Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Loaner

Until we can find a car worth buying (other than a Ferrari...there's a dealership just down the road) we've been mostly living off one car. For the first month that was not an issue. The Tiny Living Facility was on base and I could get by with a short walk to work. And Kristi did not really need to drive much anyway. She could walk for the daily run to the store. After we moved into the house that made single car life a little tougher. Kristi now had places to be for Home-school and Cinderella play practice. A friend had offered a loaner in the past, so I took him up on his offer.

Ain't she a beaut!!!

She's a 1984, Mercedes 240 Diesel. I finally have something that is older than our relationship. The odometer shows over 300,000 KM, but I think it's rolled over once already. She has some added features:

genuine imitation lambswool seat covers

a trunk that doesn't really lock (but leaks - and smells)

a flashy modern American radio that does not fit with the 20 year old german interior

some sort of small bottle of dark liquid hanging from the rear view mirror - K suggests it is the vial of Angelina Jolie's blood given to Billy Bob Thornton but then later discarded in some third world country

a hefty thumping in the power column at low RPMs - I keep expecting the entire power train to split apart some day

almost no power off the line...putt putt putt...I have to make sure there is plenty of room before I pull in front of Italian drivers

frost regularly forms on the windows...inside and out, since the seals on the car are so bad - all those ice shavings make my lammswool wet and dingy

the doors tend to freeze shut (same problem)

I'm starting to get attached to my terrorist yellow bomber car. I get all kinds of looks. It's great...I like to imagine it's the same looks I would get if I drove a red italian sportscar.

but the best part...she's free until I can find a ride for myself

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Saturday, December 25, 2010


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Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas To All

Our kids are all nestled all snug in their beds while visions of getting up at some horrid hour dance in their heads. It must be Christmas tomorrow.

We have had a nice Christmas Eve... We spent some of the day finishing our favorite Christmas goodies. Santa's cookies:

And peppernuts:

This evening we opted out of the Christmas Eve service, and spent time enjoying each other at home. After dinner the kids opened their p.j.'s (or as Lucy calls them, see-bays), and we read more of Tabitha's Travels, our advent read aloud.

This morning, Mary Beth came into our room and told us she had written a prayer that she wanted to read when we read Tabitha's Travels tonight. This is what she wrote (I've typed it just as she wrote it):

Dear God,
Thank you for sending your only son to die for our sins and that we get to celabrate when your son was born. Help us remeber that Christmas is about you also help us remember that Christmas is about geting the most wonderful present of all and not all the other presents that we get at Christmas time. But also help us remember about you and have a great Christmas.

We had so much fun singing Christmas carols after Mary's prayer, that we all forgot to leave out the cookies for Santa we had made earlier in the day! Guess that means more for us tomorrow!

Merry Christmas!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

The First Will Be the Last

The final crate arrived today...wahoo! It was separated from the rest of our stuff somewhere along the way. That means the kids are finally sleeping in their own beds and not the stiff loaner temp beds from the base.

The coveted box 001 was also in this missing crate. Box 1 is usually the hardware box for shelves, beds, and tables. They do this to help you keep track of all those small screws and parts that would be lost in the sea of paper and over 300 boxes.

Unfortunately our movers wrecked their truck earlier in the day. I don't think our stuff was on it, but they had to scramble to get another truck (from their competition, another local moving company) to be able to deliver the stuff. They called me to let me know they were running late. A team of 4 showed up so they easily unloaded our stuff. Then three of them departed for another delivery (I'm sure they were late for) and left one behind to help me assemble tables and bunk beds. After a few beds he starts to tell the story of why they were late. His english is not very good, and he seems very chipper for having just crashed an expensive moving truck. Kristi commented that all the Italian drivers are crazy, he smiled and said "no, not me! The other truck driver was crazy," he said. He told us the other truck driver did not "respect me, so now my truck is caput!".

As we approach Christmas, it is fun to enjoy our family holiday traditions, in spite of the boxes, delivery dudes, and piles of things yet to organize. Kristi said she would do some baking today. She took turns with the kids to make dough for the Christmas Eve sugar cookies, then start the multi-day process for peppernuts, and most importantly, my favorite, my Grandmother's prune cake. We added some frosting this year - yummy!

The kids have had quite a day, excitement with the movers and then all the nervous energy building up towards Christmas. Thanks to the wonders of email I have found the old residents of this house and learned how to get some things working easily. Now we have the armed forces tv going and can watch some holiday parades and football. Yeah! It's great to have all our stuff and starting to make the house look like ours.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

We Have A Small Emergency

Those are the words that began a conversation I had with Ted on our cell phones a week or two ago, the first night we were to stay in the house.

Every room in our house has beautiful, tall wooden doors. And they all have the old fashioned locks with these adorable old-fashioned keys for each door.

