Sunday, July 1, 2018

It's Over...finally!

"School is finally done!" Those were the words of Emma yesterday as she finally received her official final marks for Terza Media (8th grade). Of course, before I share those results you need to know a little more about the process. Samuel wrote about his final exam experience last year, but of course, Emma had some different twists to her experience. (For the record since I never updated his post, he received a final grade of 10)

First, Emma took her State Invalsi Tests in April instead of June. These are standardized tests in math, Italian and English. Poor Emma had to complete these exams during the week she had her leg cast. The 90-minute exam time was pushing her limits of comfort but thankfully she only had to go to school for the exam on those three days and no regular lessons. The results of these tests factor into a percentage of her final grade.

Secondly, it was about one month more or less before the end of the school year when Emma came home with the news that her professor told her she would need to prepare for an interrogation on the ENTIRE year's literature program. Just she and one other classmate named Giacomo. To be honest I was ticked because Emma has been working SO hard all year and was at the top of her class. Why add a whole other level of pressure to an already stressful period of time leading up to end of the year tests and final examinations? It was a twisted form of a compliment I learned after telling others about the added requirement for Emma. The universal response was "Ah, the prof wants to give her an exit grade of 10!" Ten being the highest mark you can get.

Emma faced the challenge with wavering levels of anxiety having had the interrogation date set and then change several times. The day she was prepared to be interrogated, the prof decided there was no time and postponed it until after the weekend. This is a typical occurrence and so you can understand why our kids often leave the house full of anticipation and anxiety for an interrogation that may or may not happen. "Always be prepared" is a motto to live by in Italian schooling. Finally, when she and Giacomo were interrogated it lasted about an hour of having to alternately answer questions on authors and literary works. She did amazing and received a 9 for this added interrogation!

School ended on June 8, and the end of the year program had her being recognized for her 3rd place finish in the Kangourou Math competition held in March. There were 30+ eighth grade participants from the two middle schools in Caselle. Luca too received an award for finishing 5th out of 60+ participants that included both 6th and 7th graders for his category. I don't know where they get their mad math skills from!!

Most of Emma's classmates with their Italian Professor on the last day of school
Emma and Luca both received their final semester grades on Monday, June 11. Both did wonderfully and we are so proud of them! That day Emma also received her "entrance to examination" grade. She was the only one in her class to receive a 10 heading into the exams. And to top off the day of excitement, Emma decided that she wanted to switch high schools from linguistics to scientific. Another story for another day, but with just 10 days left before leaving for the USA it was a scramble to find a school with openings and make the official switch for her.

Since Emma already completed her Invalsi tests earlier in the year, her written exams began on June 12 and only included one day of Italian, one day of French/English and one day of Math. Of the three essay choices given for Italian, she was thankful to see a literature related topic allowing her to draw upon her recent interrogation studying making the five pages much easier to write. These days of written exams were no less filled with stress even with her top entrance grade. Actually, I think she was more stressed because of the high mark and not wanting to bomb out on the written exams. Poor girl, threw up multiple times on the first two written exam days. The school even had to call me on the first day, asking me to come and check on her bringing along some saltines and fruit juice. Oh, the stress! We were just as ready for exams to be over with as Emma.

With no time to breath after the conclusion of written exams on Thursday, Emma had to immediately be ready for her oral interrogation the very next day. Of course, the upside was that she could just be done with it all and not have to carry continued stress and studying into the next week and a half like many others had to. Emma was not required to write a thesis like Samuel, however, she did still have to make a comprehensive and cohesive connection from all 10 subjects to one main topic. She like Samuel chose The Cold War Era for her topic.

Oral Examination
The oral exam is a State Examination open to the public, so we were allowed to observe her interrogation. Emma may have been the only student that either allowed their parents to attend or that even showed up in support of their child. The boys even came and it was a joy to witness Emma's confidence and ability to communicate in Italian, English and French over a wide range of subjects. Each professor and even the Caselle School President posed questions to Emma. To me, it seemed much more intense than Samuel's as he worked from his powerpoint presentation and did not have to field as many questions or even discuss each subject in the end. Emma had to pass along her artwork and technology drawings from all three years of middle school, had to play a piece of music on her recorder, was given a paragraph from a poem to read aloud and then asked to give a paraphrase and her opinion of whether or not she agreed with the poet's thinking. From what Emma observed of her classmates' orals, hers was on a higher level, as it should have been for someone looking to graduate with a 10.

