Thursday, April 17, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci weekend

We took a trip to the river Adda in late March to see a boat that was designed in the early 1500's by Leonardo da Vinci.  The boat moved across the river on a cable that was stretched above the water. Based on the way the driver aimed the boat, the current of the river pulled the boat straight across, the water of the river acts as the wind would on a sailboat. It was pretty neat to ride the boat, and it only cost .50 Euros to ride!  Score!

 The lovely river Adda

Da Vinci's boat

 A closeup of the boat

 Riding the boat

The next day, we took a trip to Milano to find the statue of da Vinci's horse.  There are 2 copies of this statue:  one in Grand Rapids, Michigan at the Meijer Gardens. The other was gifted to the town of Milano.  We found the horse in a park outside the horse-racing track. At first, it looked smaller than its twin in Michigan, but as we got closer, we saw that it was equally large and imposing.  Designed by da Vinci to scare the enemies of Milano away, this statue was never actually completed during his lifetime...and had to wait until 1999.

 Teeny tiny people...big angry horse!

We let the kids up on the pedestal so they could go under its hoof like they do in Michigan. The horse here is not as shiny as the one in Michigan. It probably does not get the same level of attention that the Michigan horse gets!

We finished off our cultural weekend with a trip to St. Ambrosio Basilica, which is the most important church for Milanese people because St. Ambrosio is the patron saint of Milano.  Many kings were coronated here, and St. Ambrosio himself is buried here in a clear casket below the altar.  The kids were fascinated by that!

Not much to look at on the outside, and kind of dark on the inside. This church has lots of history, but not a lot of glamour!  An artist was working on this painting out back. I thought it was pretty cool.

 What's all the fuss about, anyway?

It was hard to resist running around the courtyard outside the church!  I caught them in a rare moment of stillness!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Curly Sue

Susannah's hair has been growing like crazy are some pics of one of her first ponytails!  I love the curls and I hope they are here to stay.
 Front view of Susy Q

Here's the pony tail!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Le Dolomiti sono:





On our last day, we took a drive on a less-traveled road (not the freeway) and saw these amazing Dolomites. Our mouths were agape at the beauty.  They truly are magnificent mountains!

Dolomites Day 2

The next day, we went to a ski area that also had a sledding run that was supposed to be EASY and that we could ride a ski-lift to.  It is a 3 km long run down the a twisty mountain road. We got there, rented our sleds and helmets, bought our lift tickets, and we were off. It was so much fun.  I told Norah as we were going down that I hadn't had that much fun in a long time!  We originally bought 2 lift tickets (to ride the sled run twice) but we liked it so much that we bought two more lift tickets!  Our third run was the best.  The first one, we went slowly because we were learning the run. On the second run, we went a little too fast and almost hit some of the walls. The third run we did just right and had a blast....Norah even put her hands up and said, "No hands!!!" On the fourth run, we saw someone's wallet on the track, so I stopped to pick it up to turn into the office, and then James got a little ambitious (or maybe was hard work to keep upright and steer with legs and feet) and tipped over with Luke and Susy on board (thank goodness for the helmets!). We came across them with snow all over their faces, down their necks, and lots and lots of tears flowing.  We felt bad that the last run had to be like that, but we didn't want to do another run because they had had enough.  That was that. We turned in our equipment, handed in the wallet, and were on our way. I think I had a permanent smile on my face the whole way down the mountain each time!

Here are some Dolomites!!

James wanted some suspenders for his snow pants. These have edelweiss flowers on them!  We ARE close to Austria, after all!

 Riding the ski lift and watching the skiers

 Ready for another fun run!

 James and the kids getting ready to take another run. See the mountain back there? There were people climbing up it with a guide in order to ski back down from near the top. Crazy!!!

 This was the set up for James' sled.  Suzy in the backpack, Luke in front.

