I hope to upload some photos of our journey thus far tomorrow now that I've found a wireless spot to use my laptop. But here's our bon voyage family self photo. Hopefully, we'll connect with Grandma Tina tomorrow and get a chance to video-chat with the kiddos.
July 2010 entries
On Thursday morning, Aunt Michelle and Michael and I awoke at 5 and headed for the Baltimore Washington International Airport. After saying our goodbyes, checking in, and checking our baggage, Mike and I began the first leg of our journey -- a short domestic flight to Detroit. Once there, we waited for the big deal -- the international flight to Rome. We boarded at 6:30 p.m. and took off at 7:30. Eight hours later, we arrived in Rome, tired, disoriented and excited!
The plane ride really was in itself amazing. We now have aerial photos of the Alps taken from our window. Toward the end of the flight, though, this pregnant woman was uncomfortable to say the least. Our poor little boy must have been wondering when I was going to lie down in a real bed and give him some room.
Once on ground, we grabbed our luggage, which was surprisingly easy -- probably because Mikes nondescript black luggage was next to the suitcase I borrowed from Miss Hopkins, easily identifiable in bright blue! [Editors Note: Please pardon my bad grammar; I cant seem to find an apostrophe on the keyboard in the Italian Internet Cafe. It is probably because they use expressions like "the house of Denise" instead of Denises house.]
Our trip through customs was ridiculously fast. I am not sure that the man even looked at me and compared the photo to my actual image. It was flip, stamp, hand back passport.
The airport, like most airports, was outside of Rome, so we took a 20 minute train to the city. Getting on said train was interesting. We purchased a ticket, got on the train, and got off. No one checked that we actually had a ticket at all. Mike said that his friend told him that they do random spot checks of tickets and fine incredible amounts of money to those not in compliance. That pretty much puts an end to any freeloaders.
The next step was to take a train from Rome to Chiusi, the Tuscan town near our destination. We purchased a ticket for the train in Rome. It was laughable, the way we attempted to read the ticket and find the right location. There was nothing at all on the ticket that helped us know where to go or when. We walked to location 25 and asked the first train employee we had seen since arriving. He looked at the ticket for a millisecond and told us to go to location 1. Ok . . . after that hike, we were told to validate our ticket and climb aboard. Honestly, how people miraculously knew any of this information boggles my mind. Once on the train, we had no idea when we were supposed to get off. Luckily, a nice woman told us that she was going also to Chiusi and to follow her.
After nearly 2 hours on a non airconditioned train in sweltering heat, we got off the train at the right stop. We hailed a taxi and headed to the small village of Sarteano.
Our bed and breakfast is gorgeous. It was built in 1500 and our room is on the third floor. We have an excellent view of the Old Square and through our open windows, we witnessed a procession of people dressed in Renaissance garb marching to drummers as they entered the teatro for a perfomance at 10 last night. Because we were too tired for a concert at 10 p.m., we closed the shutters and windows, set the alarm on Mikes iPod and went to bed.
This morning, I awoke and wondered what time it was . . . nearly noon! This was not good news, since the workshop Mike is attending began at 9! Disbelieving the iPod clock, I went to the window and tore up the sash, and what to my wondering eyes did appear but an entire square filled with life and lunch! Michael rushed to dress and get his music. We ran to the Church where he is rehearsing (luckily we walked a bit around town last night and got our bearings) and he sheepishly entered the rehearsal. When he told them who he was, the group applauded in welcome.
He had a lunch break at 1 until 2:30 and we dined at a small ristorante. We are starting to better navigate the restaurant customs and the language barrier. For now, I have found an Internet spot to use until I can find a place to use my laptop (complete with webcam to talk to the kiddos in PA). Nearly every shop in the square closes from 12:30 to 4:30 every day, and while I was having a cappuccino at the small cafe near our hotel, I met the wife of Simon Carrington and her friend, also enjoying the free time and open air while the workshop was in session.
So, all in all, we are doing very well and are enjoying this gorgeous town and its friendly residents. Tonight, I think we may venture to the castle nearby . . .
