Almost Stranded in Governor Dodge

Starting out on the journeyAfter a week of rainy weather, the sun was finally out, so Amanda and I thought we’d take the family out on a caching adventure in nearby Governor Dodge State Park. Just one trail (Mill Creek Trail aka MCT) with several easy-to-obtain caches. We’d been on the particular target trail before (or so I thought), so I didn’t figure it would be too difficult of a trek.

Samantha's FrogL. was loving her backpack ride, and S. found a pet frog for awhile. Things were off to a great start. Little did I know this day-after-DST-ended trip was going to take a quick turn to terror.
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Conversation with my 2-year-old

As a parent you have the joy of experiencing great exchanges like this every day with your minions…I mean children:

Me: Would you please bring me a tissue for Lilly?
Naomi: Over there.
Me: Yes, could you get me one, please?
Naomi: Over there?
Me: Yes, they’re over there. Can you bring me one, please?
Naomi: Over there.
Me: Yes. Can you walk over there and get one for me?
Naomi: (Walks past the tissues to the corner of the room)
Me: No, they’re on the couch.  (points)
Naomi: (wanders over to me)
Me: No, the tissues are over there. See? Right there. (points emphatically)
Naomi: Here?
Me: Yes, that’s it!
Naomi: These?
Me: Yes, would you bring me one?
Naomi: Just one? (holds finger up to eye)
Me: Yep, just one.
Naomi: (brings me a handful)
Me: Thank you. I love you so much!

Complaints and Thankfulness

I’ve had a hard time with complaints lately. And many have been really awful, 1st-world-type complaints. Like just now I was running to the gas station for pizza, and since we just got back from vacation, my keys were in two pieces rather than the normal convenient clip-to-my-belt fashion. I sat down in the driver’s seat and realized I had to *gasp* dig down in my pocket for my keys. I had just driven my dad’s brand new Toyota with a pushbutton start. Man, if only I had one of those, I wouldn’t need to twist my carpal-tunnel-addled wrist into my pocket, and I could just push the button.

We’ve been teaching our kids about thankfulness. For several years now, in fact, during bedtime prayers we ask each kid one thing about the day that they’re thankful for. My self-inflicted penance for complaints like this is to immediately think of something I’m thankful for that relates to the complaint. For really dumb ones like, “man, I have to reach into my pocket to get keys??” maybe I should do more.

  • You know, people used to have to actually get out of their car and turn a crank to turn it on. Twisting a key is so hard.
  • I’m thankful I even have a car, so I can make the 5-block trek for pizza in 2 minutes, rather than a 20-minute walk.
  • I’ve been blessed with hands that can not only reach into a pocket, but can also tickle my kids, caress my wife’s cheek, produce beautiful music on a piano, and type out complex computer code that produces the income needed to pay for both the car and the pizza.

I’m trying to eliminate stupid complaints from my life. As you can see, so far I’m having a tough time of it. But if I can augment each complaint with 3 statements of gratitude, maybe I can eventually learn to skip the complaining portion. We’ll see. Now I just have to stretch my hand over to move the mouse all the way over to that ‘publish’ button.

On our way home

So, it’s been a long trip and we fell behind a bit in blogging. We’re now on the plane (a story in itself) and reflecting on the past 11 days. It was a fast-paced trip, but we had an amazing director, and with only 22 people, we were able to make friends with pretty much everyone. We’ll be all connected on Facebook and sharing our pictures via Flickr, so the trip really doesn’t end today.

About to take off though. Later!

Interesting Signs from Tuscany

Of course any country with a different language and culture is going to have unique translations and messages. Rather than write about Tuscany, which Amanda did while half asleep last night and will maybe expound upon more tomorrow, I thought I’d share some of the interesting messages I’ve seen over the last couple of days… At least the ones I pulled out my phone camera for.

Chocolate, sweets and gadgets. How can you go wrong?

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Quite clear what this outlet is used for.

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I love that such a short title became so long in Italian.

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In this case, I prefer the Dutch version. Raphael? That’s me!

