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:


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:


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!”


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:


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.





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.

Una Hotel

Wait, doesn’t “Una Hotel” literally mean “a hotel?” Great; and I thought we were staying at fancy places! Well, hey, it does have a bidet, and as a gadget freak, seeing this on each side of the bed warms my heart:


Things were a little slow getting from the airport to the hotel, and then we couldn’t even check in! Poor Amanda was pretty tired, after not sleeping well on the plane. After seeing some crazy traffic (yes, I know, you globetrotters, Rome is probably mild compared to other places) we were ever more thankful that we booked a fully guided tour rather than trying to figure things out ourselves.

We did wander around Rome a bit, and my phone’s GPS, coupled with an Italy MiFi worked pretty well. We called the girls, took pictures of a few dozen basillicas (basillicae? basillicii?), and made it back to our hotel in time to catch a few zzz’s (well, Amanda is, anyway) before heading out to dinner. Good thing, too. I’m starving after two airplane meals (that weren’t too bad actually) and a small sandwich.

Sorry for odd, hotel-only pictures. We’re taking most of them with our good camera, and would you believe I didn’t bring along the right equipment to transfer photos!




Landed in Italy

For the sake of the time change, we won’t text family members (what, it’s not 9am everywhere?). But we’ve landed after two pretty uneventful flights. We did have a little screamer on the flight, but when she wasn’t crying, she was an adorably cute 2-year old. She loved looking at pictures of our kids and sitting on our lap to see out the windows.




I’ll fly away…


We just arrived at the Dubuque Regional Airport. Yes, Dubuque has an airport – who knew! I’m sure the very small plane will provide an interesting flight to Chicago, but for now I am enjoying the quaintness of the airport. No mad hussle and bustle yet.

We dropped the kids off with grandma and grandpa – they are so brave and kind to take our kiddos so we can make this trip. And thanks to my mom for dropping us off at the airport. And for our friends who are watching our house for us while we are away. We are so grateful to all of you for helping make this trip possible.

I still can’t really believe that we’re on our way to Italy! It has always been by dream vacation destination. Can’t wait to see Rome, Tuscany, and Venice. Somebody pinch me; I must be dreaming!
Ouch! Ben just pinched me. Thanks Honey. And thank you Ben for taking me on this trip and for all the planning that you put into it.

And I thank God for this wonderful blessing. I pray for safe travels for us and our family. That we may meet people and experience things on this trip that will allow us to experience God and bring Him glory.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Off to Italy!

Italian TreasuresWe’re off on our way to a vacation to Italy! It’s a result of several years of local-only trips, completion of Financial Peace University, and a generous sabbatical program from work. It’s also thanks to a huge help from Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt Sherrie who will be watching our four little munchkins for the entire duration.

Amanda has been amazing at getting all the final prep work done this last week while I was on a work trip. She’s even packing while I write part of this post! Though I’m doing my part in contributing by reminding her that we’re only planning to take TWO bags. It helps that we’re both so detail-oriented; we each have multiple lists of items and tasks to complete before we leave. Thinks like putting travel alerts on our credit cards (done!), making medical waivers for the kids (todo…), creating a contact sheet for family (done!), getting passports (…uh oh…), handing the house keys over to friends who’ll be staying here a while (hear that, robbers – people will be home, so don’t rob us!).

Now before you go and think this is a romantic getaway and we’re going to be coming back with some sort of news to share, let me squash that rumor right now.  We have no intentions of becoming pregnant on this trip! I mean… you can’t get pregnant if you already are, right?  We figured we should plan this trip before we have any more kids, since the likelihood of finding people crazy loving enough to watch all our little angels decreases with each added blessing. I guess it was a good call since between scheduling the trip and actually taking it … stuff happened.

But more on that later! We’re now in the final hours, taking time off from preparations to focus on our family and enjoying our remaining time together before a long separation.  Ciao!

Marketing is Insane

Despite my technophilia, until this year we still did not own any flat-panel televisions. Using some clever logic (combined with a Christmas bonus), I talked Amanda into getting one for our bedroom. It worked out pretty well… getting the existing TV / stand out of the doorway, and saving our shins from countless bruises. Being a well-informed consumer, I was concious of some of the pitfalls to avoid when buying something like this, but I was amazed at how much I was influenced, or at least tempted by crazy marketing strategies, even after the purchase!

Continue reading Marketing is Insane

Holy Book Reading Batman!

I love to read. Fiction exercises my imagination and explores new possibilities, and Nonfiction continues a lifelong love of learning.

With a 30-minute one-way commute, I have plenty of time for audiobooks. Each time I pick up library books for Amanda, I peruse the ‘new arrivals’ shelf for something interesting. And a Kindle e-reader motivates me to read even faster than paper (plus it is filled up with a large backlog of freebies and books obtained through my work’s professional development fund).

Continue reading Holy Book Reading Batman!