February 26, 2017: Dominica Heads Back to Italy

I got up around nine this morning.  I went up to the office and worked for a little while.  Around noon the girls got up and I found them downstairs putting on their Barbie Puppy Rescue movie that we bought for them yesterday.  This was their third time watching the movie.  I think that it is safe to say that we will be getting our money out of that one.

The girls were very convincing and got me to buy them the sequel Barbie pet movie.  Same price, always on Amazon.  They watched it immediately and then watched it again.  So like the other one, they got two views of it in on the first day.  Another hit.

We had to deal with the Internet being out for much of the day today.  We had about three hours without it this morning and then sporatically throughout the day.

I played my new game Renowned Explorers: International Society today.  This was my first time actually playing the game.  It is not nearly as long or as in depth as I would have hoped, but it is a really different style of game and quite a break from what we normally play.  So that aspect of it is really good.  I played one entire round through it and part of a second.  I like a lot of things about it, but already I feel like I’ve been through a huge percentage of the content.  The game is hugely challenging, which is less what I was looking for, and light on content.  But what is there is pretty good.  In my short afternoon of playing I collected nearly one third of all badges in the game, for example!

It was seven o’clock this evening here in Italy when Dominica dropped off her rental car in Orlando and was on the shuttle over to the airport to get ready for her trip back home to Sicily.

We finished watching Journey 2: The Mysterious Island tonight.  Both girls really liked it.  I was hoping that they would decide that they want to read Jules Verne novels now, but that did not happen.

Tonight Liesl and I watched the movie The Day After Tomorrow which I’ve always liked and she enjoyed a lot.  We had to pause it every few minutes to discuss climate change and she had loads of questions about why the people in the movie didn’t do smarter things, how the weather could do that and so forth.  It ended up being really educational, as well, which was great.

Luciana felt like being on her own much of the evening.  Either in the room with us, sitting on the couch but with her headphones on watching one of her shows on her iPad, or in my bedroom just being alone.

Dominica boarded her flight while we were watching our movie.  She is due to arrive in London early in the morning while we are still asleep.  Big storms in London in the morning.  We had rain all evening here.  Heavy rain. The water came in torrents down the street in front of the house.

Both of my girls love the rain, just like me (and my dad.)  They wanted to go out for walks, but it was very cold and it was a lot of rain.  And we don’t have any clothing that would allow for that.  They both stood for a long time in the front door watching the rain and leaning out to let the rain fall on their hands and feet.

Two more chapters of our first Nancy Drew novel, The Secret of the Old Clock tonight.  We are making very good progress but will not finish it before Dominica gets back home.

February 25, 2017: And I Turn 41

And today I am forty one years old.  Boy time flies.  I had actually forgotten that I had a birthday even coming up until a friend in Dubai wished me a happy birthday last night and I was about to correct him and went to figure out how many months it would be until my birthday and realized that in Dubai, it already was!  So surprise to me.

I was up at nine this morning.  Last night Liesl made a big deal about wanting to wake up early, before me, so that she could make me breakfast and clean the house to have everything ready for my birthday.  But I knew that that was never going to happen.  The girls rarely wake up before noon.

I did the laundry this morning, too.  So much to do when you are a single parent for this long.  Can’t save anything for when Dominica gets home, that’s still at least four days from now!

I got out to the shops and got more water, cheese and bread.  When I got home Liesl had just woken up.  She set right about making breakfast for me which consisted of bread with butter and honey and a yellow delicious apple.  She did as much of the prep as she could and used the new loaf of sesame bread that I had just gotten at the store – delicious.

Breakfast by Liesl

Liesl ran around the house attempting to decorate it for my birthday as much as she could on her own.  She has some little paper confetti streamers that they were given in the park the other day that she laid on furniture to make it look festive.  Luciana woke up and helped her as well.

Luciana did not want to be left out and so went to the kitchen and took a piece of bread and tore a heart shaped hole in the center of it, added butter and honey (with my help) and prepared an apple for me and placed it in the center of the bread for my lunch.

Lunch by Luciana

My girls are the sweetest.

