Key locks, pesticides and mothers day

Completely random observation for the day: I'm super cranky, sick and having a post trip (internal) meltdown, but I just got pulled out of my narcissitic "the sky is falling" syndrome by unlocking the garage door (hey, sometimes it's the small things in live). Some things just sound like adulthood, (and in this case have always sounded like adulthood).  For me, a key turning in a lock is one of them. For responsible people like my husband it's probably the sound the keyboard makes when you push enter on paying the bills. Lock tumblers falling into place carry a certain bit of power and potential in the sound. I'll be bummed when that becomes completely smartified. Which makes me wonder what "sound" the older generation thinks of in regards to bill paying?

Today is Mothers Day, and I've never been a big fan of the holiday. Not because of its lack of "inclusivity" or because I have any true pain associated with the holiday, but more or less because we used to have so many other cooler holidays.  In this book I read, they used to dance around apple trees and drink at each others houses! Who voted that one out in favor of a holiday where you simulatneously post adorable pictures and ingest social media rants about how complicated the holiday is?  Throw in a mimosa and sign me up.  

My own mother deserves an entire year dedicated to her experience as a mother. Her super power was not in a clean house or ballet lessons (which I really wanted and never got), but in her utter devotion to us kids. As each of my siblings became a complete turd (which hits late in our family) I saw first hand that we could axe murder someone and our mother would still live, bleed and die for us (although she'd probably be the first one to call the cops).  I used to rant about how I had to do the dishes, cook, clean, get up at night with younger children, and toss books out the window so I wouldn't get caught reading on the job. But it worked out ok since I still do all of those things and sorta love it (I don't toss books out the window anymore though, since that would mean throwing my phone).  

People keep asking me about the food in Italy, and several people who have been to Rome, confessed they thought the food was maybe a bit bland. Tangentially, I travel to Ohio (where I eat the majority of my Italian food) loaded down with probiotics and magnesium because my intestines cannot handle all of the gluten and cheese.  In Rome I went fully prepared to suffer the consequences of eating pasta and pizza every day. I was so busy though, and preoccupied, it was the whole 'you only notice bad things", and I didn't realize how good I felt until I got home and felt terrible again.  I was recently diagnosed with silent reflux after thinking I had a permament sore throat.  They stuck a scope down my throat, diagnosed me and sent me home with antacids. In Italy, I had no sore throat and no other digestive problems. I have no idea if it's entirely in my head or anecdotal, but I wonder if there's some sort of connection with the "bland" food and it maybe being due to a lack of perservatives, taste enhancers and the like. Or maybe it really is all of that Monsanto stuff that Europe has banned but is still legal in the United States. 


Read More

Rome Day #8 - Devotional Graffiti

Today was the last full day in Rome and each day I've thought was the best... so of course today was no different. At one point I was flying down the infamous Appian way in a taxi listening to 70's music, discussing the ressurection message we'd just heard deep under the earth in the catacombs, and I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. 

Jamie and I started out the day with cappacinos and chocolate croissants like we always do.  I kinda never want to see a chocolate croissant again, but the coffee I will miss.  Not that we don't have good coffee in San Diego, but our truly good coffee has to be sought out like the holy grail, whereas it's on every street corner in Rome. ...Actually, that's how Rome is in general. Our most glorious basilica in the United States is copied and pasted a hundred times in Rome.  In Rome, you'll be walking around a church trying to take it all in and figure out which painting is the Raphael you're looking for, when you find out the church's relic is Baby Jesus's manger. Jamie said he didn't really picture the nativity with a manger of intricatey wrought gold, silver and jewels,...which is what it looks like... but the humble wooden manger is protected inside of it. (jury's out in the academic world on whether it really is the authentic manger). 

