The Messina Family

The Messina Family
Barcelona 2010

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A trip to the Lighthouse at Kystverket

We went to some islands just north of Stavanger today to look at a lighthouse. Evidently there are two. We found very small one that we weren't even sure was a lighthouse at all. It was windy and very very cold, hence the chilly appearance of everyone pictured! The lighthouse is called Fjøløy Fyr (don't even ask me how to pronounce that) and it was built in 1849. It finally became operated by electricity in 1977. It was pretty old.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pictures from Sirdal

I had a sledding picture of Rich and Lily from Sirdal but wanted to include a few others. The Mauldins have three boys and the youngest, Walker, is about 4-5 months older than Lily. Lily and Walker go to Lillegym together and they were some of the first folks we met when we moved here. They were in the hotel apartments during the same time we were with three kids and two dogs. Kana has long blonde hair and our husbands work in the same office and have last names that start with "M". The post office workers always get us mixed up (along with a lot of other folks for quite awhile). They are great friends and we had a wonderful time!

Santa's surprises

I totally forgot to mention what Santa brought us! Lily diligently put out milk and cookies and some carrots for the reindeer. She is still talking about how Santa ate the cookies and took the carrots to the reindeer. (I can't believe how much I missed this phase now that the boys are too grown up for fact, I used a new recipe for the cookies and the boys were actually fighting over who was going to be Santa this year! P.S. - Cheyenne took half of one so got the honors!) For those of you that don't know, Cheyenne is our nearly 10 year old Siberian Husky. What a turkey.
Lily had been mentioning that she wanted Santa to bring her a Heffalump. Lumpy the Heffalump is a character on Winnie the Pooh for those of you without small ones. I found a huge bin of stuffed Winnie the Pooh characters at the Coop OBS (somewhat like a Walmart but without the savings) and I had Lily with me. I asked her which one she liked. I thought she would say Tigger or Piglet...but no, she liked Lumpy the Heffalump. Knowing they might not last (they were on sale -and I use that term lightly here in Norway), I put it in the basket. She's a bit brighter than the boys were I guess because she caught on right away and wanted to hold it. I let her. I thought she'd forget it when it was bagged and in the trunk. Nope. I let her take a nap with Lumpy and when she fell asleep, I snatched it. Okay, give me the bad mommy of the year award at this point. She woke up later and asked for her Heffalump. I told her if she was a good girl, maybe Santa would bring her a Heffalump. Soooo, she has been asking for a Heffalump and was estatic when one was under the tree on Christmas morning. She must mention to me, "Santa bring Hellalump" with a smile on her face about 8 times a day. All's well that ends well.
Lily also got a little piano on a stand with a stool to sit on. Oh my. She is in heaven. She calls it her "pee-oh" and she goes to town pushing all the keys and the buttons. Congratulations, Aunt Amy, you won the present of the year for Lily this Christmas! :o) She also got an adorable puppy dog apron and chef's hat. What a hoot. That will get good use as well.
Joe got several DVD's and was thrilled with his big gift, an electronic drum set. I know, I have just about got a band now. Tim plays the guitar, so I guess we are set. Joe also got some nice warm hoodies and slippers. (as did Tim) They have been wearing them all the time. It was the perfect gift for Norway falls, winters, and springs (and this past summer, which never arrived).
Tim got two board games (he is a board game fanatic) and a huge kennex set that makes a 5 foot tall roller coaster. He also received a tripod for his camera, which is attached to him like glue whenever we leave the house.
Rich got a lot of books on traveling (as he plans to travel quite a bit while we are here) and lots of Boston Red Sox stuff. He got up in the middle of the night to watch the post season games so I think he definitely is not a fair weather fan.
I got two matching picture frames with three 5X7 openings in each frame. In the openings were photographs that each of the boys had taken this past year. Joe's were in Black and White and Tim's were in Sepia. They each had a landmark (Joe's was from Barcelona and Tim's from Venice), a close up of a flower and a landscape. It really shows of their new-found talents. I absolutely loved them and they will be hung in our dining room where everyone will see them right away. I am so proud of them and their talent.
The big gift for us came from Rich as a suprise to all of us. We are all going on a Mediteranian cruise in February. It starts and ends in Rome, Italy and will go to different locations in Turkey, Cyprus, Italy, Greece and Egypt. It will be 11 days long and we are all very excited. We have never been on a cruise before. The ship is only a year old and the biggest ship of this fleet. It is about 6-7 weeks away and I just can't wait!