The video below is her playing the Italian National Anthem. When asked about her selection and why she didn't choose a song in English, she responded: "Because I love Italy!" They were left in wonder as to why, but it clearly sums up where Emma considers home.

Extreme delight and relief--it's over!
(Notice her seabands on her wrists that she wore to help with nausea-LOL)
So all this to share that Emma did receive her final mark yesterday with her result being a 10!!!

We are so proud of her! Not because she received a ten, but rather to have seen her growth and maturity over the course of this past year, her perseverance, desire for excellence and her determination. She is a friend to everyone and is so well loved by her classmates and professors.

Proud of a job well done!
We laugh every time her friends walk or ride their bikes past our house and yell "Ciao, Emma!" at the top of their lungs. Granted they are all boys who do that, but they are courteous enough to yell "Ciao, Kleis famil-ee" now and then too. We know that she will maintain contact with many of her middle school friends, especially since she knows of seven that are attending the same Scientific High School next year.

Flowers from Dada

Cake from Mamma

Brava Emma!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Choir Concert Way Back When

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away....Oh, sorry. Let's begin again. A long time ago, as in this past December, Samuel performed in a Christmas concert with his high school choir. Singing was a new venture for him that caught his attention at the beginning of the school year. He joined and participated in the choir all the way through the first semester but the reality of the situation was that it made for a very long Thursday as he didn't get home until 5:30pm and generally he had a lot of homework to complete for his Friday lessons. By the beginning of the second semester he decided to back out along with nearly half of the group that they started with in the fall. Commuting an hour each way to and from school is tough and I honestly don't blame him. It is no small feat to balance studies and extracurriculars unfortunately. 

We are so proud of Samuel though for courageously stepping out of his comfort zone and discovering something that was enjoyable for him. We since have learned of a gospel choir here in Caselle so maybe that might be something for him to check out next year that would be closer to home.

Samuel added his baritone voice to the choir and his director was happy to have another male voice in a choir and school where there is a female majority. Samuel even had a solo in a song (that his director ended up joining to make a duet during the concert).

We had to chuckle because the concert did not have a lot of Christmas to it. Well, there was Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" sung with an Italian accent. But that was it. I mean what can you expect when there are not really any Italian Christmas songs in their musical heritage? Apparently there was a Japanese Christmas song, but who knew? It was a very eclectic range of pieces from "Give Me That Old Time Religion", "Drunken Sailor", Japanese and several African tribal songs.

On this particular night the student choir of about 30 students was joined by alumni, staff and professors. Anyway, enjoy the pictures and video clips. (Samuel's solo is in the first video) 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Playing To Their Own Tune

I love school breaks and how the downtime and boredom produce creativity in our children. It is a pity that they don't have much of that time regularly during the rigours of the school year. Be that what it may, Luca and Emma have shown increased musical inspiration since the Christmas break.

Both are inspired to teach themselves songs that they want to play--i.e. no piano lesson songs, because those are boring.

Emma easily picked up the piano again after several years of not playing. She was taught in European music theory to identify notes in the Do-Re-Mi scale format instead of the Amerian A-B-C. Therefore, when she went to look up how to play a song on YouTube she felt more comfortable in transcribing the notes into a written format that made sense to her. I asked her why she didn't just copy the drawn notes and she said, this way was much easier for her. I didn't argue beyond that because the results spoke for themselves. When you have an ear for music, I guess you are allowed to do things in an unconventional way.

Emma's piano theory

Luca has never taken a piano lesson in his life and yet I think there is something mathematically appealing to piano playing. When looking at sheet music he can easily figure out the spacing between notes and how that corresponds to the keyboard. Just like ever since he was very little he didn't ever need to count the spaces on a board game to move forward 6 or 12 spaces, he could just do it visually in one move. Spacial-visual is his strength! However, his latest find is the YouTube tutorials that teach songs with "falling notes". He spent hours writing out this song and had it memorized in minutes. Again, there is no arguing from the peanut gallery because his results also speak for themselves. 