I did a little writing while Luciana came upstairs and played their Barbie Puppy Rescue video game on Steam.  Liesl used the time to be alone down in the living room.

Luciana asked if they could buy the movie that goes with the video game.  She conferred with Liesl and they both agreed that it would be a perfect movie for them. So I finally gave in and bought it for them on Amazon.  They immediately set up in the living room and watched it not once but twice, right in a row.

This game me some time to write and then to fire up the video game Renowned Explorers that I have been wanting to play and gave it a try.

I managed to do laundry, as well to do the dishes.  We had cleaned the living room last night.  Luciana grabbed a broom and swept up much of the house, too.

We had a surprise tour of the house to give this evening.  Of course we had laundry out, the house was a mess, I was in pajamas… we had no idea that someone was coming by for a tour.  Oh well.

I got several articles written today.  A few chapters on a book on System Administration written; plus a few articles on my Linux Administration book.

For dinner we went out and got pizza and French fries from the panino truck down on the square.  Lots of people out tonight, town is very busy.  The food truck was packed with people.  Lots of locals, you can tell that most are not tourists and some I recognize that I’ve seen a week or more ago.  The girls played on the square while we waited, as always.

We got home and put on Journey 2: The Mysterious Island that we watched while we ate.  Luciana ate one entire pizza on her own, plus her fries!  She was hungry.  She has moved from her previous tastes in pizza, she is eating Margarita pizzas now.  Liesl gets pizza russa, which is “tomato pie” back in Utica.  Liesl really liked the movie.

Once we were done eating it was game time.  We moved upstairs and adjusted the video game rig so that it was projecting above the bed rather than in front of my desk.  This way we could all snuggle in the bed while we played and the screen was much larger than before and square rather than slightly skewed, which worked out really well.

Our first game for the night was Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing.  We did about a dozen races.  Then Liesl put on The Book of Unwritten Tales and worked on Chapter Two.  Adventure games from the bed work really well.  We have the Amazon Echo thing for audio, which works quite well.  So much better than what we were using last year.  We are slowly figuring this stuff all out.

At a quarter after one it was time for teeth brushing and then down for a little bit of time playing Minecraft and then time to read our chapters in our Nancy Drew novel that we are reading.  We are about halfway through the novel as of last night.  We will not quite be able to finish it before Dominica comes back home, which will likely be on Tuesday.

It was a really nice birthday.  Lots of time with my kids.  They spent the entire day doting on me and spending time together.  It was sad that Dominica could not be here, but there was no way to fix that as the wedding was yesterday and even if she had caught a flight last night directly after the wedding she could not have been down here in Noto in time to make it for my birthday.

It’s been a great week getting loads of time with the girls, though.  We are spending all of our time together and it is a nice change.  It has been a while since we were able to do that.  They are really enjoying having a break from school and responsibilities, too.

February 24, 2017: Day Four with the Kids

Friday.  I’ve been sleeping a bit more this week.  Having the girls sleep downstairs with me always makes me fall asleep faster and sleep longer.  So it was nearly eleven when I got up this morning.

The Internet came back on sometime during the night.  It was down for two or three hours when I last checked during the night.  No idea when it returned.

This morning I am finally caught up on SGL updates.  I would have been caught up last night, but with the Internet down I could not post the last several that I had completed.

Another bright and sunny day.  This whole week is set to be very warm.

For the first time since we’ve been in Noto we managed to make it to the fruit truck that comes by every morning.  We are a little used to this from life in Nicaragua and love having food come right to the door every day.  The fruit truck guy was really nice and we bought bananas, yellow apples, red apples, kiwi fruit, oranges at Luciana’s request and he said that on Monday we would have strawberries, too.  Seven Euros for a lot of fruit.  Both girls came out with me and thought that it was great fun picking out their food.

I worked on getting more games working for the girls on Steam today.  Finally after a really long time we have Oozi working, which Liesl has been waiting to play again for well over a year.  It is a great platformer and one of her favourites.  Garrett started playing it too and their accounts connect online to show each other their mutual progress in the game as a sort of “ghost” character.  It is really neat.

Luciana got the game “My Town: Hotel” on the Kindle Fire this morning.  She is enjoying that a lot.