Read More

Rome Day #9- home again, home again jiggity jig

Twelve hour flights are like mini vacations of their own when you're used to flying with young children. I'm writing this final blog entry from the plane, and thinking someone should start a sensory deprivation service where you pay to get locked in a room with white noise for a certain number of hours (or until you get all of your goals accomplished). So far I've mapped out lesson plans and brainstormed for Challenge A next year. I've written out a menu and grocery list for when we get home, worked on my last nanowrimo book, written several emails, read a book, watched two movies and took a nap. It's glorious. 

Our flight left 4pm and we had a shuttle ride to the airport at 1pm.  Hayley and I had a goal this whole trip of stair shuffling up every available stairs we could find (where it was not irreverent or inappropriate). The Spanish steps were the final goal. The ultimate prize.  The problem was the spanish steps were always packed with people, so we got up at 6:30 this morning and hustled up there... we even got Trinity to join us.  Rome in the early morning is perfecto. Bright sunlight and the city is empty. Not only did we see (and stair shuffle) up the Spanish steps, but we also went to the far (ancient) northern gates of the city and explored Piazza del Popolo. From there we popped back down to the Trevi Fountain and did some shopping and got some breakfast gelato.  The whole early morning escapade took little over and hour and would normally have taken 3 to 4 hours. 

Everyone was finishing up their last min shopping, pizza eating and gelato consuming. Some of us popped back down to St. John's and the Holy Steps. I prayed up them this time and it was the perfect way to end a perfect trip. 

Although I forewent both breakfast and lunch, we got to the airport late, and there are limited food options on this plane so I have gotten to the stage of hunger where I'm chewing madly on gum and fantasizing about fish tacos. 


Rome Day #7- Day Trip Day,

What happens when you get a Protestant turned Catholic, a Catholic turned Protestant, and an Evangelical turned Presbyterian in the same spot?

You get wine shared from a plastic bottle, the Mediterranean sea, old castle ruins and great conversations. 

A third of my class went to Pompeii, a third went to Florence and a third went to the Mediterranean Sea.... clearly I was in the latter third. 



Read More

Rome Day #6- Latin mass, cat sanctuaries and martyrs.

Benedictionem nobis, Domine, conferat salutarem sacra semper oblatio: ut, quod agit mysterio virtutue perficiat. (May this holy offering, O Lord, always bring to us Thy healing blessing: that what it represents in a mystery, it may accomplish with power. Through our Lord.)

One of the things on my bucket list was to attend a worship service in Latin. I've spent the last two years studying Latin (along with my class) and I couldn't wait to experience early Christianity firsthand. Obviously the only church that still does a Latin service is the Catholic church and my class is 92% protestant. I'm not going to lie, going to Latin Mass today was a little bit like watching a movie with someone you know won't approve of the language.  I think probably some were more uncomfortable than others, but I can safely say everyone learned something or got something out of it. Most of the kids were not used to standing sitting and kneeling constantly, and no one was used to hard wooden kneelers. After the tenth or eleventh time we were on our knees all of us were beginning to feel like we were channeling arthritic eighty year olds. I told the class that every time their knees hurt, to think of how Christ suffered and died on the cross for our sins and not to take it for granted. Afterwards, I got a few "Mrs. Ramsey, I don't think I've ever thought about the cross so much with my knees hurting and that giant painting of Jesus up on the front altar." Hopefully my Scottish reformation ancestors aren't rolling over in their graves right now.  In the end though, I try to be a big tent Christian and am grateful for the things the early church gave us.  One of the things Ithink the reformation (maybe) got wrong was the focus on words and writing. While I am glad the Bible got translated into common languages, I think we lost all of the other five senses.  Even though my Latin turned out to be vastly inadequate, and I could barely understand the service, there was no end of paintings, mosaics, incense, music and sunlight streaming through the window to remind me that God himself meets us in worship.  