Luca's falling note methodology

This is just Emma and Luca "messing around" on the piano...this does not even touch what they are learning on the guitar! Luca has been taking guitar lessons since January. He is good and shows great potential, but hates to practice! I wonder if we can find falling notes for guitarists? haha

One day when Emma gives me the "green light" to post a video of her playing the guitar and singing--believe me you will be blown away! It is all self-taught with hours upon hours of practice behind closed doors in her room. She has an amazing voice! We have to sneak up to the door and listen since she has not quite built up the courage to share her talent willingly in front of us. Pleading and begging are not working!

Jonathan is beyond happy to see some musical desire and talent finally filtering down to his kids. They have the genes for it that is for sure...let's hope the passion continues!

Monday, May 28, 2018

The reason for quiet

Blogging has certainly not been on my list of priorities over the past year. Maybe you have noticed or maybe this means of communication is outdated and you haven't even missed it much at all. Personally, I am sad that I did not take the time to record more moments of our life and ministry because actually, a lot has happened. Grace, I must give myself grace. As I look back I am trying to figure out the "why" and I have concluded there are three very big reasons.


It has only been a little over a year that I have had my Italian driver's license. I knew it would be a game changer, but it turned out to be even bigger than I imagined. Jonathan and I have essentially swapped roles, whereas I am now driving the most and he is walking everywhere. I love that I can hop in the car and do grocery shopping when it is convenient for me and not have to coordinate that around Jonathan's schedule. I love that I can serve and help friends who need a ride. I love being able to participate in and coordinate carpool rides for the kids. Driving has given me a whole new level of freedom and independence, but it has also filled up much more of my time on a daily basis, especially with having to drop off and pick up at the bus stop for my high schooler.


Another big time filler and energy exerting responsibility has been helping Luca with school. The jump from elementary to middle school was a huge transition! Going from a simplified method of studying and testing to a no-exceptions, sink or swim environment has been a mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting experience. There is always homework. Every. Single. Day. We try to work ahead if we can, but most often he only has the energy and motivation for what is due the next day. I won't belabour the details here of the reasons for his challenges, but this has been a year of Mamma needing to walk hand in hand with Luca through school. I love Luca to the moon and back so it is my JOY to help him! I have learned SO much being forced into the Italian with him at a sixth-grade level that has only had its benefits in my own confidence and ability in the language. My eyes have been opened in a whole new way to what Samuel and Emma have endured and I am just A-mazed at the level of knowledge and work it takes to move on year after year in the Italian school system. I mean I knew, but now I REALLY know! I have definitely learned how to better pray for all my children. Somedays Luca and I have little patience with each other and ourselves and nerves are raw in the battle against Satan's lies that try to convince that identity, value and worth are determined by grades.

It is a daily practice of giving AND receiving grace, making us entirely dependent on Christ. That goes for the entire family as this has touched and affected each of us over the course of this past school year. School is sanctifying, to say the least. At the end of the day or week, you can hopefully understand why I don't necessarily have the mental energies to blog.


Essentially our house is a revolving door of activity and hospitality. Starting our church services in October has only increased the level of traffic in our home. I feel like I am constantly cleaning and moving furniture in different configurations to accommodate for services, Bible studies, meals, team meetings, overnight guests, parties, drop-in visitors for coffee etc.

One can say that where one or two are gathered in Italy--there is always coffee and food.

Therefore, a lot of my time is spent in the kitchen. No calling out for pizza here! However, some of the best and most relationship building moments we have had over the past year have been in our home over a meal. We gather as a church family every 4-6 weeks for a shared meal after the service. We have Saturday night pizza once a month with our dear friends and their autistic daughter. A rare and special treat for them as a family to be invited to someone's house. Our house gets rearranged according to their daughter's liking and we just smile and welcome the new look, thankful that they feel safe and at home with us. We have hosted big, big meals like Thanksgiving--two feasts in one week. We were asked if our home could be used for a friend's 50th birthday party. Another friend calls for babysitting help. A neighbor comes over weekly for English conversation. And before you know it I am no longer asking where the days have gone, but where the months have gone.

Rest assured I am still here. Life is clipping along at an incredible speed, and I'm just focusing on my family and friends and creating a home where both can find rest, refuge, warmth and Christ's love.