Norah got to ride with Daddy and Susy one time, too!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Dolomites: Winter Edition

We loved the Dolomites so much when we visited them with Grandpa and Oma in October that we decided to go back to visit them in the wintertime.  Our goals were to relax, see some scenery, eat mountain food (read: speck, streudel and cheese!), and go sledding.  We accomplished all goals, despite the kids being under the weather with a stomach bug (which was subsequently caught by James and I...).

This time, we stayed in Val Anterselva, which is a small valley very near the Austrian border.  The locals pretty much all speak German all the time, but if I asked them to speak in Italian, they would...haltingly and with a strong accent!  Our hotel had a pool (bonus!) but it was ice cold (still can't figure that out!) so only the brave (Norah and Luca) went in more than once! The mountains around our hotel didn't look like Dolomites to us...they looked like typical mountains.  I was wondering if we had been duped into booking a hotel in the 'dolomites'...Oh, well. They were still beautiful!

I saw on the map that we were near a ski resort, so I figured we would just go there to sled. But, when I asked the hotel receptionist about it, she said, "No, no sledding there. Only skiing!" and looked at me strangely.  I thought our vacation was going to be a bust, but then she told me about a lake nearby that we could "walk up the mountain and sled back down."  Sounded like a plan...arduous, slightly dangerous, but probably worth it...onward!

 James and the kids on the lake, which was frozen completely over.  So, we got to walk on the ice. This made me nervous, but as everyone else was doing it, I figured we might as well take the short cut, too!

 Mountain James and Susannah in her trekking backpack

 Well, the walk up to the rifugio (where the sleds were purported to be...) was VERY long for the kids, but they all made it!  Here are Susannah and Norah soaking in the sun rays and taking in the view.

When we got up to the top, we had lunch and then we asked about the sleds, and the man asked us whether we had done anything of the sort before..."Yes, I went sledding in America," I said.  Well, truth be told, we had never sledded down a mountain path before, but it looked like fun, and we sure as heck didn't want to WALK we went ahead and, promising the man we would go very slowly, make our way down the mountain. Here are James, Susannah, and Luca (in front of James), sledding down the mountain. I took Norah with me on the other sled.
 We made it down the mountain!! It was a fun and sometimes terrifying ride.  Perfect!

 Time to walk back across the lake toward our car.  Kids are TIRED!!!

 Here's how thick the ice was on the lake.

Norah and James (and Susannah) making their way across the ice.

All in all, a great first day in the Dolomites!

just living life

Here are some random photos from February and March. No theme, other than 'kids' because they are usually the subject of our photographs!

 Working on her homework

 He really wants to have homework, too!

 Aspiring artist

Rub a dub dub, three kids in a tub!  This might be the first photo of Susannah's new, pointy front teeth, which resulted from a nasty fall the first day she started walking back in November. She's stuck with these until they fall out and she gets some new ones in about 5 years!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Swim lessons

Susannah finished a set of swim lessons in March. The first day of the lessons, she cried and cried because she didn't want to wear the swim cap. Then, she saw all the other babies having a blast in the water and finally let me put it on her.  Now, she knows the drill and has NO problem putting her swim cap on--she knows she will have fun in the water!  We signed up for another session because she loves it so much!  On the last day, they let the moms bring cameras so we got some photos of Susy in the water. What a little fish!


We celebrated Carnevale in early March this year.  As you can see, we had a fairy princess, a bumble bee, and a tiger.  We braved the crowds in the piazza and threw some confetti.  Fun times!
 The bumblebee was NOT in a good mood!!!

Luckily, it was a beautiful, sunny day!

James in the Philippines

James had an opportunity to go to the Philippines for work in late February.  He spent most of his time in a room training people how to use a system he had helped to create, but he and his coworker Anjali managed to get out and see a few sites, too.

 James and Anjali on a boat ride

 James after a hike up to see a volcano-lake

 At the WWII memorial in Manila

 James chatting it up with some war leaders in the park

What a ham!