Ciao for now!
I am not entirely sure that I should count today as Day One of our journey since we won't be flying out of the country today, but since we will be saying good-bye to Aidan and Gabrielle, it counts to me.
I couldn't sleep last night -- a mixture of apprehension about leaving the kids today and involvement in a book, The Birth House, about midwifery in the early 1900s in rural Nova Scotia. It's a historical novel by Ami McKay which interested me not only because of upcoming labor and delivery but also because of the chauvinistic approach held by doctors embarking on the field of obstetrics who insisted that women need not feel any pain during childbirth. Because of dangerous combinations of ether and chloroform, women often simply passed out in "Twilight Sleep" as the doctor performed an episiotomy and removed the baby with forceps. And damn near every woman was diagnosed as "hysterical" or "neurotic". As I read, I recalled moments of the documentary The Business of Being Born, which calls for a return to natural childbirths. While I agree that a woman should be an active participant in any medical decision, I can't say I go as far as to attempt an at-home birth like many of the women in Ricki Lake's movie.
It's completely true that by and large, our society is terrified of the natural process of pregnancy, labor, and delivery. It's as if women somehow become fragile, delicate creatures upon the moment of fertilization -- ha! I would love to have witnessed my Grandma Hershey in her 8 pregnancies, and especially during the birth of my father on Christmas Day. Legend has it that she made a large dinner for the family (Dad was the baby), did the dishes, and then told her husband, "Ross, it's time." To be sure, there was no rest or restricted duty for the mother of 7 during that pregnancy!
And during labor, we are expected to escape the pain of contractions, the communication of our bodies, all in the fear of ourselves. Many women, especially those with wealth, opt to schedule their c-sections for their first and subsequent children so as to avoid all parts of the labor process. Many more women go into the labor room, already having in their minds that an epidural is a "must", before even feeling one contraction, because they believe modern medicine should erase any and all human suffering. Again, I am not personally electing an "all-natural" childbirth, nor am I condemning anyone who has had an epidural or a c-section. In both deliveries of my children, I was given a pain medication intravenously to take the edge off contractions, though it wasn't the totally numbing experience of an epidural (and how many stories have I heard about an epidural coming too late or being too strong or too weak . . .). And who knows what this next delivery will bring. I am merely observing a fear in our society of a completely natural and miraculous process. It's as if we'll do anything to escape any pain, and I'm wondering if sometimes, pain is a necessary and positive part of our lives.
All this is on my mind, as a result of reading until 1 a.m. on the eve of my first extended separation from my children. I know that, as Aidan and Gabrielle have been saying a lot this week, they "will be in my heart because I love them", but their other mantra is equally true. As said by Gabrielle: "I will miss you in Italy."
Today's agenda includes Grandma Tina coming to pick up the kids followed by a drive to Aunt Michelle and Uncle Adam's. They live about an hour from Baltimore and have agreed to take us to the Baltimore Washington International Airport in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning.
Aunt Michelle and Uncle Adam are celebrating their second anniversary today! We wish you many more to come!
AND . . . My parents are celebrating a special anniversary today! 35 years together! Congratulations, Mom and Dad! We love you and hope you have a great day together!
Michael has an interview tomorrow morning for a music teacher position! Good luck, Mike! :)
Aidan continues to be our budding entomologist. He spends hours a day in the backyard with his net and without any fear of the creepiest, crawliest creatures. A few days ago, he was out back, I was washing dishes, and Gabrielle was at the table coloring. Aidan ran in proclaiming, "Momma! Momma! You should see what I've caught . . . four honeybees and a yellow jacket! And I didn't get stung!"
Ahhh! We outlawed bee-catching since that day.
Last night, Miss Hopkins came over for our last Connor-Hopkins family dinner before our Italy trip, and she brought a really neat bug kit for the kids, complete with a chart to record our captures and a magnifying glass to closely inspect our prisoners. Later, around 2 a.m., I awoke and went out to the back porch area to check on the weather (after harrowing near-tornado storms that scared Aidan with visions of The Wizard of Oz) and I caught sight of a HUGE bug on our screen door. It was approximately 3 inches long and had really long wings.