Oh, the food!!!
No, seriously...oh, the food!
I was asked to decorate the birthday cake (Dalida baked it)
Party tags?...You got it!
So thankful for our multi-purpose room
Thanksgiving #2 
Whether fine dining or paper plates, hearts and tummies are always full
Today's decoration, tomorrow's pumpkin pie
Church service Sunday morning or afternoon
Friday night Bible study
Conquering one of my great fears...making pizza for Italians. I finally mastered it!
Grilling with friends on Pasquetta (day after Easter) 
Birthday cakes for every birthday in our church family...because I love you!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Tumble and Twist

It wasn't but a half hour into the school day--the first day after Easter break--when my phone rang and I saw the middle school's ID number pop up. I always have to take a deep breath before answering that number because it almost always brings bad news from the other end. Sure enough it was the voice of Emma's gym teacher calling me to say that Emma took a tumble while running and I needed to come get her because she could not bear weight on her foot and she heard a crack.

After I hurriedly finished getting dressed, I went to the school and retrieved Emma. It was a long hop to the car since I could not carry her nor did she want two 8th grade boys carrying her to the car. The gym teacher insisted that we would need to get it checked out at the ER since the accident took place on school property. Ugh, poor Emma...poor us!

When we got home Jonathan and I had to strategize how best to work an undetermined amount of time at the ER into our day. Jonathan was having a bad day himself physically after coming off an intense Easter weekend of ministry on top of returning gut pain and no energy. Therefore, for the first time in Kleis family history I attended a child in the Italian ER all by myself. Jonathan drove us and carried Emma into the hospital and then went back home to wait for our call when we were done. We didn't know how long it would take and someone needed to be home to let the boys in when they got home from school.

Chillin' while waiting to get x-ray done

I brought a sack of food, water, reading material and a back up charger for what could be a long day. We arrived at 10am and thankfully things moved along really quickly. An orthopedic assessment, x-rays, return to the orthopedic doctor and check-out were all amazingly accomplished in just 2 hours! Alleluia!

Casting...and she had her good pair of jeans on that we had to cut!

The good and bad news of it all was that Emma did not break any bones, but did sprained her ankle tendon pretty bad. So bad that they put her in a cast for one week. Not the ideal way to extend one's vacation. She attempted to return to school after two days of rest, but could only endure 2-3 hours a day since she was required to keep her foot elevated. It was a very long and miserable week for her laid up on the couch, but she was a trooper.

Sleeping, studying and permanent resting place for a week
On Wednesday, she got her cast removed. The ankle is still very tender and painful to bear weight. She was advised to use crutches for 5 more days and not do any sports for another two weeks. We are praying it heals well and quickly for her.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

11 + 1 = 12

Our youngest, Luca turned twelve years old the end of March.  I can still remember the emotion like it was yesterday of discovering our surprise gift would enter the world just nine months after arriving in Italy. I was overwhelmed and excited at the same time, but trusted that God would give us exactly what our family needed and the grace to mother three children three years and under.

Luca, life has not been dull since your entrance into the world!

We all can say that our family is much richer because of you and the special gifts that God has blessed you with. You are uniquely and wonderfully created by your loving heavenly Father who knew exactly what he was doing. You are no mistake! 

You might often ask, "why did God create me this way?" And we will respond without hesitation every time with it is because God loves you and knew the world needed YOU, there will only ever be ONE you who loves the way you do, who is gifted the way you are, and who can shine God's glory in the unique way that you do. God loves you SO much, more than Mamma and Dada, and that is a fact demonstrated by his sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for you. 

Luca, God has began a good work in your life and HE will be faithful to complete it. 

I know that this last year has been particularly challenging and frustrating for you as you began middle school and were launched into a whole new level of intensity with homework and studying. We have been slugging through it together in tears (lots of them from us both!), frustration and yet with a sense of determination. We are figuring this out together. I am so very proud of you and I know that the challenges are merely challenges--they are not defects or faults--God is making something beautiful out of it in your life. Just keep looking to Jesus! He is your answer and hope for everything!

We love your tenderness especially towards those who are younger, weak or different. You are a friend to everyone and your kindness is evident and a blessing to all who know you.

You are becoming a little musician, doing things your own way--of course! We love seeing your creative and ingenious ways of problem solving. We love your laughter, smile and craziness too.

It was our joy to celebrate your first 12 years of life! And it was a bonus that Easter break started on your birthday--maybe one of the best gifts, right?

