Charlie and Travel Update

I want to update people on how we’re helping Charlie settle in to Italy and embrace it a little more, and also let people know about some of our upcoming travel plans, but first the big news!

(no we’re not pregnant again)

We have working internet!

I mean it’s slow, and inconsistent, but it mostly works! First world country, third world bureaucracy.

Not sure if we mentioned by when paying our phone bill or any official government paperwork we HAVE to pay cash, while at the same time I can use the wireless chip in my credit card to pay for a pack of gum, or send money to my landlord using a single number.

So crazy.

And we also found a new park (see picture with heart shaped ivy) with a little zip-line and some other odd structures we’ve never experienced.

Anyway, so how is Charlie doing?

Nose bleeds suck.

She’s been struggling a lot, but we’ve made some progress. First off we have tutors for the entire school day Monday-Friday. It’s not cheep (a couple grand a month) but it’s worth it. She’s fighting it and wants to go less days but the four-day school week with a gap in the middle was crap.

She stayed home one day last week because one of the tutors had a doctor’s visit and I made her work hard. We had been a bit slacker about “homeschool” days because everyone’s tired and adapting, but these past couple of weeks we really put the smack down on Ian and Charlie and it’s really helped.

Ian was pushing boundaries and needed the smackdown. Charlie on the other hand was just in limbo and overloaded with choice… so one of the assignments I had her do was write down 10 things she’s excited about in Italy, or things she wants to do.

She wasn’t excited about the assignment… it was completely illegible.

The first 4 things were basically spend time with her 4 best friends in the US. Next was go home, then see her friends… but after that we teased out a couple of good ones.

She also wants to visit the farm more… which we’re doing (more later).

But basically it all came down to control.

“No one asked me if I wanted to live in Italy for a year, and no one asked me about school when we got here. Well I guess I did get to choose school but still…”

It’s valid stuff… so we talked and I basically gave her back a bunch of control she probably should have had in the first place.

  • Cuddlywinks and friends (comfort items that she left at home)
  • She wants people to listen to her when talking and not ignore requests (like wanting to make Cheesecake with Mommy).
  • More control after school. Homework time flexible. Snacks on her terms without reminders.
  • No more time on school work than in the US and ability to set that schedule.

We can’t just make her friends magically appear, but with internet she can now start emailing and FaceTiming again more often… and we’re making some changes.

  • We’re bringing her breakfast in bed by 7:10 every morning.
  • We’re no longer reminding her about homework. Christine had been because it kept turning into last minute stress, but there’s always a reason why it was Christine’s fault Charlie didn’t get her homework done, so basically Charlie just needs to give Christine enough advanced warning that she needs help and it’s up to her to get it done when she wants to… and for her part Christine will try to be flexible.
  • We’re going to try to get her comfort items sooner than January when my mom comes.
  • We’re requiring 5 days a week of school as well as homeschool. I’m going to make her do the math between school time in the US and in Italy and make sure she does that amount every week.

I’m still not sure on chores. I think we’re letting her off easy, but in the grand scheme of things she’s pretty happy to go to school and I think she’s beat Christine out the door ever day since we’ve put these in place last week without crying, melting, or anything more than a little grumbling.

Christine’s instinct when things go bad is to take more control, mine is alway to give up control. The one thing this doesn’t do is because Charlie is now back in charge of her bedtime she’s sometimes up later and Christine doesn’t get the space she needs at home so she can do *her* homework, but in terms of family priorities I think getting Charlie comfortable is key.

The fact that her birthday is Weds also has her in a good mood. Charlie and I went out looking for craft projects yesterday. We bought some ribbon and Charlie found some YouTube videos about making little satin roses out of ribbons and so she’s going to have 4-5 Italian girls over and she’ll show them how to make hair-clips with homemade flowers and also how to make pompoms out of yarn and then add googly-eyes and felt decorations (wings, feet, ears, etc.).

Speaking of the party on Weds, that’s a great segue to Thursday.

Finland and Switzerland

I’ve been invited to talk at a geek conference about successful project management in Finland! One of the companies that saw my talk in Spain offered to sponsor me, so while I’m not getting paid like I do for many of the talks I do in the US, at least my travel is covered.

Looking forward to it, but it will be rushed. I have to leave home at 3AM on Thursday (after Charlie’s birthday party). I land in time for a late business lunch, then a “release party” networking event thing until the wee hours of the night, then the conference. The following day I have a little work, then get home around 8PM, in time to see the family and crash before getting up and leaving by 6AM for our Thanksgiving trip to Switzerland.

At the kids request we’ll be returning to Bellinzona for our first night in Switzerland to see the 3 castles, then visiting Christine’s cousin Cathy in northern Switzerland for Thanksgiving.

Here’s a few pictures of our last trip to Bellinzona (click to see them full size):