Charming, no?

Now, on to the story. Ted and Riley have gone to the Tiny Living Facility for one last run of stuff as we moved in (it took more than one van load for all our luggage, kids, and legos when we finally moved out). I'm hang in' out with Mary, Cory and Lucy trying to get beds ready.

Lucy needs to go to the bathroom, but the flushers on European toilets are often out of a small child's reach, as they are in our house, and she asks me to flush when she's done. So, I'm hanging out near the bathroom, waiting on her to finish. Of course, she needs her privacy, so she shuts the door.

And locks it.

Unfortunately, it wasn't as easy for her to unlock it, and we immediately realize we have a small problem. And I can't really help her from the hallway. I went to find another key to try to turn it from the outside, but it's no use. We do have a window in the bathroom, but all the windows in this house have these handy dandy outdoor shades that cover the entire window, and open from the inside with a large rope, and the one in the bathroom is closed for the night. So, we can't get in that way to help her.

Poor child. She's getting more and more distraught, so turning the key is getting more and more impossible for her, and I see no way of getting her out, aside from her turning the key, or us destroying the roulans outside.

I'm sitting outside the door, peering into the keyhole, trying to calm her down and give her encouragement and instructions. It was at about this point that I call Ted and ask him how long before he will get back. He wonders why--because we have a small emergency, I tell him. Then I fill him in on the excitement.

It was shortly after that that I'm able to talk Lucy through how she needs to turn the key (Lucy, turn the key towards the bathtub, and keep turning it...don't stop! Turn it some more, almost there!), and finally I'm able to open the door and pull her into my arms.

And we gathered all the keys from all the doors and Lucy promised not to do that again. I'm guessing it will be an easy promise to keep.

This picture was taken a day or two later, outside the bathroom. She's holding the offending key and wagging her finger back and forth. As cool as it would have been to have pictures from the actual moment, it honestly never crossed my mind then.

We have since learned that not all the keys/locks in the house are interchangeable. So now if we want to open a locked door, we invariably have to try at least a few keys until we get a match. We like to think of it as our own little Amazing Race (cbs tv show) roadblock in life.

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Location:Viale de la Comina,Pordenone,Italy

Saturday, December 18, 2010


First things first. For the grandparents: here is a picture of the kids in front of our house.

Now, on to one of the bajillion adaptations we are making in the new country. It has to do with our trash. Trash here has six separate categories. We have the glass, the plastics/cans, the paper, the yard waste, the food waste and the trash. Oh, and don't forget the batteries and toner cartridges. And it can all get very confusing. We have a 19 page handout with all the instructions.

Here is our first attempt at separating and sorting our trash.

We quickly realized we would need something not quite so unsightly, and I purchased a few trash cans, which Riley immediately labeled.

The only thing we can leave at the roadside by our house for collection is
the actual trash. And, we can only put it out when it is actually full. Additionally, from what we've been told, they will occasionally go through the trash to make sure you are not throwing things away that should be recycled in some other fashion. Oh, the pressure!

So, what do we do with the other items? Well, all over town are different colored bins to which we can take our things to discard. We have found a grouping of them just around the corner of our house, and behind some industrial buildings. The fact that these are not along the side of a road near all the crazy drivers is huge.

I love that one of the pictures to accompany the organic waste is fishbones. If you weren't sure whether or not to hold your breath before opening this container, now you know!

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Casa di Gatlin

We moved from the Tiny Living Facility into our house!!!! wahoo!

Monday we received our temporary furniture and then Tuesday our unaccompanied baggage (fast small shipment - no furniture allowed) was delivered. To recap we have spent from 20 Oct until now in some state of temporary housing. And more to go, with our main house hold goods still "in transit". Not complaining just keeping score, because advice from a friend was, "you are in Italy, no whining!"

First funny story. We've been warned that the wiring and electrical system in the houses are dramatically different than what we expect from the US. Got it. 220 vs 110 v and 50 vs 60 hz. Yep! We were warned that we will eventually blow a fuse and the whole house will go black, sounds like normal Christmas in the Gatlin household. On the first day when we turned the power on the radiators warmed and the fans attached to them spun up easily. I did notice a slight burning smell in the kitchen but figured it was just dust clearing out the first time you use a heater in the winter. It smelled slightly like burning plastic, but was not enough to alarm me. Kristi lit some expensive yankee candles and we pressed on. Advance to tuesday morning (we arrive early from TLF eagerly awaiting our stuff). I go around and adjust the radiator fans to warm things up. 30 minutes or so later - POW. Breaker's blown. Hmmmm I don't have anything plugged in and only a few lights on. This could be very bad if the house can't handle its own heating system. I run to the panel and reset the switch. When I come back up from the basement, Kristi shows me the smoke coming from the kitchen radiator. That would explain the burning plastic smell. I remove the cover from the radiator and begin to inspect. I'm a man and it's my duty to reconcile all radiator issues. Christmas Story anyone?

