Fish Foster Care

T-Minus 17 day and counting

Weather in Rome:  Light rain and 54 degrees

Weather here:  Snow, sleet and freezing rain.  25 degrees

Viva Italia!  

I am finally starting to feel like I’m ready to go to Rome.  OK, not really but I think I at least know what I still need to do.  Here is a partial list: 

  •  Get all the toys up off the playroom floor and into waterproof toy boxes of some kind.  (the basement–home of the playroom- sometimes gets wet)
  • Have the neighbors boys come over and show them how to use the snowblower
  • Cancel the newspapers, netflix and all the magazines
  • Make sure the house sitter has all the information he needs
  • Find someone to take care of the C-man’s fish

 That will be the tricky thing.  It’s hard to find good fish foster care.  I am hoping that the fish can go live with our neighbors.  The C-man’s best friend lives next door, so I am hoping he will agree to look after Firepower (and yes, that is the fish’s real name).  I will have to ask his mom, my friend S.  I’m sure B would agree, but I am equally sure that if B is as contientious about looking after the fish as the C-man, S will be doing all the work.   

Foruntately this fish seems to have a tremendous will to live.  Over-feed him, starve him for a few days it doesn’t seem to make any difference to Firepower.  And I can’t even remember the last time I changed the water in his bowl.  Poor fish.  He’s probably looking forward to a break from my sub-standard care. 

 Well, I will have to ask S when she comes over to watch Project Runway on Wednesday.   Keep your fingers crossed for me.

I’m Running out of Time! And Please Pass the Fries

 T-minus 20 days and counting. 

It occurred to me yesterday that the children only have one full week of school left before Christmas vacation.  One more full week of freedom before I have them with me ALL THE TIME.  I can tell next week is going to be a heavy fast food week.  I have a serious Fast Food McProblem.  I really, really like it.  Way more than is good for me.  Normally, I can control myself, and I only have it once a week (or so).  But I can tell that next week will be bad.  I’m all stressed out, and I’m staring down the barrel of eight months of nonstop together time with the kids.  I try not to each so much fast food when I’m with the children.  It’s bad for them.  All this leads me to think next week will be very french fry heavy.  

We will be spending a lot of time together, without much outside companionship.  This makes me just a tad nervous.  Now, don’t take this the wrong way, I love my children and I enjoy spending time with them, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing.  And I think five months in Rome plus three months of summer vacation is probably going to be too much of a good thing.  Of course, Tom will have them some of the time, but I anticipate I will have them most of the time.  I will have to put them in day camp this summer. Maybe more than one.

I’m sure it will all be fine.  I’m sure it will be great.  I’m also sure there will be days that are very definitely NOT fine or great.  As my mom once told me when the children were small “the years go fast but some of the days are very long.”  Truer words were never spoken.  

Fortunately, there is another family going on this program with us.  They have two boys; one is the same age as the C-man.  We will call him Friend 1.  He has a little brother; we shall call him Friend 2.  He is four.  Luckily all of them get along well.  Equally luckily I really like their mom, and her husband, the faculty member.  I need to come up with code names for them too.  I think I will have to ask for suggestions.  Anyway, their presence should take the edge off all that togetherness and keep us all from getting sick of each other.  

So I have a lot to do next week.  Perhaps I will post a to-do list in my next entry.

The Winter Coat Question

It was almost 60 degrees in Rome today.  It is snowing here.  This is fantastic.  Mother nature is telling us to go to Rome, forget winter.  Winter is the pits.  

 I may not have mentioned this, but I hate winter.  Even temperatures in the 50’s can feel cold to me.  But, I have to admit, they sound pretty darn good right about now.  I am actually thinking of not bringing my big winter coat with me.  I know, it’s risky, but I would rather not take the parka if I don’t have to.  For one thing, it is really ugly.  It’s about 4 or 5 years old, and it looks it.  Second, it’s a parka; it takes up a lot of precious, precious room in the suitcase.  So I’m thinking of just taking my spring/fall jacket.  The one I bought in Italy, so I know it will look right.  Well, I know it looked right when I bought it.  Of course that was in 1999.  Anyway, the point is, I like it.  And I think I can put a big sweatshirt underneath it and be reasonably warm.  Especially if I bring a hat and gloves and all that good stuff.  We shall see.  

