the "lanes" in Rome.  there is no order on the streets - cars just go everywhere.  I had to close my eyes a few times in a taxi and just pray for safety.
3)  Bidets.  yes, I had to try one out to say that I had tried it.
4)  Wine with every meal.  "wine before water" is their motto I think.
5)  At the train station, you have to PAY to use the toilet!
6)  Everyone wears black.  You could pick out the tourists because they actually wore color.
7)  9 out of 10 people don't take care of themselves.
8)  People were either extremely nice or extremely rude.   mostly rude (that being said by a true Southerner)
9)  Butter and good food do not exist.  Good food was hard to find in any tourist area.  But we did eat well at some suggested restaurants away from tourist areas.  Also they don't use butter.  Only olive oil.
10)  Restaurants don't open until 7:00pm.
11)  Cliches prove true:  "mamma mia", striped shirt gondola rowers, accordion players on every corner
12)  Leggings are NOT pants, people!  apparently that trend is worldwide.
13)  Napa doesn't have anything on the Sienna/Tuscany areas
14)  People are weird.
15)  I kept waiting on James Bond or Jason Bourne to jump out at any moment.
16)  Train stations are like Walmart - 10 available lines but only 4 open.  And you can people watch all day long.
17)  When I thought the South had fried everything known to man… I was wrong!  They fry miniature pizzas, fry rice and cheese into little balls, fried squid
18)  I got a laugh at the fact that "homemade bread" was considered a dessert.  Gelato, tiramisu, truffles, chocolate, oh yes, would you like some more bread???  Like we hadn't had enough already.
19)  Every meal is a 5 course meal.  Seriously.  I still can't figure out how they physically eat so much.  Most waiters asked me if I had a problem with my meal because I couldn't finish it.
20)  Italy was everything and more!  Beautiful and worth every penny.

I took about 500 pictures overall…here are just a few of my faves to give you a slight idea of what we saw.  They by no means do anything justice or even show half of what we saw.  and yes, I wore my red coat everyday because I pretty much stayed cold most of the time.  I didn't post anything about Dante, Galileo, other Michelangelo masterpieces, Caesar Augustus, Julius Caesar, the old Pope's corpses, the monks, the Greek gods, Bernini, Mussolini, tales from the crypt, and the list keeps going…

VENICE PICS:

Rialto Bridge
Its is bad luck to walk in between in these pillars with Venetian symbols; but the entrance to the square 
All ceilings in this cathedral are exquisite mosaics.  
The body was stolen a time or two, but supposedly this the body of St. Mark (Mark as in the Gospel of Mark/New Testament Mark)

At the "Bridge of Sighs"; prisoners passed from the building on the left where they were judged to the jail on the right through this bridge.

I could take pictures of Venice all.day.long.   The yellow boat is an ambulance.
FLORENCE PICTURES:
The Duomo from the backside
The cathedral's main fresco portraying the fall of man.
A statue and fountain honoring Cupid!  Anniversary trip after all.
At Ponte Vecchio in Florence.  
Overlooking Florence
 TUSCANY and SAN GIMIGNANO:
On the side of the road in front of a vineyard.
The winery employee made us do it.  Obviously Matt had plenty of wine if he agreed to document it.  ;)
 ROME PICS:

The Pantheon
St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican
Paletine Hill; one of the original colosseums
Appian Road; one of if not the very first road to Rome.  Along this path you can find a very small tabernacle that apparently was the place where Peter ran into Jesus… and somehow Jesus' footprints are molded into the floor??  Something like that.  The Italian accent can be hard to decipher when they are pouring history out.
Trevi Fountain
Just one small part/view of the Roman Forum
Me standing in front of one of the first pharmacies!  an ancient pharmacy where they dispensed herbs! I was just a little excited!
Oh the Colosseum!  There are no words to describe it other than amazing!

Miley's - 1   Rome - 10; on the last day I pulled my socks off to find blood!  We walked so much that my feet were bleeding!  Rome kicked our rear ends.  Loved it, but we are glad to be home now!

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Not My Party

Mattox requested we go to Chuck E. Cheese yesterday for his birthday.  It was more of "lets meet at C.E.C for lunch after church… and I'll have some chocolate cake too!"  There were no balloons, no table covers, no "theme" other than the mouse himself, only 1 of his friends was invited, and no food other than pizza and cake.  Etsy or Pinterest was not involved and I didn't spend more than $10 on his cake.  So not a party by my definition - but its what the 4 year old wanted (and I didn't want to do a party at all).  His best friend is Matthew (I told you we have a thing for "Matt" around here ;))  and they play so well together!  My brother-in-law, Aaron, is a funny character - who needs Chuck E. Cheese when you have an Uncle A-Ron!  Matt was not happy since he's on a string of nights - and had to wake up in the middle of the day to attend… but not much I could do about that.  And Aunt "Ray" managed to come home from school to be there!  

