In which our one way street became a two way road.

Do you remember the big hill we walk up to go to the bus stop? The one that is helping with my work out? It's a one way street going downhill. I always assumed this was because it's so steep that the cars would stall out on it. Most cars in Europe are stick shifts. Turns out that cars can go up the hill when they have to. And they have to, when there is no other way out of the neighborhood.

Friday night Joe slept over his friend Oscar's house. Oscar's sister is Karina, Jess's friend so Karina slept over our house. Around 2 am the dogs started barking. I thought Rascal had to go out. I let the dogs out and back in, thinking that would be the end of it. They spent the next hours restless and barking...or howling at the wind. In hindsight we think the dogs heard something. When we woke up the wind was really blowing. So much so that debris was flying around our back yard. We didn't think much of it, the sun was shining. Around 11 I left to take Karina home. Jess, and Alexa went with us. The wind was still blowing pretty hard. So much so, that I told the kids to be on the look out for trees that looked like they were going to fall. There are a lot of tall trees around us. We came to the end of our street and went to turn right but not before spotting this to our left...

Then we turned right and found this, two houses down.

And then there was this...
So we turned around and went another way...and was waved back by a van telling me that we couldn't get through that way...and any other way we could find. So, we went home and called Karina's Mom to let her know that we might be able to walk her to the station later but now we were hunkering down. We at least had power. By this time, Sujaree, Karina's mom, had lost power at her house.
We managed to keep our power all day and night. We invited Sujaree, and her family to come over and watch the little blurbs about the storm on CNN international. It was really frustrating not being able to understand the little news coverage we could find on the local station. Fuertes vientos...strong winds. It reached over 160 kilometers an hour. That is a level 2 hurricane. I'm glad I went to the supermarket on Friday and stocked up on a lot of essentials. We had plenty to eat for dinner. The kids helped make spaghetti and a salad. The girls had baked a cake during the day when they got bored so we had that for dessert with some Strawberries I had picked up at the market.
We hadn't seen many of our neighbors until today. Today, everyone was out with cameras...some to take in the damage in others houses. Some unfortunately to look at what happened to their property. We were lucky and didn't have any damage at all. Our pool has a collection of leaves and sticks in it but when compared to what others experienced we were so very lucky. Here is what our neighborhood looks like after level 2 hurricane winds hit.

This is a little alleyway off the street adjacent to ours. I've never been sure what was up there. I'm sure someone's house but it can't be a driveway because there is no gate.

This is a picture of someone's back yard. All the green in the middle is fallen trees, that used to be a porch area.

You can see they were starting to clear this out this morning. The tree fallen in the distance has a crew working on it. They had started almost right away yesterday morning clearing trees but this is so overwhelming.

This is just a picture from the ridge above our area. Notice the sunshine. It was like this yesterday too. No rain. No clouds. Just sunshine.

And a picture of pussy willows because they always remind me of Easter in Freehold NJ. Spring is coming.

This is the one way out of our neighborhood. You go up the wrong way on the big hill make a right onto the ridge road and the you have to go under this tree to get out.

The house this tree is sitting on is also in the pictures of our walk to the bus stop. I love this house. It's so quaint. I expect to see Snow white coming out of it. I don't think anyone lives there. I have seen people working on the inside though, like they are renovating it, which just makes me more sad because it's such a sweet little house.

There is the cutest little blue and white tile planter under the window. That was smashed too.

On my walk this morning I went back toward the big hill and up to the alternate road we take to the bus stop. This route is a little quicker. This road took a beating. There were large trees down every 10 feet or so... To the right

to the left.

This was driving into town. We decided to head to the park today. The puppies needed to run and so did the kids. Even the road toward the circle in the center of town had trees down. There was a large one down in front of the farmacia. It's just a mess.

The really sad thing is that a sports center's roof collapsed killing four kids. It's scary to know that we had no notice this was coming. I've heard reports that it *was* reported but we don't watch the spanish news. And there wasn't anything in our where we check our weather. Plus, one of our friends speaks spanish and she is questioning why we weren't warned. It's just really odd weather...especially given that it was aboslutely beautiful out. So, in hindsight we think the dogs were barking at the falling trees. We tihnk they could hear all the snapping and crashing that we couldn't hear because we had the security blinds down. Here is a report from CNN.com

So, now to end on a more uplifting note....some pictures of our trip to the park. I think this is Mount Serrat.

Or this is...lol...

More snow capped mountains in the distance. I took these with Andrea's camera and it doesn't seem to do distance very well. The mountains were all very clear today.
Jess and Alexa playing hoops...while a goup of Spanish kids played futbal all around them.

A picture of the park.

The kids playing lacrosse.

The puppies hanging with us...

So that was our very uneventful, eventful weekend. Hope you had a great one!
Love you all

Happy Birthday Grandma!!!

