For those of you who want to hear the nitty gritty of the kids emotions & how we’re dealing…

A few people have asked us to share more detailed stories about how the kids are doing, and what we’re doing about it. I was away this past week and Christine was alone with the kids so she sent me a few updates which I wanted to share here.

PLEASE let me know if we’re doing too many long posts, and I’ll cut back, or if this is just right.

I left the house at 6AM on Sunday and got two significant updates from Christine over the week. I’m not really a phone person, so other than a few texts (what’s the PIN for the bank card, etc.) this was all the communication we had.

These are slightly edited to provide continuity and I just wove in some other details here and there.

Monday Update

Ian and I discovered he had homework on Friday. He did a bunch last night but was too tired to finish. He set his own alarm for 6:30 am and got up and did the rest this morning…

Charlie came home smiling and pleased. The written permission from the office wasn’t ready, of course, but they let Cristina in anyway.

Cristina is the one-on-one tutor I found for Charlie. The teachers don’t have ANY support for non-Italian speakers and were excited about the idea of an aide in the classroom with Charlie, but of course there’s paperwork. Christina lives in our apartment building.

Valentina will go to do some paperwork tomorrow and start on weds … Also she wants to check out / help at our home school this Saturday

Valentina is a one-on-one tutor that Christine found for Ian. I haven’t met her yet.

First Day of Italian School for our little American kid
First Day of Italian School for our little American kid

I found a great school for Tristan … It’s v close to my school. In enrolled him and he starts tomorrow… He’s so excited and that r very nice

It costs 130 euro per month… 5 days per wk 8-4…. But we can cut his hrs shorter if we want but we pay the same

Finding a school for Tristan had been a bit stressful, but he’s so happy to have his own school now. I’m back in Siena so I visited for the first time today (pictures below from Christine).

The nuns are super friendly, and speak Spanish so it’s super easy for Christine to talk with them even when she doesn’t know the Italian words.
Tristan LOVES it and can find his way there already, despite it being a 15m walk through winding Siena streets.

Max was good this morning. Haven’t talked to him yet after school.

Max is so chill. I asked him today (Friday) how it’s going and if he hangs out with Guido (a Brazilian in his class who speaks English) and Max said that they got their seats moved around and he doesn’t sit next to Guido anymore. I suggested that maybe he can ask his teacher to put them next to each other so Guido could help him. Max told me that because he mostly speaks in English with Guido, he’s not learning as much and he thinks he learns better when he has to figure it out himself.

We r sticking to the list on the kitchen wall of what u have to do before screen time and that structure is working great


We had dinner at 4:55 pm last night and that was good

Weds Update

Things going well but I am starting to run out of steam. Kids all watching Italian kids tv show while eating dinner … Tomorrow we do bouncy house and Minions Movie… Bringing notebooks to movie to write down words phrases we understand

Thursday Night Update (I got home at midnight on Thursday and Christine sent these so I’d be “in the know” in the morning since I was going to be on kids so she could relax).

Damn I’m whooped… 

Woke at 6:30

Got everyone breakfast (I’ve been pampering people a bit and I think it’s OK for now, but will have to ween them off it at some point). I made their lunches last night.

Got everyone to school.

Came home, did some chores. Made tomato sauce. Charlie said she really wanted stuffed shells tonight. Trying to keep kids taste buds happy. She said she also really wanted twice backed potatoes. Uh oh in our oven?

Our internet connection is SUPER unstable, and the oven seems inconsistent. At least it’s been human error (i.e. we’re dumb), so we’re still not sure if there’s a problem, or if we just have to pay attention.

Potatoes we had went bad.

Walked to COOP even though it’s a mile each way cuz they have better produce. Also got onions, bananas and a “warm” lightbulb for Charlie’s room. She asked for one last night.

Dropped off at apartment groceries. Went to get Tristan. Was a couple min late. Doh! Then went to get his “smock” for school. But he had to poop. We did a 25 min pitstop at my school (gratefully it’s on the way).