Mati Claire is cool with not having a party this year either… but I'm beginning to feel guilt and pressure over Merritt's 2nd birthday.  What's more shocking than having a 7 and a 4 year old?  Merritt is about to turn TWO!!  How did that happen??
Here are a few funny pics.  





Mattox, Matthew, their cousin Kendall, and Mati Claire
He was actually DANCING!  That might have been a first!



"this chocolate cake is soooo good!"
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Friday, March 7, 2014

Mattox-Man

On one hand, Mattox gets ALL the attention because he is ALL boy, ONLY boy, and ALL Mr. Destructor.  On the other hand, I feel like he gets overlooked being the middle child.  He is normally (trust me not always) very laid back, very easy to please, easy to get along with (if you take his age into account), goes along with whatever is going on, and is extremely shy!

Of all my kids though… I wish this little boy would just STOP growing up.  I absolutely adore him being 3 years old.  Yes, he drives me insane most days… but I wouldn't have it any other way.  Because he is the biggest sweetheart e.v.e.r.

Some of the MANY things I love about him:

  • I still love his birthmark.  Its hidden, but noticeable if you are paying attention.  Depending on his need for a haircut.  
  • He tells me I smell like brownies.  Melts.my.heart.  (and no, I don't cook brownies all the time)
  • Despite his OCD, I love it at the same time.  He likes order.  He likes clean.  He has "his own way" of doing things.  And I totally get that.  But also loves a good dirt/mud pile! 
  • He doesn't mind having 2 sisters.  Not that he has a choice.  But he says "momma, I love being the only boy!"  He does LOVE his older sister though.  Definitely looks up to her.
  • When the girl hormones are raging at our house and the drama is flying high… he is ALL boy and shrugs it off… he can handle it!  hmmm… maybe he'll make a good husband one day.
  • Asks me almost every day, "Are you happy now?"    I don't know where or how that got started, but sometimes I think he's asking a rhetorical question and sometimes he's asking a literal question.  I never know with him.  Are you happy now?  It never fails to stop me in my tracks and pause.  Stop and smell the roses so to speak.  And I ALWAYS answer "I'm always happy when I'm with you!"
  • He's so down to earth.  Again, when the emotions are high, he's brings me back down to earth in a good way (not in a depressing pessimistic way but in a "mommy you are upset so I'm gonna pass gas and make you laugh til you cry" kind of way!)  
  • "I see you waiter"  = I see you later
  • "camo camo"  = camouflage 
  • "a wadadum" = a lot of them
  • "bwood" = blood  (i.e.  "mom, I have all my bwood today…its not weaking out!")
  • He's my only child that likes to snuggle with me on the couch.  Wouldn't trade those moments for the world.
Happy 4th Birthday, Mattox!  According to him though --- its just one more number closer to five!  He can't wait to turn 5.  Slow down there bud.  I thoroughly enjoyed 3.

We celebrated at his preschool today since they will be on Spring Break next week, and his only request on his actual birthday Sunday is to go to Chuck E. Cheese with his best friend, Matthew.  As you wish, son. 

Superhero cupcakes for his class party!
So shy while we sang.  
Spider-Man, Super-Man, Iron-Man, and Mad-Man! 
He chose the "Hulk" cupcake (when I really tried to persuade him to pick the Fantastic Four!)

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Oh Pineapples!

I've been meaning to write about this for awhile now…but finally - here it is.

A few Saturdays ago, I woke early to let the housecleaners in the front door.  The painters and lawn guys arrived at the same time - so it was quite busy on my front porch at 7:30 am on a Saturday.  The housecleaners drew my attention to a full sized pineapple on my front doorstep.

At first, I thought one of my neighbors left it for me.  Then I thought perhaps my mother-in-law had been to a farmers market or something and had an extra one.  Buy one get one free - type thing.  I am 35 years old and apparently that is old because I grew up knowing that a pineapple is a symbol of hospitality.  After all, we do live in the Hospitality State!  Then I thought perhaps it was one of my new Advocare extremists… again, just being nice "welcome to starting Advocare type thing."

After an hour or so, and all the chaos from the morning died down, I got to wondering who left a pineapple on my front door.  How strange.  Still confused - I posted on Facebook "who left this?"

To my complete and utter SHOCK, I immediately started getting private messages and comments from people I haven't spoken with in years!  Apparently, a pineapple left on your front door in the middle of the night is (in today's time) actually a request or invitation to join the swingers!  And if you are old like me, you might have to Google the definition of swingers.  I.Had.No.Idea.  Completely clueless.  