After church we got lunch in the Jewish ghetto and did an audio tour of Trastevere which is a little neighorhood on the west side of the Tiber river. We stood on the bridge that ceasar wrote his name on, and discovered an island where they put all of the sick and crazy people (oh, and women having babies, because clearly that makes sense). We also explored (as much as we could) the ruins where Caesar was betrayed and stabbed on the steps of the senate. "Et tu, Brute?". The ancient senate is now a cat sanctuary run by a humane society. So you can go down and watch a tabby clean its paws on the steps where the ancient world's most powerful dictator died, and then pop underneath one of the ruins which has been retrofitted into an animal shelter of sorts and pet a cat while you chat with a cat volunteer.  Only in Rome. 

We also visited (one of) Rome's oldest churches. It started out as a expensive Roman villa. A girl got married and didn't tell her new husband she was a Christian until the wedding night. Instead of shunning her or turning her in, he became a Christian too. They turned their villa into a home church and Christians have been worshipping there ever since.  The husband was eventually put to death for being a Christian, and when that just caused the little church to grow, the government beheaded the wife as well. But the home church thrived on, and underneath the (now big) church you can still see remnants of the first church and house.  

In some ways Rome is like a puzzle. You could sit down in any one spot and try to put together the conglomeration of all the different layers of history jammed together in one spot.  

Tomorrow is "day trip day".  So we're all splitting up. I can't wait to see the pictures from everyone's adventures. 


Rome Day #5 - Naked statues, dents in the ground and Chinese food

We ventured outside in the "pouring" down rain today.  Rome is more like San Diego than any other international city I've visited. One, the weather is nearly identical. And you can take whatever the rain forecast is and decrease it by 60%. Two, it sprinkles and is 68 degrees and everyone bundles up like it's the arctic. I was talking to an Italian girl and she said it's mostly because Italians want an excuse to wear cool looking winter gear. (which is exactly why San Diegans do the same thing).  Three, the roads and driving are like San Diego too. Not as crowded as NYC or LA, but they're laid out similiarly and every drives with the same sort of aggressive control (Italians definitely drive faster, stop faster and turn faster than us, but not by much IMO).  I feel safer walking around in Rome than in Edinburgh. Mostly because cars aren't coming at me on the wrong side of the street. 

The kids have been dying to play soccer since day one, but we haven't had any luck finding a park. Every "park" in Italy has a priceless building on it with no shennanigans allowed.  Google told me Circus Maximas was a place where kids could run around an play in peace.  Google also told me tourists hate the place because it's just a giant dent in the ground.  A few thousand years ago, Circius Maximas was the large race track and arena that made the Colloseum look like small potatoes. The Colloseum fit 80k people, Circus Maximas fit 300k people. It's right next to the Colloseum and "downtown" ancient Rome, but because it was between two hills, over the years the hills have sort of slopped down into the race track mostly burying it.  So it's still down there, it just looks like there are drifts of green snow on it.  For fun, the kids all ran a lap on the same track that saw chariot races that would rival Ohio State vs Michigan.  

Months ago, we tried to get tickets to the Borghese gallery and failed because they limit how many people can go in and there's a waiting list. It is a villa just outside the ancient city walls that houses some of Western Civilization's most precious art and statues.  I really REALLY wanted to go, but couldn't seem to make it happen. Andria did what I wouldn't, and actually called the museum early in the morning (CA time) to see if we could get tickets.  The villa is in a huge park with the city's zoo at the north end (so basically Rome's version of Balboa park).  We got there early so the kids could run off some energy without annoying the locals (our apartment is located in the "North Park" of Rome). Andria and I were picking up the tickets and ran into a woman who was desperately trying to get a ticket, but couldn't. We had an extra ticket, and offered it to her (after triple counting to make sure we weren't counting wrong). I'm not above doing a good deed, although I'm usually too absent minded to notice who is in need, but today was like getting to play a part in a fairy tale. The girl gave it to her boyfriend who acted like he'd been given the keys to Atlantis. They hugged, they kissed. It moved me Bob. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the pieces of art I wanted to see (and it rekindled my desire to write a classical sunday school curriculum or homeschool bible curriculum... I mean, why are we using bubble cartoon bible stories when we have two thousand years worth of geniuses to draw from?).  I did however, not quite realize how much nudity there would be. Which led to an interesting discussion about whether or not nudity in classical art is ok or not. The consensus from the kids was that it looked so different that it seemed like a totally different category than the stuff they see (or shoudn't see) in our current culture. I feel like it's the same as other sticky issues like alcohol and drugs... it's not a dichotomy of all bad or all good. Some of it is definitely sinful, and some of it is earth shatteringly transcending. Regardless, good conversations to have with eighth graders (as much as you can possibly have between long days, blisters and gelato breaks). 