We love you and miss you!!! We'll call you later. Happy Birthday!
Love,. US


A quick update

Hi Everyone,

Things have returned to normal rather quickly. We're back in the routine. Andrea, Alexa and Joe have started play practice. Jess is enjoying seeing her friends again. I had my first Spanish lesson of the new year. We had the chimney repair guy out and declare our chimney in fine order. *shrug* I thought it worked but was missing a piece. No pasa nada. Piece shmiece. I'm building a fire the next time the heat kicks off...which is usually daily but stopped happening yesterday. I'm not complaining. I love when things fix themselves. Really, what we need to do is increase the electical input into the house. The landlord is working on it.

I had a trip to the Asian market. I made a Thai curry that was really delicious but spicey. I also took the opportunity to go to La Boqueria while I was there. It's right around the corner. I took some pictures of some of the stalls...

We have our Vonage phone up and working. If you don't have our number post here and I'll email it to you. I tried to get it on the Christmas cards but I think I missed some of them. It's a Massachusetts number so for those of you out of state it might be a long distance charge but it beats the international rate. Just please remember the time difference.

Otherwise I spent the day watching the Inauguration Coverage. I think it's a great day to be an American. I have great hopes for this President to work in a bi-partisan way. I can't help but remember those videos from 4th grade that taught us about the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King has long been a hero of mine. I think he was a living example of Christ's word...turning the other cheek and loving your enemy. I also think he pushed our country to live up to it's ideals. And I remember a fight I helped break up as an RA at Seton Hall that had racial overtones to it. I remember the vile words that were directed toward students who lived on my floor. And the aftermath on campus. So, I watch today remembering the history and marveling how far we can come in a few decades. And I think maybe it's possible to help change the world more through example of our goodness then the might of our bombs.

That's it for now. Love you all.


the love of a family is life's greatest blessing

We had a great three weeks in the US. We started out in NJ. We had to get some shopping in for the holiday and we were able to visit our friends from Winding Brook. It was a great night to get together, have pizza and be entertained by our very talented kids. We woke up Christmas morning at the Residence Inn were were staying at.

Our Christmas tree this year.
Ok...well it's really the tree in the lobby of the common area where they had the buffet but we're pretending so go with it.
Opening stockings in the room...

We spent the rest of Christmas day at the Ruotolo's. It was so nice to see everyone again. Frankie and Nicole are growing up so fast. I just can't believe that Frankie is that little boy who looked up at Nick and asked, "What'd you bring her for?" the first time I met him....he was 3 I think.

Nicole...growing into a beauty.

Frankie and Grandpa.

Jessica messing around with Uncle Frank.

The day after Christmas we over loaded the Pacifica and headed West to PA, to visit the Soper clan.

Our three teens...well, two and a half.lol Alexa is almost there.

Tickle fights!!!

A rest after ticklefights.

Opening presents

Family showtime

Making gingerbread houses and men.

We were only in PA for one night. The next afternoon we headed north to Massachusetts. We hit the mall on Sunday and then on Monday we met up with the Arakelians and Darkos for a little lazertag. Fun was had by all...especially when we went to Friendly's after for some icecream.
We met the Maury's for dinner that night. The next day Nick took the kids skiing at Wachusetts while I enjoyed a girls getaway with Di and Jeanie. We met at Mohegan Sun to do a little shopping, eating and a lot of laughing. We ended the day at Jeanie's because she whipped up a poundcake for us. How can you resist that?

New Year's Eve it snowed. Lots. And Alexa and I went to our hair appointments anyway.
Thankfully it slowed in time for me to safely get Andrea and her three friends, as well as Alexa and Courtney to the hotel we planned to stay at for the night. For Andrea's birthday we took her to a local hotel to swim in the pool, order room service and a movie and wait for midnight. The girls had a great time, even if a fire alarm did interupt their movie.

Back at home on New Year's Day aka, Andrea's birthday Grandma and Grandpa were up to help celebrate.

Nick took Andrea and Alexa to MtSnow for an overnight trip. Jessica and Joseph didn't want to go...until about a half hour after they left and Joe realized what he was turning down. Joe and Jess got to go to the movies and do some shopping...and got a haircut. Not quite the same amount of fun but it was the best I could do.
Alexa on the snowboard.

Andrea on the skis

Mischief and Rascal even got dolled up. They had a day at the groomer in which Mischief got a bow on her head. Look close.

It's the last time it'll ever be there. We've got a strick "no bows" policy for our puppies...but the kids couldn't resist a quick picture before we took it out.

Hanging with the Coopermans! The kids had a blast playing a dressup game while the adults caught up on with each other.

Our last Saturday in the US we traveled from Massachusetts to NJ for Aunt Josie's 92nd birthday party. We got to see lots of cousins and family we hadn't had a chance to see yet. I gave the kids the camera to take some pictures for us.

Aunt Josie and Dad
Grandpa and Jess fooling around

Dani Rose playing the videogame

Happy 92nd Birthday Aunt Josie!

After the party we went home and relaxed for our last night in NJ. The next morning,Grandma made breakfast for us and we got to visit with Nicole and Aunt Faith again. Then, we set out for the airport and our long journey home.
We didn't get pictures of all our fabulous visits and I didn't write about everyone we had the privilege to see. But, we did enjoy every moment of being with all of you. We love you all and are looking forward to all those visits we talked about!
Love you