After MUCH discussion and joking around on Facebook, I had to delete the post because it was getting out of hand.  I learned from random people how to respond to the swingers (if you actually want to join them) and where the swinger groups dominate around the Jackson area.  I'm sad to know that my very small-town bubble of a home is surrounded by these kinds of people.  I have heard every rumor and piece of gossip about where these couples reside and how they "do" what they do.        TMI that I could have lived without knowing!  I also found out that another couple/friends of ours also received a pineapple and they are also at a loss as to who sent it.  Which made the whole day very strange for all of us.  They live on the opposite side of town.  

We never did figure out who left it.  Soooo… IF it was a joke, no one ever came forward and said "Gotcha!" or "hey, just joking!"  If it was a joke, there are certain people that I would not be offended because crude jokes are right up their alley - and I wouldn't be surprised by them at all.  I would have actually laughed til I cried at a few people.  BUT we are still confused over the whole incident.  No one ever "fessed" up to it.  Which leads us to think that it was in fact NOT a joke.   Which is scary.

We are not laughing.  To disappoint whoever sent it:  Matt and I don't swing like that.  On one hand, I thought perhaps I should be flattered that someone would want us like that - but nope… sorry, appalling was the only word that came to mind.  My right hand will be holding a gun pointed at the next person I catch trying this little stunt.  And I will be quoting Genesis 2:24, "…a man will be joined to his wife, and they shall become ONE flesh."  Not more than one.  Just one.             (I am slightly reminded of Pulp Fiction in my mind ;)  

After researching the concept of swingers - it is also known as "wife swapping"… and it got me thinking that I was being awfully conceited to think it was more about me - and that perhaps it was someone who wanted to "swap" for/with Matt!  Apparently, whoever it was does NOT know me well…. and they should know that I am and can be extremely jealous.  Let me repeat it one more time:  we.  do.  NOT.  swing.   

It bothers me to think that someone would think we would be interested in that kind of behavior.  Have I done something to make you think that??? I hope and want to live my life for God.  The song "Let Them See You in Me" comes to mind.  I apologize if I gave someone the wrong impression is some dark and twisted kind of way!  I said a prayer for whoever it was - that you might find the real meaning and definition of the word marriage.

end of rant.  the pineapple found the trashcan.

its never dull around this house.  i can't keep the drama away.  

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lil This and That and Then Some

Might be a random post today… seeing as its been almost a month since my last post.  
What have I been doing?  

1)  r.e.a.d.i.n.g.  
I think Mati Claire gets it from Matt's side… but its definitely not far on my side either.   I usually don't read - and I figured out why.  I will neglect my kids and my house to READ.  I won't do chores.  I let my kids eat whatever they want if it means they will be quiet and leave me alone for 5 minutes.  We made the mistake of buying a KindleFire for Mati Claire for more AR books.  Yeah…. she hasn't touched it because I won't give it back to her.  I'm obsessed.  I read in the car rider line.  I read in the bathroom.  I read while I cook (if I do decide to throw a pizza in the oven).  I read while they are at swim lessons.  Ballet.  I read before I go to sleep…which is around 2 or 3 in the morning lately.  
But - it keeps me off Facebook.  I have a love/hate relationship with FB.  So thats one good thing about my obsession with reading.  But once I start a book, I can not stop until I'm finished.  

2)  Advocare 24 day Challenge again.  I did this in October but really had no guidance and was "lost" after the challenge ended.  This time, I have some great friends who are "pros" at this - and they are overloading me with new healthy recipes and tips to stay strong.  I've lost about 8 pounds since the middle of January… and haven't cheated yet!  Trust me, I am DYING for a french fry or a hamburger… but I'm also DYING to feel better and look better.  I had zero energy to keep up with 3 active kids… and at least now I feel like I'm happier about myself therefore I'm happier towards them.  

3)  Working on stuff in between.  From helping with homework to moving Merritt's car seat around.  Planning our 10 year anniversary trip (which is very difficult).  School PTO stuff.  Homeroom mom stuff.  Superbowl party.  Cleaning house.  Never quite finding the bottom of the laundry pile. 
Wondering how and why my little boy is growing up so fast!  He will be 4 very soon… and I am SO heartbroken.  I seriously wish he could stay 2 or 3 forever.  Yep - even with the terrible 3's I'll take him.         He is funny, serious, lovable, playful, and such a sweetheart!  He's not really feeling the "older brother" thing yet… but he definitely knows his place as a "little brother".

Boring post…but oh well.  I'm actually grateful for the lack of drama/events around here lately.  

his "Hulk" impersonation while waiting for swim lessons
3 years old for just a few more weeks
Not 20 pounds…but went ahead and turned her car seat around.  Driving is a little more tolerable now
My 3 Valentines. Be still my heart.
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