The thing is, I know if I bring the coat, I’ll be sorry.  If I bring the coat Rome will probably have a lovely, mild winter with temperatures in the 60’s and I will feel like an idiot for lugging my big stupid coat across the ocean for no good reason.  On the other hand, if I go with the sweatshirt and spring/fall jacket option I am probably dooming Rome to their worst winter ever.  They will have freak ice storms, blizzards, and the coldest weather in recorded history (and in Rome, that’s probably saying something).  And then I will be sorry I left my big, ugly parka at home.

 Of course, the children will be thrilled if I tell them they don’t need to take their winter coats, especially the C-man.  The C-man claims he hates his winter coat, and has been refusing to wear it.  Last week I finally told him after December first, he HAD to wear his winter coat.  I told him it was not warm enough to be running around in just a hooded sweatshirt anymore.  He responded by telling me that he is cold-blooded and that it is hot outside.  He’s insane.  Well, December first came and went, and I hid the hooded sweatshirt.  So now he has to wear the winter coat.  Hah.  Score one for mom.

So what to do?  What to do?  I suppose it all depends how much I feel like gambling when it’s time to pack the bags.  And how much room is in the bags.  In the meantime, I will obsessively check the Roman weather online. 

School Plans Update

I just got back from a meeting with Princess O’s teacher, Mrs. R.  She had helpfully printed out the grade level expectations for 4th grade, and checked off what Her Royal Highness has already accomplished.  So now I know what to concentrate on while we are in Rome.   

I met with Mrs. K, the C-man’s teacher before Thanksgiving, and she had a lot of helpful advice too.  I’ not so worried about him though.  Second grade seems well within my capabilities, but fourth grade looks a lot more complicated.  

I did find out both of them will be need to study the human body.  I guess I will wander off to Borders this week and look for a good, age-appropriate book.  I’m sure I can find something.  Plus, I should have a 20% off coupon from Borders around here somewhere. That’s always nice.  

I feel better after meeting with them, but I am still nervous about this.  My concerns are two-fold.  First and foremost, I don’t want them to fall behind.  The last thing I want is for one of them to walk into the classroom next year, and be lost.   

On the other hand, I also don’t want to cover so much that they get ahead of their class.  You may think this sounds presumptuous.  However, I have some friends who home school, and they have told me you cover the material a lot faster at home than they do in a traditional setting.  It makes sense when you think about it.  You don’t have to keep stopping for things like assemblies, and you aren’t dealing with crowd control all the time.  

I made arrangements with both teachers for the kids to email the class and send postcards.  I am hoping both classes will send emails in return.  That would be fun.  I also really want them to keep journals while we’re gone.  The C-man hates writing, but I think he might go for it if I let him use the computer.  I think it’s the manual labor he dislikes, not the creative side of it. 

The only other thing I can think of off the top of my head is a typing program for the laptop.  Both children are very impressed with my mad typing skills, and want to learn to type as fast as I do. 


Not Just One Bed After All

Whew!  I had an email last night from the coordinator of our Rome Program, and she says there are a twin bed and a futon in the second bedroom.  Huzzah!  Of course, this means I don’t get to go to Ikea.  But I printed out the maps and directions to the two Roman Ikeas anyway.  You never know what you might need, and Ikea has everything we could possibly need for the apartment.  And cheap too.  

I guess Princess O will be getting the futon.  I think she and the C-man had a deal that she got the bigger bed in Rome since he had the bigger bed in Sydney.  At least, she thinks she has a deal.  I’m not sure the C-man was actually involved in that negotiation.  

I’ve been looking at apartments available for rent in Rome online.  Just to get an idea what to expect.  So far they all look small but cute.  This is encouraging.  