I have to admit though, I'm so over Italian food. The food is amazing, I'm just sick of eating out and apparently Romans don't believe in eating vegetables (the Italians I've talked to swear that the northern Italians eat more vegetables... but they were from Northern Italy).  I think it would be like someone visiting Disneyland and thinking everyone in Southern CA eats at restaurants like the ones in downtown Disney every day. On the plus side, we walk it all off here and end up starving three hours later. They sell pizza by weight, and Jamie is single mindedly trying to eat his body weight in pizza before he goes home. I love history, but don't love pizza (or gelato), so we found a Chinese restaurant tonight for those of us desperate for something other than pasta and pizza. It was amazing... but I felt a little guilty, so stopped for a homemade macaron to balance out the food fusion.  

We're off to an old Latin church service tomorrow, so I should probably head to bed. (I can't wait... both for bed and church). 




Read More

Day 4 - Gladiators, dead Emperor contests, and it's not Disneyland

We're halfway through our trip and if I could just get some sleep I'd be fine.  I don't feel jet lagged (i.e. I feel awake during the day and tired at night}, but my brain just won't shut off at night. I can't stop thinking about everything.  By the end of the day all of us felt like our feet were about to fall off and our lower backs were about to rupture (the back thing may only be a parent issue), but we all get up the next morning and trek around this place like we know exactly what we're doing (which we kinda do...we've gone from newbies looking-around-at-all-of-the-shiny-things to strutting around like we own the place. We all have our favorite gelato and coffee shops and have ceased to overpay for things (at least I think so). 

Today was my day to freak out about the tickets and tour. Nothing is terribly organized around least not to my genetically northern European satisfaction. I got whisked away by officials and told to go several different places (everyone said the opposite thing very confidently), before a nice security guard had pity on me and helped me navigate everything,  The thing that struck me most about the Colloseum was how nothing has really changed. People love drama and entertainment. The Colloseum is just the ancient world version of social media and Youtube. When we think of the Colloseum, we think of slaves, gladiators and Christians who died there, but in real life it saw more use as a political theater and propoganda/entertainment machine. There are little colloseums/arenas all over Rome which I think of as the smaller twitter accounts, while the Colloseum is like Donald Trump's twitter account.  The other thing I didn't realize about the Colloseum was that after Rome fell it was like the home depot. I thought it was half falling apart because of the Visgoths or something. But after it got damaged by an earthquake and Christian Rome saw less and less need for pagan rituals and accoutrements, the Colloseum turned into a giant hardware store. A few people lived there and organized a sort of market for mining rebar out of the concrete and stone.  You could by bricks, iron, marble...anything you needed for all your contractor needs.  

From there, we went to the Roman forum (the name doesn't do it justice).  I didn't fully comprehend that the Roman forum is actually downtown Ancient Rome.... like you can literally walk down the road Caesar strolled down every morning... where all of the senators and the senate was.  It's insane, we took a sandal picture to prove that we were truly standing on ancient Rome's main street just like Julius Ceasar.  I can't even begin to do the history justice. I felt like I'd hopped through a Mary Poppins chalk drawing. The students were surprised to find Ceasars grave was just a pile of dirt with a bunch of old flowers and coins on it.  We were picturing some grand full scale burial temple (which used to exist but is now gone). The Italian government has put a little tin shack over it (out of respect, or to keep out the sun, I'm not sure), but it only serves to make it look more sad and pathetic. I'm sure there's some sort of lesson in there.  

