Archive for July, 2008

Verona and Sirmione

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

So back in 2000(?) I took a trip through parts of Italy with my folks and grandfather.  At one point we rolled into Venice for a couple days.  after about half a day I had had my fill of Venice.  Yes, the architecture was fascinating and you could find some quaint neighborhoods if you ventured off the beaten paths.  However there was such an overwhelming tourist feel to so much of it that I couldn’t really appreciate the city.  So I decided to jump on a train and explore instead.

Without much of a plan I headed out towards Verona, not knowing anything about the region.  My first stop was Verona.  Beautiful, interesting city.  I poked around for a while then got back on the train again.  After hopping on a bus, getting off at the wrong stop and walking forever in the heat I arrived in Simione.  Sirmione is this fascinating vacation spot on Lake Garda.  It’s at the end of a peninsula and there’s this great old castle/fortress on the end of it.  First stop was a crappy tshirt shop to replace the sweat-drenched shirt I was wearing.  Then exploring.

On the way back I stopped in Verona again.  There is this great Roman arena there where they now have operas, etc.  That night they were showing Carmen which I had never seen before.  Some other Americans ended up sitting in front of me and we chatted about sailing, etc.  Sitting on the stones of the arena under a stary night watching Carmen was magical.  If I had to pick the top ten most joy filled moments of my life this might make the list.

What happened afterward probably makes the list of top ten stupidest things I’ve ever done.  I left Carmen early to catch the last train back at midnight.  Well, turns out that my translation from 24-hour clock to 12-hour clock was less than stellar because the last train was at 22:00 not 24:00.  Uhg.  And I couldn’t even go back to watch the end of Carmen because I had declined to get my hand stamped for reentry on the way out.  I’m not sure why I didn’t try to find a room for the night, possibly I just didn’t have any money.

I spent probably an hour trying to get the message back to my folks in Venice that I was ok and wouldn’t be home until the next day.  I didn’t have the number or the name of the inn in Venice where they were staying.  So I spent a lot of time on the phone with Heather in the US trying to track them down.  She eventually found the place on the internet I believe and was able to fax a message to the inn which my parents got the next morning I think.  Uhg.  I spent a very long, boring night in the Verona train station waiting for the first morning train.

I’ve been trying to remember the name of the little resort town, Sirmione, for a long time and kept forgetting to look it up.  I just googled it the photos brought back the recollections of my adventure.

Fiona Followup

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Fiona is at Grandma and Grandpa Stevens’ place with Brendan and Noah.  I just spoke with her and she says she’s all better :-)  They were playing with play-doh.  I’m not sure if her better mood is the result of pain killers or actual healing, but I’ll take it for now.  We’re still worried about the swollen gland.  Well, more precisely, we’re worried about the coincidence of the muscle pain and swollen gland at the same time.

Fiona’s Trip to the Hospital

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Fiona and Brendan are in Ohio with their grandparents all this week.  Yesterday morning Fiona woke up with a bad pain in her neck and shoulder.  She spent the day on the couch in pain and afraid to move.  It hadn’t gotten better this morning so we asked grandparents to take her to the ER.  After examining her and taking xrays they discovered a swollen gland or two but that’s it.  They stopped short of doing bloodwork, not sure why.  She was sent home with some ibuprofen and told to keep an icepack on the area for pain.

I don’t have the greatest faith in these small town hospitals.  I’m sure most of the doctors are competent and do their best, but they don’t get the sheer number and variety of things that larger urban hospitals do.  If this hasn’t resolved itself in another day we may bring her back to Virginia to see her regular pediatrician.

Heather is on her way up there and is coming back tomorrow.  I hope Fiona is fine by then and that both the kids stay for the remainder of the week, but we’ll see.

Fiona was reportedly excited to ride in the ambulance and so forth.  The experience might have been decidedly more negative had they drawn blood, so maybe it’s good they chose not to.  When I spoke to her she was in a chipper mood and claimed to be feeling better.

New phone and old photos

Friday, July 18th, 2008

I finally got rid of the ancient crappy cell phone I’ve had for years and got a new iPhone.  Very exciting.  In preparation for the new phone I went through and copied the photos from the old phone to my laptop.  I never look through these and most are pretty old.  The quality is terrible, but there are some precious moments captured in a few of them.  You can see them here.

Geneva on the Lake Lodge Weekend

Friday, July 18th, 2008

For Christmas Heather’s folks got us and her sister gift certificates to the Lodge at Geneva on the Lake State Park.  We’ve been trying to arrange a weekend up there for months and this weekend is finally it.  Hopefully we’ll be leaving not too late today and driving to Ashtabula.  Tomorrow we leave the kiddies and dogs with Bob and Linda and spend the day down at the lodge relaxing and hanging out with Mindy and Joe.  I’m looking forward to taking some photographs around the park and the marina.

A Wrinkle in (Bed)Time

Friday, July 18th, 2008

We’ve had pretty good success at times reading non-picture books to Fiona at bedtime.  She loves listening to the stories and the lack of pictures means she can lie and down close her eyes while listening.  Well, that’s the theory at least.  In practice there is quite a bit of wiggling, playing, putting toes on the floor and general pushing the limits until she finally gets sleepy.  The first book we tried was James and the Giant Peach, which was a big hit.  That was followed by another Roald Dahl classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  We’ve been through a few others too, but this practice has lagged a bit lately.