Lots of Internet problems today.  The network just kept going up and down which makes it really hard to be generally productive, even as a writer.

The girls opted to spend a lot of the day alone downstairs.  They both have their long periods of just wanting to be on their own.  The spend a lot of time just playing with toys like their Shopkins and Twosies in the living room where they often have them set up on a blanket in the middle of the room.  They are their most popular type of toy for most of the past year.  Shopkins especially have been super popular as both of them revel in their imagination games.

Around five Luciana came up and played a Lego video game for a while.  Then later on Liesl came up and played Psychonauts which she has been anxious to play since we were in Houston at Christmas and she had a chance to play it with Garrett. She loves this game.  It is from the same studio that made Broken Age, one of her other favourite games.

The girls video gamed in the office until pretty late.  Then I made fish sticks for dinner by request and we went down stairs and watched the atrocious movie Spy Kids 3 which was a 2003 gimmick movie for the early release of 3D in theatres. It was like a Tron trainwreck of special effects.  It was loaded with huge cameo appearances, which was interesting, but the movie itself was terrible and clearly was just phoned in by the writers and the main actor.  How so many huge names were willing to be involved I have no idea.  So awful.

Then we finished watching Journey to the Center of the Earth which is a pretty decent movie and was perfect as it triggered no end of questions about how compasses work and how volcanoes work and learning about Mt. Etna, which is our local volcano here on the island.  We pulled out a compass and played with it, too.  And Liesl is excited to find a magnet and try building our own compass, too, as a project.

After the movies we watched a few YouTube videos about Mt. Etna and this week’s FailArmy episode and were off to bed.  We read two chapters in our Nancy Drew book, Luciana fell asleep again right as we were finishing the second chapter, but if we only read one she complains that it is too short.  I’ve read about the differences between the 1930 original book and the 1959 revision that we are reading.  It is very interesting how the social pressures of the time changed and how the Nancy Drew we know today is quite different than the original character.  Interestingly, the 1930 version will enter in the US public domain in just eight years.  The video game, which we have not played yet, that is named after and loosely based on this book is set in 1930 like the original book, but unlike the version that we are reading which is very much in the late 1950s.

February 23, 2017: Day Three Alone with the Kids

Thrusday.  Day three alone with the kids.  We are surviving thus far.  It is a bright, sunny and warm day today.  The warmest that we have had since we came to Italy.  About seventy degrees.

The trash that we have had out for eight days now finally got picked up today – all of it!  That’s pretty exciting.  We cannot figure out the trash pick up at all.  There is supposed to be pick ups of different things each day.  But it really appears that they only come once a week and all of the separated recycling actually goes out all together.  Locals complained about how some other locals put everything out in the “combined” trash when things are supposed to be really carefully separated, but it is pretty clear that that doesn’t do anything.

The girls were up pretty early today and Liesl knew that it was her turn on Sims 3.  She was up to my office and had it set up the moment that she was awake.  She has been looking forward to this for quite some time.  Both girls are starting new games and I expect that this will keep them both very, very busy.

I wrote all day until late.  I finally finished up in time to play some Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing with the girls for a while.  We got ten races in.  They are both getting really good at this game and the three of us pretty much win every race that we run.

This evening we went out for pizza as Ciana had requested that we do that two nights ago then they opted for fish sticks last night.  So it was pizza time, we have not been out once since Dominica left so that was fine.

We got out and found that everything was closed.  Every pizza shop, gelato place, everything.  We explored town and went to places we have never been before looking for pizza options and there was just nothing.  So weird.  We walked a long ways, too.  And found a lot of places that were closed.

In the end we went to the only option that we could find, the panino truck.  We got loads of fries and some sandwiches and walked back home.

We tried out an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation but we are on episode two of it (we watched the pilot back in Greece and the girls liked it) but it was super slow and uneventful and neither girl liked it.  So much for Star Trek for them.

Luciana refused to watch Spy Kids 3 tonight, so we keep saving that for another night.  We tried watching Journey to the Center of the Earth and I think that the girls were into it, but the Internet went out and we were left with nothing to watch.