If Caesar's grave left much to be desired, Emperor Hadrian's grave was the opposite. I wanted the kids to see some medieval history in Rome so we booked tickets to a castle.  Of course nothing is as it seems in Rome. The "castle" turned out to actually be Hadrian's mausoeleum...which a pope later turned into his personal fortress... which they later turned into a prison. Today it looks a bit like a crumbling sand castle surrounded by a wall of legos. The kids seemed pretty over the whole museum thing, and I wasn't sure how it was going to go. We were learning things though and making deeply educational connections like how we would run a paintpall war, or pretending to be Legolos and Aragon. The deeper and higher we got in the castle though, the more awesome it became. The views on top were spectactular, and in the end it ended up being the "favorite thing" for the day. (sacralige... how could they say that after the Roman Forum). 

Every day we get together for "class time". Also called the "journaling hour", or the "campfire kumbaya moment".  I give the kids journal prompts and we talk about the day (which is probably one of my favorite parts of the day).  CC class days might go better with gelato and pizza every week (and wine for the teacher). 

We took a picture at the Forum laying across the stone blocks, and a guy in a cowboy hat told us this wasn't Disneyland. Point taken. Everything here is the real thing, although the lines are like Disneyland and they do have characters walking around posing with people. 

Read More

Rome Day 3- The Vatican, voice boxes and blisters

Today we learned that nobody messed with Michelangelo, not even the pope. When Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, he got into a feud with one of the high ranking cardinals. Michelangelo was so mad he painted the cardinal as the judge of the underworld with a giant serpent hanging where a figleaf would normally be.  The cardinal was furious and begged the pope to tell Michelangelo he had to change and repaint it, but the pope sided with Michelangelo and told the cardinal to get over it.  Now, half a century later, I got to feel like an ant in a land of giant naked biblical figures.  

But anecdotes aside, the Vatican was.... indescribable. It's so huge, and the line is so long, Ben nearly had a heart attack trying to get the class to the right place at the right time.  We had prebooked a tour, so we cut through the crowds and met out tour guide Carla who was at least 70, and perhaps suffering from conjestive heart failure, but scuttled us around three miles of vatican museums like a very efficient church mouse. She was inspiring because it was embarrassing to have to work hard to keep up with her. Her voice kept going out, and she'd smack herself in throat and keep going. Magically, it actually worked, like she had some sort of reset button on her juggular.  Never slowing down, she "andiamo'd" and "belissimo'd" our wide eyed class like a pro over ancient mosaic floors and explained paintings we'd only ever seen in schoolbooks. There are truly no words. Imagine the most precious thing at San Diego's Balboa museums. It's locked behind plexiglass and you have to stand ten feet away with your hands in the air and security doscents watching you like a hawk.  Now imagine miles and miles of halls and rooms jam packed with thousands of those same things.  Every square inch is covered with priceless and famous statues, tapestries and paintings. There's no plexiglass and you can get as close as you want, but you're basically in a human tidal wave and you can't really sit still and appreciate it properly.  That's how the Vatican was and it's such a weird juxtoposition.  

After we finished the tour, we climbed St. Peter's dome to the very top.  The kids were exhausted and starving, but still wanted to keep going. They were troopers and it was one of the highlights of the day.  The stairs were a piece of work in and of themselves. They twisted, and zigzagged and slanted sideways at times. Some of the dads had to go through sideways and a few people got claustaphobic. The litigious American in me was shocked any of it was legal and allowed since nothing was to code (which honestly was half the fun).  

We left at 8:30 this morning and besides sharing pizza with a peg legged pigeon for a few min, we didn't sit down until we got back to our apartment at 5:30. Blisters and sore feet abounded, but  so did happy attitudes and still more energy than seemed possible.  To get back to our apartment, we have to go through a thunder portal. It's so loud and earth shaking inside, it feels like some sort of "beam me up scotty" experiene.  