God Jul og Nytt År!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Sorry there haven't been many posts as of mother and father-in-law are here visiting from New Hampshire and that has kept me occupied.
We had a quiet Christmas at our home this year. It was so nice to not be traveling this just wake up at our own pace (actually Tim's) but was nice to be at home this year. It was also nice to have company! Living overseas for the last 3 Christmas's...we haven't had many visitors in our home. It is nice to share our lives with loved ones in person versus via a web blog! :o) So for anyone thinking of venturing this way, we'd love to have you!
The day after Christmas (known as 2nd Christmas here or Boxing Day in Canada) is also a holiday. We drove up to Sirdal, which is about 2 hours inland and up towards the mountains. There we rented a huge cabin with some American military friends of ours, the Mauldins. They have three boys. There were 13 of us in this spacious cabin for three days and two nights. There was plenty of snow when we arrived and we did some sledding before the darkness rolled in (that's about 3:45 here). The weather did not cooperate the second day and we had rain most of the time. However, we were able to get a few runs down a large hill on more ice than snow in the late afternoon. The day we left was beautiful...the snow was falling and it was just a winter wonderland.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Cute Lilisms to share....

"I want gold say in my crappy cup!"
Translation: I want gold fish (edible kind...she has always called fish "say" and I don't know why...whether they are alive or on her plate to eat) in my coffee cup.
Crappy = coffee...don't ask me...

"Theeeee done"
Translation: The end (after finishing a book)

"Lily fick it!"
Translation: Lily will fix it! (I hear this a dozen times a day!)

Aberdeen Bound!

Our oldest son, Joe, has had quite a year. He got to experience Lierskole with all the 6th and 7th graders up in Hardangertun, Norway for 5 days. He got to travel with us to Italy for a week. He spent 9 days in Barcelona, Spain with 27 other Spanish students from his school, learning the language and the culture. NOW, he has been selected as one of the 10 boys on the JV basketball team to travel to Aberdeen, Scottland to play in a tournament in February. There are over 60 boys that make up the JV basketball team (comprised of 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th graders). He is very excited, although somewhat mortified as we told him we may take some vacation time and just go along and watch! :o)
This is how I found out:
The phone rings....."Hi, Mom, this is Joe." (I am dreading the next sentence of "I am not feeling well..." as I let Rich drive the family car to work today)
"Yes, Joe, what's up?"
"Mom, I'm going to Aberdeen!" (FLUSH)
"That's great, Buddy! Are you in the bathroom?"
"Yeah, but I had to call!"

2 years ago tonight

During the night on December 17th, 2005, we were awakened at 3:30 a.m. by a phone call. This was the norm with Rich's job in Okinawa, but this was a call from the U.S. A woman from Harrah's Adoption International Mission was on the phone with news that we had been chosen to adopt a little girl in Shangrao, Jiangxi, China. Her name was Ling Guang Su and she was just about to turn a year old.
Two years later, she has been with us for 15 months and we can't imagine life without her. Those that know us here think we have had her since she was only a few months old. She is now legally named Lily Su Grace Messina and will be 3 years old in a couple of weeks. We are so blessed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Norwegian/NATO prayer service

Lily, Rich and I attended a prayer service that was hosted by the Norwegian military and the NATO Joint Warfare Centre, where Rich works. Hundreds of soldiers from countries all over Europe gathered in the Domkirke (Stavanger Cathedral) to pray for those soldiers in harm's way and those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice. It was a lovely service that was in both Norwegian and English. I got the opportunity to sing some beloved sacred Christmas carols in Norwegian with the congregation gathered. It was really quite moving. One thing I have learned living abroad is that Americans don't often see any situation but from their vantage point. Yes, the American military is out there en masse fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, there are troop contingencies from all over the world that are also fighting alongside the Americans. It was nice to honor all of these heroes!

Holiday Band Concert

I have to admit that this was a first for the Messina family. The boys have never had the opportunity to be in the school band before now. Here it is required. We enjoyed the various music of the groups that played...the 6th grade band, 7th grade band, 8th grade band and the symphonic band (the high school band). The music was of the international variety with many pieces coming from different parts of Europe, Ukraine or Africa. Lily had her thick beginner pencil with her and directed the last half of the concert from her spot in the audience.
Tim plays alto saxophone and plays very well. Joe plays the trombone but his heart is in the percussion section. He has the option of opting out of band for 8th grade and he may do that if he isn't allowed to play percussion. We shall see!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Fish Oil Medicine

Norway does not put Vitamin D in their milk. There is one brand that does it but most do not. Without vitamin D, you can not absorb calcium properly. I asked my Norwegian neighbors when we first moved here how they got their vitamin D... There isn't enough sun light to get it that way and they don't add it to their milk. They replied simply, "Trans." Trans is a fish oil that is given to children starting at 3 monthes of age here. Adults graduate to taking it in pill form, but it is bascially fish oil with omega 3 and vitamin D and A added. I put Lily on this right away. She loves the goopy, smelly stuff! She begs for her "fish oil medicine" every night at bedtime and will pretend to give it to her stuffed panda before tucking him in for his nap. I try and get the vitamin D added milk whenever I can...but it often means a special trip.