So we went to bed and read two chapters of Nancy Drew before falling asleep.  Luciana was asleep even before we finished reading.

February 22, 2017: Day Two with the Kids

Wednesday.  Our second full day without Dominica here.  The weather is really nice, the sun is out and things are getting really warm.  I got up and wrote a little. And I made an early trip to the local grocery around the corner to get water and cheese.  I had tried to get water yesterday but they were oddly closed.  So it was important that I go today.  So I got a dozen 1.5l bottles of water today, just to be safe.  And lots of cheese, Luciana loves the cheese here.  It’s fresh sliced down the street.  They don’t have many options, but they slice it for us as we need it.

Once the girls were up we got everyone dressed straight away and immediately went out for a walk.

We walked down to the main square first and treated ourselves to gelato.  Liesl ordered a chocolate and puffo (which translates as smurf, it’s just… blue) and Luciana decided that she needed to have the same thing.  I got pistachio reale (with the rivel of pistachio butter through it) and mela (apple) because the girls wanted to taste the apple but they don’t offer samples at the place that we were.  The girls loved their puffo and Liesl said that it is the best chocolate that she has ever had.

Luciana did not want to go to the park and the playground today because it had “bad memories” for her (or “remembories” as she often calls them) because last time that we were there last week she got in so much trouble.  But Liesl and I had a talk with her about how you can fix bad memories by going back to a place and making happy memories and this clicked with Ciana immediately and she wanted to go straight away to make happy memories, which she did.

We had a good time on the playgrounds.  There were some smaller kids there and one of the parents gave the girls paper streamers as it is carneval.  They played with those a lot.

It was a gorgeous day.  Probably in the high sixties and due to be quite a bit warmer tomorrow, as well.

Back home the girls set up in my office and played a lot of video games.  They really like having the Steam system up in the office because they can do stuff while I am here.  It’s a good combination of things.  I suspect that we will probably keep it like this even after Dominica gets back home because it just works out so well.  And it means that Dominica will have an easier time getting away from the kids after school is done.  As it has been they tend to be stuck in the same places as each other all of the time and that makes it a little bit tough.

For dinner I made the kids fish fingers tonight. They devoured all that I made for them and all that I made for myself as well!

With the new Internet that works so much better I finally managed, after days of it downloading, to get Sims 3 fixed on the Steam laptop.  The girls are so excited.  So once I got it working Luciana, who has been asking for it the most by far, played it for most of the evening.  Once I was free from writing I went downstairs and Liesl and I watched The Dukes of Hazard from 2005, which she enjoyed.

Liesl spent a good hour or more cleaning around the house today.  She wasn’t asked to, she just really wants to be helpful.  She said that she would happily wash the dishes, too.  But there is no safe way for her to do that here.  Both girls have been angels since Dominica left, I’ve not had any issues with either of them.  They’ve been very good and Liesl has been working hard to be super helpful.

We read another chapter in the first Nancy Drew novel tonight.  Ciana really likes getting books read at bed time.  Liesl and I take turns reading the book as part of her reading practice.

February 21, 2017: First Day Alone with the Kids

Tuesday.  The first full day of the girls and I being home alone!  Dominica managed to get on her flight this morning without a problem and was on her way to Florida for nearly the entire day.  It was a lot more than twenty four hours of trip for her.  About thirty hours when it was all said and done and she was in Cocoa Beach.

The girls and I had a nice day.  I got up kind of early and I started the day doing some writing and then re-arranging the upstairs office so that my desk was on the side of the room and I moved up the Steam laptop and set things up so that the girls would be able to game upstairs with me during the day.  I have a feeling that this will go over really well.

The girls did, indeed, enjoy having Steam upstairs.  It’s not a bad setup for it.  They can sit on the bed and the screen works well on the wall and I am able to sit at my desk and participate with them while they play, but I can still work.  So it is perfect.

Luciana tried playing Night of the Rabbit today but decided that she did not like it.  So they switched to playing The Book of Unwritten Tales which Liesl loved when she was Ciana’s age.  Ciana prefers Liesl to play it, but Liesl loves playing it and can’t remember it from back in Peekskill when we last played it so she is having a great time playing it all over again.  We are getting some serious mileage out of that game!  We also played a little Nancy Drew: The Message in the Haunted Mansion but we got stuck so did not play for very long.  We did a lot of racing in Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing too.