Then smock shopping. Then he’s having a fit cuz I won’t buy him a toy sword. I don’t have carrier and we’re running late for Charlie/Ian’s school. I have to carry him from OVS to Scuola Pascoli. Not piggy back. Front carry. And I’m tired and hungry.

Christine pointed out that she only knows present tense in Italian so she’s thinking in present tense even in English… :)

Charlie had a rough day. But I don’t catch it all yet. Ian rushes home first. Charlie gone. I walk slowly with Tristan. By now, very tired and hungry.

Get home. Get myself fed. Between bites, making food for Tristan, Charlie, Ian. Max gets home and is very snippy. I know how he feels. Hungry. No chicken left. But I just bought some yesterday (did another huge shopping yesterday). So I pan fry all the chicken cuz I know Max needs the protein. He’s happy finally.

Then I make stuffed shells and start on baked potatoes. Warming up oven and running microwave. Blow a fuse. Turn off oven. Finishing nuking potatoes to give them a jump start since our oven sucks.

Then I told kids I’d make popcorn for movies. That is a lot of work to do that. You have to watch it every second and do it just right. I make 2 batches. Salt and butter it. Put into individual bags. Make sandwiches. Stuffed shells done and waiting for our return on stove top. We head out to ice cream and bouncy house (or so we thought) and movies (or so we thought).

And the second Thursday night email titled Just so you’re aware

… It’s been a good week, but some things fell apart today.

Charlie had a really rough day. I wasn’t even totally aware of how much so until this evening. We went into this week with the understanding that she’d be at school M, W, F and home school Tu, Th, Sa. I said that was the plan unless something changed with Cristina’s availability.

Well, it did change.

Charlie was home on Tues. But today (Thurs) Cristina was available. We knew this on Tues evening / Weds morning-ish? And changed the plan, but Charlie wasn’t totally understanding of it. And she wasn’t part of the decision making process on it. (My bad). I’m figuring out how to walk the line of involving her in controlling her situation and pushing her a little bit to help her grow.

Anyway, Charlie at school from 8:30 to 10:30 on her own because it’s English class. Then Cristina arrived at 10:30 am for Italian class. There was a misunderstanding and Charlie didn’t want to stand up in front of the class and recite things, but Cristina thought she was OK with it and it was mortifying and embarrassing for Charlie. She was so, so upset. I really felt for her.

Then our afternoon plan was to chill at home, then go get ice cream, then go to bouncy house, then right to Minions movie (I had made pop corn earlier in the day). Got gelato. Bouncy house closed. Minions not playing anymore (but we just checked it out on Tues and it looked like it would be). Another woman was there with her 2 kids and she asked… “Hey, isn’t minions supposed to be playing?”… I said that I thought so too. But now I see the sign is different and so I don’t think it is playing. I asked her (in Italian) if she knew of a place to rent DVDs. She knew of a place to buy them so for the same cost as seeing a movie out, we bought 2 DVDs to play on kids computer.

Charlie was bummed about this… wanted to walk home fast. Ian kept up with her. She just wanted some space and alone time and Ian is just so clueless and not respecting of that with her. It’s just where she’s at and where he’s at. Anyway, they got into a fight. Hitting each other. Then Charlie ran up to her room and locked the door. Everyone else started the movie. Charlie was banging the walls and having a fit in her room. She wouldn’t open the door. Locked it. She sent me notes under the door. 

I finally got her to eat and I stayed in her room and ate with her. She vented about her whole day. And about Italy. And felt it was very unfair to even be here and why did she not have a say. And she just wants to go back to America.

And she is trying not to connect with anyone or anything here because she doesn’t want to get established here and then up and leave in 9 months. And she was finally feeling very happy and comfortable in her life at her school in the U.S. She bawled and yelled and I did active listening and then I hugged her.