We may never want to see pasta and pizza again by the time we're out of here, but gelato hour will never get old... even when it happens at bedtime.  




Rome day #2- Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and the fake Pieta

Apparently eighth graders are immunue to jetlag... or they're like some kids who counter react to benadryl by getting more crazy and wild. You would think logging in hours of walking, plus not sleeping for a night, plus going to bed super late would make them teenaged shaped zombies, but instead the good times are a'rollin around here.  We found a cool rooftop park (that is really just a pile of ruins with headless statues and weeds), and they got to burn off some energy there, but I'm sure the people who live in this building are wondering who let the herd of elephants in the place. 

We started off the day with a walking tour through the heart of Rome. There is no way to truly understand and appreciate everthing here. You'll be walking down the street past an excavation and realize that the original street of ancient rome was a lot lower than it is now due to centuries of build up. At the same time there is a man levitating off the ground seemingly by magic! (clever theatrics, but still) Then you turn around and there's an egyptian obelisk...with a cross on front of a fountain that all of the other fountains in the world wish they could look like. AND you have to try and take it all in while a gypsy is trying to sell you a selfie stick and someone is trying to pickpocket you. 

The Pantheon was the second moment I felt chills down my back because I actually felt like I'd been transported to ancient Rome. The first moment was an old statue where people have always (and continue) to leave notes about how much they hate the government (poor statue).  Rome is so layered with medieval, ancient and classical buildings that it feels a little bit like Alice falling down the rabbitt hole.  Nobody for real fell though, nobody got lost, there was only mild hangriness going on and everyone did great.  

We took a Poseidon team picture in front of Poseidon wrestling an octopus. (clearly the octopus represents Mock Trial) 

My lesson of the day was not to listen to tourists talking about things and assuming they're true (whether it's where the good gelato is or what artwork is).  I got all worked up about seeing the Pieta, when Linda and Lizzy kindly reminded me it's at St. Peter's basilica.  Ah well... it was similar. 

Tomorrow we're off to the Vatican and then Trastevere. Hopefully we find a socccer ball to buy along the way as we've got a couple of new parks to test out.  


And...hopefully nobody tries to sell me a fake futbol. 😂


Rome- Day 1 Bathroom locks and sci-fi lighting

We made it safely to Rome in what had to be the most anticlimacitc drive to LAX ever (which is the best kind to have). We took the red eye out of LA and flew straight up through canada and over (not the way I would have expected to get to Italy, but we cut off an hour of flight time so no complaints).   

First imperpessions of Rome are that the locals who live hear tolerate travelers like older siblings who have to share a room with annoying younger siblings. A mixture of charm, eye rolling and sarcasm.  All well deserved. 

The weather, climate and outskirts of Rome look and feel exactly like San Diego, which prompted Hayley to wonder if maybe the plane just flew around in circles and landed us back in southern CA.  But if the outskirst of town felt similar to home, the closer wer got to the heart of Rome, the more it hit us all like a ton of bricks. (very ancient and crumbly bricks). We were in kansas anymore West Coast USA in this case.  I==

It's so crazy to see ancient palaces sticking out eveywhere in the midst of freeway onramps and traffic lights. It's almost feels like you're in jungle temple ruins... but in the center of New York City.  I wonder if it's hard to live with the ghosts of your past all around you... providing income in the way of tourist trafifc, and standing as a reminder of what you once were and now can't tear down and start over.  For which the world is clearly very grateful, since the place is jam packed with people from every continent.  

Started off the night with some delicious homemade pasta carboonara and wine... and then finished with one of the kids getting locked in a bathroom. (the aaparment we're staying in still usees those skeleton keys from the Victorian era).  Thankfully we have dads on this trip who can stand on balconies and haul people out of little shower windows. I think we only truly irritated one neighbor who couldn't figure out why a bunch of loud teenagers were staging a rescue operation at 11:30pm. 

Good times.  On to new ones tomorrow.  

Read More