In other news, there really isn’t any other news.  I plan to go through all the home school stuff in the next couple days so I can meet with their teachers after Thanksgiving. 

 They also have to take the Iowa Test of Basic Skills sometime in the near future.  The home school assistance office had suggested we take them before we leave, but I have made an executive decision and we will do it when we get home.  We just have too much going on right now with the holidays approaching and extracurricular activities.  The tests are very time consuming, and I don’t want to overwhelm them, especially the C-man who is only in second grade and hasn’t taken these tests before.  If we wait until we get home we won’t have to squeeze them in.  We will return before school lets out so we will have loads of time with nothing to do because their friends will still be in school.  The ITBS will give them something to do besides fight with each other and watch the Disney Channel.  Won’t they be pleased?

Problem Solved

OK, so I think I’ve solved the only one bed problem.  I was talking to my brother on the phone about it when I had a moment of inspiration.  And it can be summed up in one word:  Ikea.  I think it was my brother who suggested there might be an Ikea store in Rome.  I checked and there are not one, but two.  Oh, huzzah!  

I looked on the Italian Ikea website, and it looks like they have futon chairs that fold out into a twin size bed for about 70 Euros.  So now the worst-case scenario is we squeeze in for a night or two, then I get to go to Ikea.  

I love going to Ikea.  I have been known to travel great distances and cross state lines just to wander around the store with no intention of buying anything.  I especially like the little fake “apartments” they have set up throughout the store.  Tom, on the other hand, hates Ikea passionately, so I’m assuming he will not be joining me.  That’s fine.  This way I can take my time and wander around, and eat meatballs.  I will have to take a taxi home with my flat-pack, but that shouldn’t be too much trouble.  Or maybe I can have it delivered.  I wonder how you say that in Italian.  I’ll have to look it up. 

Ah, nothing like the satisfaction of averting a crisis.

Only One Bed?!?

Tom told me last night that he hears our apartment is really small.  OK, that’s fine.  I was expecting that.  I know European apartments, in general, are much smaller than what people are used to here in the States.  Then he dropped this bombshell:  there may only be one bed in the kids’ room. What?!?  Are you kidding me?!?  Only one bed?!?   They can barely stand to sleep in the same room, much less in the same bed.  Oh, that is so not going to work. 

I guess in a worst-case scenario each kid could take one bed, I can alternate sleeping with each kid, and Tom can sleep on the couch.  Of course that is assuming that the bed in the children’s bedroom is big enough for two people.  What if it’s a twin?  Then what do we do? Tom is under orders to get more information pronto.  Meanwhile I will sit here and panic. 

It is certainly better for me to have these little Moments when the children aren’t looking so I can figure out the best possible spin to put on this for them. 

Or maybe I won’t have to.  Maybe they can just find us another bed.  Please please please please please.

A Few More Things Done

I’ve been spending a lot of time today looking at hotels in Greece, specifically Santorini.  It’s built up a lot since my brother and I were there back in the dark ages.  Why, you may ask am I looking at Greek hotels?  Because we are going to Italy, that’s why.  And what better way to spend my time than by looking at hotels hundreds of miles away from where we will be.  This is called denial.  But, no, it isn’t.  It is called research because we are thinking of going to Greece for a week in May before we come home.  See?  I got more done today than I thought.  Well, that’s a relief.  There is a very fine line between research and frittering away your time on the internet. 

I got a couple other things accomplished today too.  I mailed in the home schooling forms that will allow me to take my kids out of school without the truant officer breathing down my neck.  Although, that would be pretty difficult since we won’t be here.  Those same forms will also let me re-enroll them in the fall even though we won’t have any school records from next semester.  Hopefully, I did it all right.  I sent it to our home schooling assistance office.  The woman I have been working with there has been very helpful, so I am assuming that if I did something wrong she will call and tell me before she passes it on to the Powers That Be. 