She wanted me to explain why we were in Italy. I said that a big reason was because you needed a break from life in the U.S. You were burnt out, beaten down and it was making you sick all the time. And it didn’t have to be Italy, but it had to be somewhere foreign and I support you in that. I didn’t get into the part about how this has been in your and my life plan and how we love travel, we believe that living in a place that’s different and not always comfortable helps you gain incredible perspective and learn. I have shared that part with her before. In this moment I didn’t communicate perfectly. But I will reinforce those other concepts.

It all ended with I thought… Hey Charlie? Do you think we should go find some chocolate? Then I caveated… that I don’t want to teach her to think she should go eat chocolate in life anytime it’s rough. And she said, don’t worry. Eating chocolate is good anytime and I’ve been wanting some chocolate. So we went out.

Before leaving, I quietly told Max that I needed to take Charlie out of the house because she was having a hard time. And I hoped to be back in 20 min. Can he keep an eye on Tristan and help him with food if he needs it? Max is cool with it. By now it’s 7:45. I’ve been really on top of starting Tristan’s beditme by 7:30 every night and having him in bed and quiet by 8:15 pm and then I work on Ian and I have all kids in bed, lights out, kindles off by 9 pm. Then they get the rest they need. I knew going out with Charlie at this hour would derail bedtime, but I also knew this was what had to be done.

Well, Tristan caught wind that I was stepping out and he didn’t want me to. Then he got distracted with my iPhone. So we slipped out. But before I reached the first floor I could hear him shrieking for me… So I went back up and I asked Charlie if she minded if he came too. I said I think this is the only way to make it work. She was much better by now and with chocolate on the horizon, she said it was fine.

I didn’t tell Max I was taking Tristan. We were so loud I thought he just heard me. He didn’t.

IMG_5596 IMG_5597

I think this was good learning for Max.

Where things were left w/Charlie….

We found a great chocolate store, but it was closed. I got her a small bag of m&m’s which she ate. She asked/suggested could we come to this chocolate shop if they open before school. They open at 8 am. So… plan in the morning is that she and I will leave the house by 7:40 am. It really needs to be just me and her. 

You take Tristan and Ian to Ian’s school. We’ll meet you there. Then you and I can take Tristan to his school. He is VERY excited to show it to you.

ALSO … Charlie is getting up at 6:30 am to take a shower… Please, I hope you don’t have to shower before her. I just want her day to start out on the right foot.

Also, she was expecting to be home Tues, Thurs, Sat this week. She’s only home Tues & Sat. We agreed that we can end her home school 1 hr early on Sat and no homework. And she agreed that yes, she will be OK to go to school all day on Fri with Cristina there. I really think this is fine and not a bowled over concession.

More on the kids home school schedule tomorrow… still working out final details. And then want Charlie’s buy in. I think I have it. But there are a couple unknowns still that we need to iron out.

Jason’s Update for Friday Morning

Charlie woke up early. Was sad. Explained to me again she didn’t want to go to school and asked me again why she had to go. I explained I want her to learn how to make friends and communicate with people that have different backgrounds and languages.

I asked her about making friends and she said it’s hard because they can’t communicate, so I asked if she’d be willing to try if we can find an activity which didn’t involve a lot of communication (I was thinking bike riding or something and Christine suggested a game like Blink or Spot It… both of which we brought).

Tristan is so excited to be at school. I’m waiting for the 2-week crash (our kids always crash two weeks into a big change), but just coasting along for now.

Ian got a little grumpy this morning because Tristan was wearing his old coat. Christine gave it to Tristan when she bought a new coat for Ian, but it’s still… well an ownership thing. There were also some cards that Tristan didn’t want so Ian took and carried home and then Tristan wanted back.

Probably time for us to read “Siblings Without Rivalries” again (our favorite parenting book by far).

Let me know if you find this sort of longer update interesting. If we DON’T hear from people we’ll assume they’re too long and no one is reading them and we’ll stop posting them. I don’t expect this level of detail… well maybe ever again, but if people like them we’ll periodically try to do a few more like this (every few weeks or whatever).

PS: Charlie REALLY misses her Northampton buddies so if any of ya’ll want to come visit… just sayin’.