I've been absent from the blogosphere for quite some time. I do sincerely apologize for depriving you of my wit and charm. I know that this is the reason you surf the net, perhaps even the reason you get up in the morning; I am truly sorry. There are several reasons--most of them legitimate--for this unplanned blog sabbatical.
First, Matt's sister, Marialana, came for a wonderful two-and-a-half week visit. Since she chose to spend her J-term here in Italy with us instead of taking an intensive three-week course at college, we made our best attempts to give her a little Italian crash course. Matt and Lana took a little brother-sister trip to Florence and Rome for five days, doing a blitz of the major sites that would not have been possible with the pace and luggage of kids. Once back in Padua, we did some more sight-seeing all together of Padua and the surrounding area. We tried to take Lana to see Petrarch's house in Arqua Petrarca (about an hour away), but it ended up being impossible to reach by bus, so we ended up taking a ten minute train ride to the nearby town of Monselice, a charming village with medieval walls and a scenic walk/pilgrimmage of seven "churches" winding their way up a hill to a large church at the top.
Leaving Matt behind to do some work in the archives, Lana and I took the kids to Verona together and, by a wrong turn, discovered the amazing Roman Theater and Archeological Museum. I posted pictures of that about a week ago. It was originally a Roman theater dating back to the second century (AD). On top of this was a temple. Then, the Gesuati built a monastery and the marvelously frescoed church of St. Jerome above this. Built even higher up into the hill was the Castel di San Pietro (Castle of St. Peter). As we went higher and higher, the view of beautiful Verona and its river just kept getting more and more spectacular. This was a nice reward for poor Lana since she ended up carrying Dominic almost the entire way. (Cate was already in the baby carrier on me, sleeping.) We didn't get a chance to go to the very top because the castle is only open on Sundays, but it was an amazing find. I think it was even more exciting because we found it by chance, peeking in through a side gate at the towering ruins, wondering, "What's THAT?" and then discovered that it was a museum with a cheap entrance fee!
Lana and I made a little trip to Venice by ourselves. We left Matt and the kids back at the apartment because of the frigid weather and the annoyingly abundant stairs in Venice. It was still magical despite the weather. We had a lot of fun trying out the cozy (code for: crowded, standing room at bar only) cafes to try a toasted panini, cappuccino, and fritelle. The best cafes are, apparently, jam-packed with people. You weasel your way to the bar, give your order to one of the two bartenders when they ask, wait for it, take it to some corner of the floor, trying to stay out of the way of the opening doors and the fifteen other people vying for room in the warmth of the cafe. Should the cafe have a table or two, you will pay a premium for it. The prices are often 100% more for taking you drink at a table instead of a bar. You don't pay until after you consume your drink or food. Very interesting. They must make a killing. All the panini and wraps are pre-made. I'd say the average customer only stays 8 minutes. One guy makes drinks and the other guy heats up the panini. Very small space (although this particular place was very classy with polished wood bars, glass sliding doors, and a hanging, mirrored display of drinks. Brilliant. Amazing.
So Marialana is the first reason that you've been deprived. I'll try to get her to do a guest post on something she saw for a fresh perspective on Italian life to make up for it. :)
The second reason is that we intensified our potty-training efforts and with great success! We can now proudly boast of having a "mostly potty-trained" son. Perhaps by 3 he'll be completely there. Just diapers at night now, and we've had several days without any accidents--or splashes, as he refers to them (because he gets a slash on the paper instead of a star)--including going on several lengthy outings.
The third reason is that our internet has been dysfunctional, again. Or still, depending on your perspective. Server error. Internet not working. This time for four days. I actually wrote a whole stash of posts off-line a few days ago, figuring that I should just stop stalling, get down to business, and restore the sunshine to your lives...