We love you Luca, always and forever, no matter what!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

It Never Gets Old

SHARE 2018

I say it every year...but there is no week out of the year that is more highly anticipated by our kids than the week of the SHARE family education conference. This was our fourth conference and each year we become more and more rooted in relationships that are life breathing and sustaining, especially for our kids who don't have peer Christian friends in their day-to-day lives here in Italy. If you think about the life stages of pre-teens and teenagers, you know it is such a crucial age. One of our concerns and prayers for our children is that they would not become bitter against us for the sacrifices that we as parents have imposed on them because of our calling in missions to the Italian people. By God's grace we have seen them embrace their lives as MKs and I don't think they would trade the hardships and constant stream of goodbyes for anything else--but that doesn't mean it is always easy. Connecting with other kids who understand and relate to their lives, emotions and quirks has been a so critically important in providing them friendships and encouragement.
"We are all weird. And life is weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we call it love." -Robert Fulghum
Our kids call SHARE "home". As they grow older, we are seeing a whole new side of the support network surrounding our kids not just for one week in February, but throughout the year. The uniqueness of this "SHARE family" is how the leaders of the teen group continue to follow the kids throughout the year. On Saturdays, our teens have a virtual youth group meeting of sorts to chat and/or watch movies together. It's a big deal for them and I love hearing their roaring laughter echoing down the stairs each week. On top of that they are texting on a daily basis with their friends all over the world. They are thriving from these life-giving relationships and we could not be happier for them.

We continue to gain so much emotionally, spiritually and educationally from our participation in this conference. This year there were near 40 individuals from our organization alone that attended. It is a reunion that we look forward to every year allowing us to connect with our Central and Eastern European colleagues, who have adopted our family into their region. Our annual dinner together even gave reason for the CEEMed Regional Administrator and his family to make a special trip to Siófok to surprise us.

The keynote speaker this year was Michèle Phoenix. Words cannot be put into writing about the valuable contribution and insights she provided through her lectures. I am still having to chew on and internalize all that she had to share about MKs in relation to grief and I highly recommend her ministry and writings to all missionary families AND to those who desire to understand MKs and the reasons why they might get the label "weird". They are third culture beings and it is a complicated universe that they live in and we wish more people would attempt to understand them. And of course, MKs need some help figuring it out themselves along the way, and Michèle can speak about it because she lives with the title of adult MK. Visit for valuable resources and insights.

Love her!
Tyler and Bailey Dodds were back again to lead us in worship.
This year both Samuel and Luca received more testing for their sensory processing disorders. We are so thankful for the quality and professional therapists and educators that are brought in to help serve global working families. The ongoing support and counsel received from the occupational therapists throughout the year has been so helpful and I feel like with their support we are doing everything we can to help our boys thrive, grow and succeed with their unique challenges.

How awesome is it to know your online English 2 teacher in real life?! We love Mrs. T! We have known her for years, but this is Samuel's first year in her class and both he and Emma will have her next year too. 
Another highlight from the week was the kids recital. It is always a lovely evening full of great and budding talent. This year Emma participated again with a dance routine. She was intending to perform with two other close friends but they had to back out at the last minute as they were busy serving on staff this year. Emma was a rockstar who adapted at the last minute and had the courage to perform a solo routine for the first time in this venue.

Luca has been itching to perform in the talent show for years, and it might be the sole motivation factor for him begging for guitar lessons. He only began lessons in January at the local music school. The week before we left for SHARE he said he wanted to play in the recital. He only knew one song called "On the Wall." What I found impressive was how he had this 2+ minute song all memorized. The musical talent is starting to emerge in our children, which shouldn't be surprising and I promise to share more later on that topic--but we are literally amazed with their self taught initiatives.

Much relief and joy upon his performance!
It was nice to have the full gang of girls all back on the field this year. It had been two years since I have seen some of them in person so it was a sweet special time of fellowship with them this year. These ladies are a huge source of encouragement to me, always!

Are you bored yet? I should probably just wrap this post up with more pictures.

Medieval Times Week for the 5-12 year olds

Fun and enthusiastic teachers is an understatement
Free time for Luca meant: pool or pool (billiards or swimming)

Pups: 13-14 year olds


...the goodbyes never get easier...
The week of the "Beast from the East" with crazy cold temps and snow.
Luca comes back to the hotel with this picture on his iPod. "Look Mamma,  I am standing on the frozen lake!" Oh, my heart. 
Samuel's perspective of the frozen lake
...until next year...