Luciana wanted to take a walk tonight, so we did that.  It was dark and everything was closed.  We walked up to the castle in town and north into the part of the city that we have never seen.  It was not a long walk but it was nice.

Back home we watched Spy Kids 2 which Luciana liked even more than the first one.  Liesl liked it too, but not as much as Ciana.

We went to bed at a good time tonight.  Liesl stayed up a little while Ciana wanted me to read more Nancy Drew to her.

February 20, 2017: Dominica Leaves for the US

Today is a busy one for us as we work to get Dominica ready for her travels to the US.  It is Monday.  We got up this morning and first thing Dominica and I walked down to the big grocery store down the hill so that we could stock up on things that I will need while Dominica is gone so that I can feed the kids.  We got extra supplies in the hopes that I would not need to return, although that might be a long shot.

On the way to the grocery store we stopped at the bus station and bought Dominica her ticket for the trip today.  Less than eight Euros to go from Noto all of the way to the airport in Catania.  That’s an important note about this region – cheap and simple transportation all of the way up to the main airport in the region.  That’s not something that you would get back in the States.  Less than ten dollars and you can just get on a nice, mostly empty, comfortable bus and in an hour and a half you are several cities away right at the airport.  Perfect.  There is a train that goes up there, too.

We stopped and got some espresso before continuing down, as well.

That was a major trip this morning and much of it was spent with Dominica trying to deal with getting checked into her flights.  Her Vueling flights worked without a problem.  But British Airways could not check her in due to glitches in their online system and their customer support was not able to help all day.  Because Dominica gets so sick when flying being able to check in early and knowing that she has an aisle seat is a really big deal for her and helps a lot to keep her anxiety to a minimum.  So she worried about that all day.

We got home and really only had about three hours before it was time for Dominica to get on the bus.  So I worked while I could and Dominica verified packing and stuff.  She has been super successful at getting a full fifty pounds of stuff that we “no longer need” with us in Italy packed up and ready to go back to the US.  That is going to make things so much easier for when we are traveling around.  Sadly, one of the things going back with her is the nVidia Shield, we just have not found time to use it and it is too big and bulky to keep with us in the luggage going back and forth all of the time.

The girls did not want to go for a walk today so we left them behind when I took Dominica down to catch her bus.  It’s only a five minute walk to the bus station.  We had to wait there for about fifteen minutes.

The bus was on time at twenty past four in the afternoon.  I was able to throw Dominica’s luggage under the bus.  The bus was only half full so she had no problem getting a seat to herself for the trip.  We waved goodbye as her bus went south out of the square and disappeared to head down to the sea.

I walked back to the house and spent the rest of the evening with the kids.  And thus begins our eight days of just me and the kids, alone in Italy.  This is a new adventure for everyone.

Dominica’s bus ride to the airport was very easy.  The bus dropped her off right there and she had no issues getting her flight on Vueling from Catania to Rome.  She didn’t have overly long to wait at the airport; it all worked very well.  We will do that in the future, I’m sure.

Dominica had no issue flying up to Rome.  She made her transfer and was off on a Vueling operated British Airways flight from Rome to London Gatwick.  It was around midnight when she got up there.  Her flight out of London is not until about six in the morning so she has a long time to hang out in the airport with nothing to do.

The girls and I had a nice evening to ourselves.  Luciana did not want to watch Spy Kids 2 today so we skipped it to watch tomorrow.

Our big thing this evening was that we bought the very first Nancy Drew book on the Kindle so that we could read it in bed.  We made it through two chapters with me reading one page then Liesl taking a turn to read a page.  It started off slowly, so I am hoping that it manages to grab the girls’ attention.  It would be great if they got into reading more.

When we went to bed Dominica was still waiting to get on her flight.  She should not be on the plane until long after we are asleep here and it is a ten hour flight over to Orlando.  Then she still has to rent a car and drive to Cocoa Beach.  She is going to be awfully tired when she finally gets to the hotel.