I also looked up Italian train passes.  It looks like those are not what we want.  They are only good for 2-7 days of travel in a 2-month period, and they are expensive.  I guess we will just have to buy tickets as we go along.  On the plus side, Princess O and the C-man get to ride for half price because they are both under twelve.

 I guess next I should look up Roman public transit.  However, I am 99.99999% sure that website will be in Italian, and I’m equally sure it will be beyond my rudimentary skills.

So that’s two things done, and one more to add to the List of Things to Do.  Two steps forward, one step back.  Isn’t that always the way? 

We also learned we will have a 2 bedroom apartment in Trastevere.  That’s all we know, and that’s all we’re likely to know until we walk in the door.  Won’t that be exciting?  Apparently Trastevere used to be the Roman red light district, but Tom assures me that it isn’t anymore.  So maybe the children will be getting more of an education than we thought.  We shall see.

Home School Panic

I’m back to being paralyzed by anxiety.  I was doing pretty well there for a while, getting some stuff done, making my lists, and my lists of lists.  Pulling myself together.  And then I realized we are leaving NEXT MONTH, and paralysis set in once again. 

I really need to think more about the home schooling stuff.  We had parent teacher conferences last night and I mentioned to both teachers that I would be in touch about sitting down to go over where the kids need to be when we get back.  The C-man’s teacher was very reassuring.  In a nutshell she said he’s almost hit all the second grade benchmarks already, so don’t worry too much.  So that’s all good.

Then we went to see Princess O’s teacher.  She was also very helpful and said she would be glad to sit down with me and go over materials and everything, and to just let her know when I wanted to meet.  Materials?  I need materials?  I don’t have ROOM for materials! 

I have a second grade math workbook and a fourth grade math workbook, purchased from a local educational supply store.  I also have a kitchen table science book.  It’s called 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials.  I thought that would keep us going for a while.  Plus I will have them keep journals and email their classes.  And then we will bring some books, plus I found an English-language library in Rome.  I’m not sure how far it is from our apartment, but we can always make an adventure out of getting there.  I was thinking that would do for reading.  Now I’m not so sure.  Panic sets in yet again. 

The thing is, I am only home schooling them for this one semester.  In the fall I will re-enroll them in their school here.  So I don’t want to spend a fortune on a big home school curriculum that I only need for a few months. 

I guess I should get my act together about this and meet with the teachers soon.  Then I’ll have time to acquire any materials I need.  Put that on the List of Things to Do.  Plus I have to fill out the paperwork to pull them out of school.  I know I have that around here somewhere…

Italian Lessons

I didn’t go to Italian class last week.  It meets on Wednesday nights, but the children have swimming on Wednesdays now, and last time the poor C-man almost fell asleep in class he was so tired.  So, I’ve made an executive decision and we are not going anymore until swimming lessons finish. 

I try to study a little bit every day, but I’m not getting very far.  To date sonno non parle italiano molto bene.  I’m not even sure if that’s right, but I think it is.  I have the class textbook.  I also have Italian for Dummies and a set of Berlitz cds.  I’ve finally admitted I am never going to listen to those in the car.  We don’t live in a very big town, so it doesn’t take long to get anywhere.  It was kind of distracting listening to these lessons in 5 minute increments.  So I ripped them onto my ipod thinking I would listen to them at the gym.  I go to the gym almost every day.  I would only be able to listen, not listen and repeat, but it seemed like a perfect solution. 

Unfortunately, it’s very boring to listen to them at the gym.  I just can’t keep up the same pace on the elliptical machine listening to how to say “I have a reservation” in Italian (io ho prenotato – I think).  I do much better listening to Sexyback, or something along those lines.  You know, workout songs. I can’t have Italian adversely affecting the number of calories burned, so I will have to come up with a new plan.  I suppose I could listen while I’m making dinner.  Or not.  I just feel like I paid good money for these things, I should listen to them.  

Meanwhile the children have learned nothing beyond vorrei un gelato per favore.  I think they will go far with that.