[Editor's Note: I know that there are probably several readers going, "Oh, I know what bug that is" right now, but I don't like show-offs, so keep it to yourselves, alright?? It was 2 a.m.! And I didn't have my glasses on! And . . .I can keep the excuses coming if you need more.]
I decided that I had to catch it -- I would be looked upon as a local hero, or as Gabrielle likes to call me, "The Best Mom in the Whole Wide World" if I could tell Aidan that I caught a monster-sized bug for him in the middle of the night. So, I grabbed a plastic cup and managed to transfer said insect from the screen to Aidan's 10-gallon aquarium which once housed Pogostick. Success. I went back to sleep.
Fast forward to the next morning. Aidan, my early riser, joined me at the dining room table around 6:15. I quickly relayed the news of my triumphant capture, telling him I wasn't sure what kind of bug it was. We go outside. Aidan looks at the bug, gleefully. He comes in the house and retrieves the insect chart from Miss Hopkins. He looks at said chart for approximately 10 seconds before saying, "I think this is what you caught, Mom. It's called a cicada."
Me: "Umm, right. Yeah, I, uh, sure. I was just checking to see if you knew what kind of bug it was. Great work, little man!"
Gabrielle and Aidan somehow find their ways to our bed nearly every night. They start out in their beds and then, as Aidan explains it, "wake up and feel lonely" so they come to our room. There is a specific line up that must be followed, or middle-of-the-night arguments between Aidan and Gabrielle ensue. Aidan is on the end, then me, then Gabrielle, then Mike. Oh, and Duke, of course, taking up the majority of the bottom of the bed. Both kids have to be next to me or it gets ugly -- I remember breaking up a slapping fight one night, actually.
Anyway, Gabrielle likes to cuddle in my arms when I sleep, but she has a pet peeve -- snarkling. I am not permitted to "snarkle" while sleeping next to her. What is "snarkling", you ask? Well, most simply put, it is . . .breathing! Seriously. I am not "allowed" to breathe on her head/face/neck while she curls into my arms. If I happen to turn my head too much in her direction, she will tell me in her sleepy grog: "Stop that snarkling, Momma."
So I usually end up in some contortion which keeps my chiropractor in business. Luckily, Aidan doesn't mind me snarkling in his direction!
Gabrielle came running up to me yesterday, with an all-too-familiar yellow weed in her hand: "Mommy! I brought you a landy-dandy!"
Aidan: "Mom, is jail kind of like grown up time out?"
Me: "Well, yes, I suppose so. Except that adults go to jail for doing really bad things."
A: "Like robbing. Like when a person wears a black mask and breaks into a place where they don't belong and takes all the money and puts it in a bag with an "S" with two lines through it."
Me: "Uhh, right."
Gabrielle: "Robbers are bad."
Michael: "But what about Robin Hood?"
A: "Who's that again?"
Michael: "You know, the guy who wears green spandex pants [Editor's Note: "Whaat? Is this really an important detail? I think "spandex" is anachronistic to Robin Hood's time period, but I digress . . ."] and steals stuff from bad people to help the poor and hungry people."
A: "Yeah, he's OK."
[Silence while both kids contemplate the complex moral situation Michael has presented.]
A: "Are we there yet?"
Gabrielle: [while walking with me past our dog, Duke] "Well, would you look at that, Mom. Aidan's turned into a dog. Isn't that strange?"
Gabrielle: [at the dinner table; rushes over to lift my shirt and talk into the "baby microphone" aka my bellybutton] "Hey, baby, are you in there? Are you still hungry? Because we have plenty of meatloaf left. I can just tell Mom to eat some more. [silence] Can't you hear me?"
Gabrielle: [in a sudden epiphany] "Mom! Guess what! Last year, I was in your belly and then one day, I got borned. Isn't that awesome?"