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Even in Italia, there are outspoken vegetarians.

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This secret betting house is not very well disguised.

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Free Willy!! Unfortunately, it was not an aquarium.

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And to end with a rare picture of Mr. Ben, yes pizza in Italia is amazing!

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Tuscany Treasures

Today we got to visit the towns of Siena and San Gimignano. Then more wine tasting and dinner at Verrazzano Castle. We are not used to all of this constant rushing about. It is interesting and fun, but also very exhausting. Tomorrow we get to see Florence and taste more great food.
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Lucca/Cinque Terre

Today we did a lot of traveling. We left Lucca by bus and got on a boat in La Spezia and saw the coastal area of Cinque Terre. There were several small coastal towns that had vineyards and olive groves planted on the steep mountain cliffs right on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It was quite the site to see. I was glad to get out of the choppy waters and put my un-seaworthy legs on solid ground again. We landed in Monterosso and had a quick lunch and then boarded a train to Rapallo. Our bus picked us up in Rapallo and brought us back to explore inside the city walls of Lucca. More gelato and espresso was the perfect way to end the busy afternoon.

Tonight we enjoyed supper with our tour group at the Grand Hotel Guinigi. Another great meal; we have been pleasantly surprised that even though Ben and I usually have very different tastes in food, we have both enjoyed the food very much – especially the large supper meals.

Tomorrow we head to Florence to discover more of Tuscany!

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(That last one is Ben spying on me in the ladies room!)

Everything leans in Pisa

We didn’t have too much time here, but it is definitely a different experience seeing the tower in person rather than only in pictures. Having said that, here’s a picture:

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Yes, we did the dorky “Ahh! She’s pushing the tower over on me!” but it’s on the camera, so you’ll have to wait. Oh, heck, here you go:

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Not lined up super well, and the shadows definitely spoil the illusion. But cute nonetheless.

As they didn’t want us walking on the grass (pay no attention to the photo above…), they had lined boards from the entrance to the first monument. Amanda said, “look! A boardwalk!”

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Yes, I do believe I’m rubbing off on her! The other fun part of the trip was riding the “choo choo train.” We thought our director was just being cute, but I guess my German was just a little rusty:

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Unfortunately, our driver didn’t sing to us (see the sign).

After surviving ordering lunch at an Italian-speaking-only autogrill, tonight we’re off to a Tuscan farm dinner where, once again, all our decisions are made for us. Except which of the five wines to drink, though that might be answered for us as well (all of them).

Lots of walking

Our excellent local guide said “we’re going to attempt the impossible today”, speaking of seeing as much of Rome as we could in a single day. Apart from avoiding the traffic (which we often have a front-row seat to the hilarity), we are SO glad we have this guided tour through a company that lets us skip many of the long lines we saw today. And the headsets, which seemed a bit of a gimmick at first, were amazing. We could hear everything our guide was saying even as she was several feet away leading the group through Vatican City, ancient Rome, and other sights. We were often told of places to avoid, which resulted in some excellent gelato (of course, it’s the first gelato we’ve had on the trip, so it’s hard to compare).

Archaeology buffs would’ve loved getting to walk around (not in, but around) an excavation in progress near the coliseum. There was a lot of restoration going on there, but our guide knew the best places for pictures where trees would hide the scaffolding.

Tonight we survived dining by ourselves and once again the food was excellent! It wouldn’t have been too expensive, either, if a certain someone hadn’t ordered a steak, but the romance is still alive in our marriage, so all is well.

We continue to take most of our pictures on the camera, but here are a few we pulled out the phone for.

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5 Star Dinner

I love food! And tonight we had a wonderful 5 course meal. Antipasta, 2 different pasta dishes, pork and potatoes, lettuce salad, and blackberry gelato for dessert. Along with wine, coffee and live music. What a treat! And the perfect way to start our Italy adventure.

Tomorrow we have a full day of seeing the sights in Rome – not nearly enough time, I know. But we are ready to make the most of it, and hopefully not get too tired.