Tuesday, February 12, 2019

1 piggy...2 piggies...3 little piggies...

...and stop!

It was Christmas week and our suspicions were confirmed with obvious signs that Cocco was indeed pregnant. There was no mistaking that her pear-shaped belly was moving when we held her.

Samuel and I immediately commenced some heavy research on "what to expect when expecting guinea pigs". Of course, I was relying more on my farm animal experiences growing up when I helped deliver lambs, and there were baby kittens and rabbits born on the farm. Samuel went way beyond the basic necessities and soon was full of statistical information for complications, signs to look for indicating distress, length of normal labor (10-30 minutes by the way), and even measuring Cocco's hips to determine how close to delivery she might be. I was just sleepless and stressed out with the fact that Cocco could get pregnant again with 30 minutes after birth!

Samuel deserves a badge or something for his vigilance and watch-care that ensued over Cocco for the next couple of weeks. Thankfully we were on Christmas break so we were able to keep a close eye on her.

It was January 4 at 3:15pm and we were about to head out to the store when Samuel peered into the upstairs house and saw a dark mass next to Cocco. He said "I think Cocco had a baby," and all of us immediately rushed to look for ourselves. Sure enough, there was a wet brown little fur ball! We must have just missed the birth because it was "born fresh" as a little Emma from long ago would have said.

Our first look at baby
Pure fascination over pure tiny perfection
We watched and waited to see if she would give birth to another baby, but it was clear when a while later Cocco was eating the placenta (thanks for that observation, Samuel) that she carried just one pup. It was fitting and special for Samuel to be the first to see the baby. It was a very emotional experience for him.

So proud!
It was love at first sight! And the pup was a photocopy of her dad, Rambler.

First human contact several hours after birth
Birth weight: 105 grams
Photogenic on flannel
Rambler was immediately separated from mamma and baby (whew!) and a few weeks later had surgery. After his recovery and a five and a half week separation from the ladies, he was finally reintroduced to the herd and could not be happier.

It took a couple of weeks to be sure of the baby's gender so we called it "baby" before confirming that it was a female and then naming her Lakota.

January 4, 2019
She has grown so quickly and is absolutely thriving. She is spoiled as Cocco still allows her to nurse but I'm sure mother nature will take care of that soon. Watching her growth has led us to believe that maybe we adopted Cocco and Rambler at 3-4 weeks old instead of 8 weeks.

Her ears were kind of floppy after birth
Tiny but actually big for a pup...the advantages of a single litter
24-hours old and already learning how to eat hay and fresh veggies
Growing so fast!
Lakota is a talker, just like her dad and so we have a lively and noisy bunch of pigs at feeding time and playtime.

So glad it was just one pup AND that she was a female AND that we decided to keep her! She is a blessed addition to our family for sure!

Lakota, Rambler and Cocco
February 12, 2019

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Emma's Fourteenth Birthday

Fourteen - November 2018
photo credit: Samuel
Our beautiful daughter is growing into such a lovely young lady and we are so proud of her. If you know Emma, you know that she has a smile that lights up a room, radiating joy and love to all whom she greets. People often comment or ask her "Emma, you are always smiling! How?!" 

She is one of the most genuine and honest people I know (maybe a little too blunt at times) but you never have to wonder where she stands on issues or with you. I have my little box of letters saved from you, all doors to greater conversations, and I am so thankful that you don't keep stuff hidden or locked inside. It is a blessing to us as parents that you open up your heart--crazy teen hormones, amygdala speak and all!

Emma, you have a compassion and heart for others, always seeking to help, serve and be an encouragement to those around you. It's no wonder your classmates constantly reach out to you for private tutoring help. You find it a joy to help them and it is becoming more obvious that God has gifted you in a unique way--you would make a remarkable teacher!

You cannot go a day without reading your Bible and praying. It is your habit before bed each night, no matter how late or how tired--you just must! Truly it has been a joy and inspiration to see you faithfully reading. You received a coloring journal Bible for your birthday from Munga and Gramma and it was the best gift. May God's word continue to be treasured and penetrate your heart as you grow in your love for Jesus and walk faithfully with him.