I don't see any black or burnt parts. So I cycle the fan switch some more. KA-POW. Sparks (small flame) and no more power. Yep I found the problem. How does this window open? Need to let the smoke out.

Just to top it off. Wednesday is an Italian holiday. No way to get that worked on. But all is not lost. The radiator still works, just no blower.

All kidding aside, Tuesday was the first night in the house. New sleeping arrangements for the kids. Odds by themselves and evens together.

It has a good kitchen. Great by Italian standards.

It has a large porch

And a great yard for the kids

Here's a shot of the front.

The house was definitely built in the 70's and has all the tiles to prove it. But it is big enough for us and has some room for the kids to run outside. And it is close to work!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Here are a few more pictures from Thanksgiving weekend. I loved just looking out the windows of the house and taking in these views, and I loved going outside and breathing in the clean, fresh air. And I took a lot of pictures.

The day we spent recuperating from the previous day's driving episodes produced this adorable snowman:

The mountain we were on looked like this when we weren't looking out the back windows:

The kids were so, so tired of me taking their photos. Luckily we have them fairly well trained. Trust me though, immediately before and after any one of these pictures, someone was whining.

And don't look now, but if we manage to get Christmas cards out this year, here's the winning family photo.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Alpine Drive

Part of the fine print in the email prep for the turkey day trip to Salzburg said, 'don't forget chains for your car.'

Wait, we don't have chains, we just got here, we don't even have coats good for snow much less equipment for the van to tackle snow. Not even an ice scraper. What did we sign up for?

I was able to buy chains before we left, apparently they are readily available at most gas stations. Hmmm, Makes me think well need them sometime in the assignment, maybe on this trip. Yikes.

The drive across the mountain pass into Austria was not snowy. We saw signs for the chain-install pull off area, but did not need to use it. Whew.

It was snowing heavily when we left on our day trip into Salzburg . The first stop was the salt mine. We made it to there easily enough, but the roads were getting bad and it was only 10 in the morning. The mine entrance is hidden away high amongst some steep hills. When we left the mine, the trip down the hill was treacherous to say the least. We had 5 cars in our train, and we were number 2 in line. At one point I look back and see the car behind us completely sideways in the road, wheels locked, and sliding right for us. I decided to get moving and get some space between us. We made it down that hill and into the city without a wreck, despite that car behind me performing a complete 360 degree spin in the road just before the snow plow coming up the mountain.

After a few hours of shopping and enjoying Salzburg we had to once again brave the roads. We were confident the Autobahn would be ok since it would be plowed and well traveled, but our house was 40 min off the main road on side streets deep into mountain ski country.

Just minutes after entering the highway we pass the plows. I wasn't sure it was the best plan, but they were moving pretty slow. The roads were certainly better behind the plows than in front of them. The roads were passable. I say that because many people passed us in lanes that I certainly didn't feel comfortable driving on. The one lane with two tire paths was all I wanted to be on.

We stopped a couple times on the 2 hour trip and waited for the group to get back together. Over time we ended up spread out and some were quite unsure of driving in the snow.

We had intel from another member of the group that had made the trip earlier in the day that chains were required to make it to the lodge. That had really freaked out a couple of the drivers.

As we rounded the corner, left the last main road and began the steep climb to the lodge my hands gripped the wheel a little tighter. First up was the lead car, a giant suburban...I watched from as far back as I could be while still being able to comfortably see what was happening. The road is mostly straight but very steep, and the last 50 yards have a hairpin switchback. The giant chevy makes it fine. Ok. My turn. I get some speed to maintain momentum. There is some slippage but I'm going in the right direction. I make it over the last wooden bridge and prep for the hairpin. I let the momentum carry me up, slowing, then start the turn. We initially turn, but then start slipping towards the rock wall on the uphill side, I decide that is better than the steep downhill drop on the other side. We stop before contact, and I ease back into the gas and safely make it to the drive way. Wahoo! I say hey that wasn't so bad. I quickly park, pour the kids into bed, and then head on foot down the hill to help the others. Car number 3 is the same one that was sideways earlier. He looses traction much earlier in the hill and the boys are out installing chains on his Audi. After some fumbling we get him up the hill. Car number 4 was a minivan similar to ours. He makes it up without chains just like I did. I warned him about the slip and he also avoids the rock wall. Last but not least is the most freaked out driver. She had already moved over to the passenger seat to let me drive when I walked down to check on her. I give it my all, but her van seemed lighter than mine and she did not have the same traction. I lost forward momentum just before the hairpin and started sliding back down the hill. Eventually we stopped sliding and she quickly handed me her set of chains. The fellas help me put them on and we get the last of our vehicles into the parking area.

