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.

February 19, 2017: Last Day with Dominica

Sunday.  Dominica is already totally packed for her trip to Florida tomorrow so she really has nothing to do today for that.  She has been packed for most of the week, partially because she has been trying so hard to get as much stuff moved out of our house here as possible so that we don’t have to keep dealing with it while we are over here and especially so that we don’t have to get it back to the US later.  We packed too heavily, but we are getting better at that with each trip that we take.  It’s a slow learning process.

Dominica edited a paper that I wrote today and I got that submitted this morning.  That has been keeping me busy much of the week.  So that was good.  That took us a bit of time this morning and the girls slept in late so Dominica and I had a chance to hang out and talk for a while.

We took it easy today, although I worked a bit, but by this evening it was family time for everyone.  After a month of trying to convince the kids to watch Madagascar on Netflix I finally talked them into it tonight.  Liesl wanted to see it, but Luciana did not.  Once it was on, however, Luciana really enjoyed it.  They watched it very closely.

After that we watched Spy Kids which I have never seen and the girls both loved.  It’s cute and has an incredible cast.  There are at least three of the series available on Netflix here, so the girls are anxious to get watch all of them.  We are going to spread them out and watch them while Dominica is gone.

I got Liesl to try the one modern Jackie Chan movie that is available on Netflix here: The Spy Next Door.  She loved it and wants to see more Jackie Chan movies now.  It was a big hit.

We had a nice evening of just all hanging out.  Tomorrow will be pretty busy as Dominica is going to be dealing with her flights and bus and stuff most of the day.


February 18, 2017: Sequestered in the Office

Saturday. I had worked super late last night not going to bed until around six in the morning so I slept in pretty late and was back online this morning working around noon.  I still have some more work to complete from the stuff that I was working on yesterday so I got right down to it and had a pretty busy day of work today.  I have to get caught up on a lot of stuff today because by Monday I will have basically no free time at all because it is just me and the girls here for over a week and I will be super busy with them all week.

Pretty much I was sequestered all day up in the office.  Did not have much time to do anything fun.  The girls were really involved in their own things for most of the day so they were not too concerned about hanging out.  I was able to hang out with them tonight, but they were having so much fun doing their own things with each other that I figured that it would make way more sense for me to get work done and let them play.  We will be together all week.

Since Sims 3 has not been available on Steam for them since we got to Italy we decided to just buy it for them on the iPads as well.  So they downloaded that today and played it a bit, although they do not like it nearly as much as they like the full version on Steam (where we have all of the expansion packs, too.)

The girls wanted to go for a walk.  So we went down and grabbed a pizza for them, and went to the panino truck and ordered fries for everyone.  While we waited the girls ran around in the square for a long time.  It is clear that we entered the shoulder season here today – th square was full of people and more restaurants were now open and even the gelato place was open.  Totally different than we have seen it thus far.

This evening I did manage to spend a little time watching Modern Family.  We finished season seven tonight, we are now completely caught up with it as far as Netflix has it.  I believe that they are one season behind, but I’m not sure.  That is one great show.