Just to be clear, we read to the kids pretty much every night.  But I’m talking about books for slightly older kids with no or very few illustrations.
In a renewed attempt to bring order to the chaos that is bedtime/evening at our house I reimplemented this practice a couple days ago.  I got Fiona a copy of A Wrinkle in Time, a classic that both Heather and I read when younger.  It is definitely aimed at an older audience than Fiona, but there’s nothing too scary or violent in it (that I recall) and I think it’s good for her to be exposed to the more complex sentences and vocabulary.  Plus, the more she has to concentrate to understand the faster she’ll tire hopefully.

The first couple nights of A Wrinkle in Time went fabulously.  No more than a handful of pages before she was asleep.  Night before last I actually read to both Fiona and Brendan, B fell asleep on my shoulder after about 3 pages.  Last night however my new scheme failed spectacularly.  Not only did Fiona stay awake forever, but Brendan made a couple visits to Fiona’s room before I was able to get him to sleep.  10 pages, 20 pages, 30 pages…. Fiona just would not fall asleep.  I think we made it to about 40-some pages before she finally fell asleep while I was downstairs taking a break from the reading.

Reading to the kids at bedtime is one of the best parts of my day.  However, it will be nice when eventually I can stop after a bit and leave Fiona to read herself to sleep on her own.

Pajama story time at library

Friday, July 18th, 2008

On Wednesday Fiona and I met Mark and Lilly at the library for pajama story time.  The girls were dressed in their finest PJ’s and slippers and Fiona was sporting her pink monogrammed robe on top.  While the girls listened to several books in one room the parents all watched through the glass from the next room.  Mark and I chatted about boats, jobs, etc.  Afterwards we four trekked over to the Dairy Godmother for a bedtime, well – a bit past bedtime, snack.  I wish I had a photo of those two in their pajamas sitting next to each other eating frozen custard :-)

Wet Carpet, New Carpet

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

From an email Heather sent out June 17:

So over the weekend, I convinced Jason that after the recent doggy
guests and a host of spills, the basement carpet really needed to be
properly steam cleaned. He agreed, and I set up an appointment for
yesterday morning. Jason went to work in the basement office, and at
some point in the morning, sent me an IM that there was a huge amount of
water in the carpet after the cleaner left…unacceptable amounts of
water. Soon after, he discovered that the water was not leftover
cleaning fluid, but, in fact, water seeping in from the foundation of
the house. Upon further investigation, he found that the sump pump,
which is assigned to keep said seepage from occurring, was not working.
So he had to drop what he was doing to set up a utility pump and a hose
to extract the water from the sump well and restore the water balance in
the house. And then try to wet vac the sopping carpet as well as
possible. A mess, and annoying, and needing constant supervision, since
utility pumps do not turn themselves on and off.

And then the storm blew through, and the electricity went off. Thank
God, we have a generator (this is not our first flood, or first storm).
But it required Jason to haul it out, plug in the utility pump, and then
monitor the pump and the generator. Generators are really big and heavy.
Not a lot of fun.

So then the kids came home, and I took them out of the house for a few
hours, during which Jason continued to monitor the pump, but could not
try to extract any more water from the carpet. When I came home with the
kids, he headed out to find a new sump pump. I tried to get the kids to
fall asleep, but that was impossible in a hot and stuffy house with no
night lights of any kind, and lots of conversation outside by neighbors
hanging out and waiting for the lights (and air conditioning) to come
back on.  So I took them for a nice cool drive in the car, and Fiona
fell asleep. I brought them in to the house, carrying both of them at
once because B was too spooked to be left alone even for a second, and
Jason was at the hardware store.

B was a stubborn one, and waited for Jason to come home before falling
asleep. Jason came home, threw together the sump in some temporary
fashion, and cuddled B to sleep. The power came back on around midnight,
thank goodness. We were all able to go to sleep after that.

The carpet is starting to get funky down there. Jason ran the wet dry
vac over it again, and we have a big fan and the dehumidifier running
full blast, but I think that it’s time for another new carpet.

I wanted a new carpet, but not really this way. Oh well. :)

Lightning Bugs

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

From an email Heather sent out June 15:

Fiona is catching her very own lightning bugs as I type this.

We didn’t have them where I lived, but when I stayed at Aunt Glenda’s
farm, or was at my grandparents’ farm late enough into the early
evening, the lightning bugs would come out and dance around the yard. At
my aunt’s house, she’d get us mayo jars and punch holes in the lids.
Mindy and I would run around, catching as many as we could and putting
them into our jars. At the end of the night, we’d count to see who had
caught more, and then left the jars on the porch, tipped over onto their
sides with the lids off. By morning, most of them were gone. :) We’d
repeat the process every night of our stay. :):):)

Now I’m a grownup and I have lightning bugs in my own yard. For the
first few years, I caught the lightning bugs to show FIona and
Brendan…and tonight, Fiona’s catching her own. I’m so proud.

Holy cow, Brendan just caught one. They move pretty slow, but I’m
stunned. He’s calling it a butterfly. I’m thinking we have a bit more
work to do there. :):):) Oh, wait, no, that’s “firefly”. Okay then!
:):):)