This year you have continued to grow and develop your passion for music. From the piano to ukelele, guitar and now electric guitar aspirations, your voice is an added beauty to everything you play. Maybe this coming year will be your "big debut" for your family to hear. We are so proud of you for taking voice lessons and the courage it takes to be vulnerable in that way. Again, we are so excited to see your growth in this area. Keep up the great work! You are amazing!

Thank you for your grace towards your Mamma in taking nearly a month to write this birthday post! Your special day was on November 4, and even though it was a long holiday weekend we spent it quietly at home and celebrating with just us and our church family. It was what you wanted in the end instead of a party with friends.

Your birthday cake request was for an Italian cake. So I made Pan di Spagna for the very first time, filled the cake with Italian Vanilla Crema and chocolate chips, then covered it in "the good" buttercream, and topped it with a chocolate ganache and sprinkles. You were right, it was one of the best tasting cakes I've made.

Your brother, Samuel, gave you a special gift by doing a photo shoot of you on your birthday weekend. Thank you for being a willing model. It was a special bonding time for you both and warmed our hearts to see you together. Photography and nature are so relaxing and stress relieving for him, and adding your company just made the experience all the more life-giving. Samuel returned with much enthusiasm ready to edit pictures of his beautiful sister. Here is a sampling...

Emma, we love you so much more than words can say! You are special, treasured, and loved always and forever, no matter what!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

One Year of "Insieme" (Together)

"Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven."

One year ago, we officially launched "Insieme", the first Christian Evangelical Church in Caselle.

[Well, technically it is the 2nd, as we did have a church plant going from 2010-2012, but that dissolved with circumstances out of our control.]

During our furlough, Jonathan began our presentation with much enthusiasm about there now being an evangelical church in Caselle. The audience's reaction was generally the same everywhere we went...silence...or maybe a softly spoken "Amen". Of course, we would have loved to hear hoops and hollers and loud shouts of Amens! Those came after the explanation that, as far as we know, in the 2000+ years of our city's history this is the first presence of an established evangelical church in our community. When you stop to think about that, it is sobering and exciting at the same time. There are thousands more towns and cities that still have no gospel presence. The need is SO great here!!

We began our services when the Italians we have been ministering to began to ask and desire to see a church established. Everyone was all-in from the beginning and the enthusiasm and participation have not diminished. Our first service on October 1, 2017, was a humble beginning. Since then we rejoice in three baptisms, new regular attendees, occasional visitors, and that we have an Italian man already sharing the preaching ministry! This is ALL God and it is our joy and great privilege to see GOD building his church.

We are excited to see all that God will do in our second year...

We host the Sunday services in our home. This is our multi-purpose taverna room.
Jonathan teaching from God's Word. 
Baptisms: June 17, 2018 
Baptismal service with many first time guests in attendance.
A gorgeos day for outside baptisms and fellowship on our front porch.
And as always, plenty of food...
...and cake.

Agape meal to celebrate the one year anniversary.

A beautiful and encouraging day to have 2 long prayed over and anticipated visitors join us.
If there is something to celebrate, there is a reason for cake!
4-layer spice cake with cream cheese frosting. It's fall y'all!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

NEW Piggies

It has been a very long 10 months since our beloved "Mac" passed away, and the kids have been anticipating getting new guinea pigs. There was no point in getting new piggies, when we would then have to find someone to care for them during the summer and we would miss out on the fun and bonding time with them while they were little. So you better believe that acquiring guinea pigs were at the top of our priority list when we got home, right after stocking the fridge with food.

Learning from our past experience with Mac, the kids immediately declared that we needed two piggies because they would live longer and be happier. Who couldn't resist the double dose of cuteness?! Two piggies, therefore mean having adequate space for them to live in, and so we ordered the perfect piggy palace that also met our tight space restrictions. Jonathan spent a good 3.5 hours building this piggy dream home.

 Our tri-level Piggy Palace sits perfectly in our kitchen corner 
After school on Tuesday, September 11, we went to a pet store in Torino. We called around to several stores prior and this was the one with the most selection available of guinea pigs. It was love at first sight when we saw the copper-colored guinea pig. He was the smallest of the brood and a must have for us all. Desiring to take home two guinea pigs, our choices were to choose two females or a male-female combo. According to the research done by our kids, they said that male guinea pigs are more interactive and bond better with humans. Therefore, two females were not an option for them. So even though this choice poses a certain intervention in the coming months so we don't start a guinea pig farm, it will be worth the cost. The other straight haired guinea pig that captured our eye was the one with the white and beige body and grey eyemask. She was a little bit bigger than the other and so pretty.