I think some of the guys lost a few months of heartbeats in that drive, but it all worked out in the end. Seems to me it was just God's way of giving us guys some shared challenges to overcome so we could grow together. And a good excuse for a stiff drink when we were all safely inside the warm lodge.

The next day we decided not to leave the mountain and just let the kids play in the snow. The kids loved it.

The drive home on Sunday was a little wet, but no snow. Yea!!! Another European adventure complete.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Christmas Market

We spent part of yesterday at Salzburg's Christmas Market. It had been snowing most of the day, the sun had just set, and the fortress high above on the hill was illuminated when we arrived. It was picture perfect.

We had arrived there somewhat unbelievably, with four of the five families together, despite the fact that we had been separated at red lights through the city and confident that the fifth family will be able find us in the Market (they were kind of the leaders of the pack). We find our way to the market and agree to disperse and meet back in a couple of hours.

It starts out well. Our family is looking at the items in various booths, taking in the sights and sounds. We get a little bit down the first row and Ted says he will take the kids to a sugar booth...they were happy. (I heard gleeful echos of 'sugar' as they walked off)

Things start to get harder as we all begin to have cold, cold cold that Lucy becomes inconsolable. She was unable to articulate exactly the problem, poor girl. Ted thinks that perhaps buying the pink robot she liked at one of the booths will fix it. It doesn't. (let it be noted that we managed to buy a toy (that is not a toy) made in China! at the SALZBURG, AUSTRIA Christmas market).

The girls are with me and Riley is also on the verge of tears. I am, too, quite honestly. My feet were in such pain.

Our friends taught us the phrase 'there's not bad weather, just bad clothes,' and we have quite possibly mentioned that on our blog before. Might I just say that yesterday we definitely fell on "bad clothes" half of the phrase.

We manage to find Ted with the other two, and we agree that with our meet up time still an hour away, we have got to find someplace to be inside and get warmed up.

It was at this moment that the fifth family passed us and said we were all meeting at the ice rink (it was no Freedom Rink, though) to eat dinner at a nearby restaurant. Praise God.

We had a wonderful dinner--schnitzel, bratwurst, soup, and pasta. We were all feeling much better after that.

Just had to make it back to our parking garage and then we would be safe on our way back to the house.

But wait...did I mention that it had been snowing all day? I'll let Ted write tomorrow about his drive home in the snow.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

God was in the details

Praise God for his glory! He worked out so many small details yesterday!
He absolutely rocks!

Yesterday was quarterly wing commanders breakfast with staff and I was able to meet some of the guys we are staying with in Austria. That divine appointment helped me in my standard standoff-ish-ness to be more comfortable.

Then we got a late start on our drive and ended up driving more in the dark than we wanted to, but it worked out. You have to buy a driving pass in Austria called a vignette. We missed the border spot to buy it, but God once again was setting us up for success. The next stop, was a gas station that also sold them. I knew they would probably sell them, but the amazing part was that as we were leaving I spied a buddy (that I met in the morning) getting gas. We exchanged notes on how to get to our final destination and the formed a 2 ship american minivan team. It is so much easier to be with somebody you know. The mutual support really helps when you are traveling in a new area for the first time.

Here's a few pics snapped from the iPhone. The sun is in a bad position and the pics don't do God's glorious creation justice. We'll take more when the sun is higher in the sky.

Kristi is off shopping with her new friends. I'm left guarding the pumpkin pies and kids playing legos. Ahhh to be out of the Television Living Facility!

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Daddy, who is that guy?

This last weekend we ventured over to another area of the base. Aviano is unique in that has multiple areas spread all around a few towns. Anyway...we were looking into the base library and some additional shops (uniforms and furniture shops - As a side note it is interesting that this somewhat isolated overseas base has more infrastructure than our last base).

Back to the story. This shopping area has a couple of restaurants so we had some fresh. Sitting next to us was the spokesperson for subway - Jared.

He was in town for a quick promotion put on by the organization that runs the food establishments on the base. He was also around for a fun run 5k and then went to the subway to hand out some promo stuff.

He was handing out free t-shirts. So of course I was IN. I would have just taken the shirt and toy football for Cory and run away, but Jared wanted to give me his autograph and wish me all the best.

It took us most of the day to explain to the kids who he was and why anyone cared that he was handing out autographs. I guess I should be happy that they don't know who he means they don't watch tv too much. But then again it could just be the AFN commercials have confused them and they don't know any current pop culture heroes.

In the continuing saga of TLF life. The fly met his demise recently. Unfortunately he was on my belly when Kristi smacked me in order to kill him. We don't miss him!

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Monday, November 22, 2010


Their first gelato...

Chocolate, chocolate, lemon, and...

Pumpkin? Lucy picked based on color alone.

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