Double-cuteness and Double-trouble
The choosing was super easy but the naming was much more painful! Surprise, surprise that everyone is much more opinionated than they were seven years ago. Eventually, everyone realized that there are some hills not worth dying upon and names were finally suggested that everyone could live with. So without further ado meet...Rambler and Cocco. Rambler is the little brown one and Cocco is the white one.

It has been nearly two weeks since we brought them home and their personalities are now becoming more evident. Rambler is living up to his name and loves to talk! He squeaks for his food, talks back to me when I am in the kitchen and is the voice for Cocco. His noises are adorable and rumbles with delight when he gets some petting and loving. Cocco, on the other hand, has not muttered a word as far as we can tell. She likes her quiet and dark spaces and is much timider. She is intelligent and speedy fast and was the first to discover how to use the ramps in the cage. Rambler was not happy at first when she would disappear and he couldn't find her. But now he has it figured out too and they make for a crazy wild pair in the mornings when they play and run up and down the ramps. 

We thought to weigh them after their first week home and Cocco was 10.2 oz and Rambler was 8 oz. They are tiny for sure and are estimated to be about 60 days old. 

We are in love with our new furry little friends!
The box we brought them home in. They were pretty frightened.
Rambler fit in the palm of my hand
Rambler reminds us of Mac
Happy kiddos
Cocco may be quiet but she doesn't fight being held
Putting their size into perspective with this photo

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

School Begins Again

There were a whole lot of memories made and blessings received over the course of our summer in the United States. Did I share a single one? Nope. Will I? I hope to, but I cannot promise anything at this point. So I think it best, for now, to just pick up where we are currently in life and move forward. 

Last you read, the school year was finally over. And here we are mid-September posting about the school year starting again. We returned to Italy on September 7, and all the kids started school on Monday the 10th. The weekend was full of running around picking up book orders, supply shopping, finishing up summer homework and working through jitters and jet lag.

This is the first year that our kids are all attending different schools. Three different cities. Three different means of transportation. Three different schedules. It sounds chaotic and honestly, it feels chaotic until we get used to the new norm.

All the kids have had a good first week and a half of school. They are still on a provisionary schedule meaning: Luca is done at noon for the first two weeks; Emma was done at noon last week and 1pm this week and most likely next week too; Samuel is done at 1pm and is also looking at another week of the same. Once all the professors are in place, the weekly schedule will then be set for classes, and then they can resume their full days of school that will be until 1pm or 2pm (depending on the day and school).

10th Grade
Liceo Classico - Torino
Samuel has returned to the known quantity of his high school, classmates and professors. He will have a couple of changes in teachers but other than that he has just picked up where he left off. The bus stop did switch drop-off locations in Torino so that threw him the first day back, but he navigated his way to school successfully even if going a roundabout way to get there. I take him and pick him up from the bus stop in Caselle every day.  

9th Grade
Liceo Scientifico - Ciriè
Emma had a fantastic start at her new school. She has quickly made new friends in her class and is so thankful for how God worked everything out for her to switch tracks and schools at the last minute. She now travels on the train with a whole slew of friends from Caselle. For now, Emma walks to the train station in the mornings (12-minute walk) and I pick her up on her return home. If the weather is bad, she will need a ride to and from the station. 

7th Grade
Scuola Media - Caselle
Luca struggled to get all his summer homework done over the summer months, but once school started he was super motivated. After his first day of school, we spent about 7 hours completing his one grammar/reading comprehension book that he was to bring in the following day for correction. We worked non-stop to get it done and then, of course, the professor did not have time to correct it. (Insert eye roll and sigh). Hopefully, we can work on his procrastination tendencies this year. He has had a lot of entry tests these first weeks. He too is happy to see his friends again. Thankfully, Luca can walk to and from school making that one less trip out in the car for me.

We pray this year will be a wonderful year of growth and maturity for our kids, a year to deepen their dependency on Christ, make new friends and have fun while learning!