Santa came to visit...

Santa took time out of this busy time of year for him to come and visit the little American store on the NATO base Rich works on. Santa (aka MSgt Marty Patterson) suprised Lily by knowing her name! The closest she would get was on Joe's shoulders, with Joe kneeling near Santa. She did get a candy cane and a felt ornament out of the deal, so she was happy.
The other pictures are of Lily and her "baaball" or stuffed basketball that she hasn't let leave her side since the boys started their basketball season. She sleeps with it (as you can see) and to entertain herself (and those around her) at a game recently, she was sticking it under her shirt. Guess that's what she'll look like pregnant someday (in the far, far distant future!)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jingle Bell Follies

So, I may have mentioned that Lily is enthralled with any version of "Jingle Bells" right now. When we are in the car, she specifically favors a men's barbershop quartet that sings a catchy version of this old Christmas standby. I also may have told you that Lily calls her little arm "Bob". "Little arm" was way too long and complicated and stump...well, just doesn't sound so nice. So Timmy decided one day that Bob was a good name. He took her aside and taught that to her one night after dinner and it has stuck.
So Rich and I are singing "Jingle Bells" to Lily tonight, trying to get her to sing along (which is precious). We start singing the part in the first verse where it goes, "Bells on Bob tails ring..." and she lifts up Bob and starts waggling it in the air (because this is obviously Bob's big moment in the song). Rich and I started laughing...we nearly wet our pants we were laughing so hard. Only a two year old....

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Happy St. Nicholas Day everyone! We started celebrating this mostly European traditional gift-giving day about 6 years ago. The kids put their shoes either outside their bedroom door or by the fireplace and St. Nicholas leaves a small gift there for them during the night. Joe, being the ever-smart teenage boy that he is, put out his Wellies hoping for a larger gift...ahem...nice try. Lily was very excited this morning to open her gift..."The Tigger Movie". She is watching it now with her brothers (who amazingly enough kinda seem to like it). Joe and Tim each got a season of King of Queens...a show they really enjoy watching. With them leaving in the pitch black in the morning at 8 a.m. and returning in the dark again at 3:45 p.m., there is a lot more indoor time for us now. I have to admit that it is fun that they like shows that are pretty family-inclusive. No more SpongeBob Square Pants...they like Friends, 7th Heaven (my personal fav), and King of Queens. is making their money off of the Americans living over here, let me tell you! We don't often get to see movies...every once and awhile, the military bases in Europe will send a kid's movie our way for a day. That is always fun (and free) for us. Those are few and far between. We pretty much wait for them to come out on DVD and read the comments of others to decide whether or not to buy it. We are anxiously awaiting Harry Potter 5! That will be a Christmas break treat for all of us (okay, maybe not Lily, but for the rest of us!)
I wanted to mention a little bit about Christmas tradition here. First off, Merry Christmas in Norsk is "God Jul". They don't traditionally put up their Christmas trees until Dec 23rd and they open and celebrate on Christmas Eve, not Christmas morning. They eat lutefisk (cod soaked in lye) is dreadful and all are thankful it is only a holiday dish to stomach once a year. They also drink aquavit...a potato liquer that has to cross the prime meridian (I think...maybe it is the equator...) on a Norwegian ship in a wooden barrel to be given that name. I hear that is also equally dreadful and must be taken in with food. They leave porridge out on Christmas Eve in the house in the barn for the Nisse (little trollish elves that bring both good and bad luck to farms and families) to apease them for the upcoming year. There is not really any "Santa Claus" here. They use mostly white Christmas lights and right now, although most don't have their trees up yet, nearly everyone has the 7 white candle-looking light bulbed thing that almost looks like a Menorah but is shaped like a triangle with one candle on top and three descending candles on either side. I don't know the tradition behind these but will ask a Norwegian friend soon.
If I find out anything else, I will let you know!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Vikings Basketball

Thought you all would like to see what the boys are up to right and more basketball. Here are some pictures from one of Joe's games at Lurahusen not far from us. Next away game is two hours and a ferry ride away! Both boys will be playing in that game. Their school has a practice of letting everyone play that comes out and shows a genuine effort. Instead of one JV team this year, there are three...and they are fluid teams...the rosters change every week. I hope to get some pictures of Timmy playing on here soon.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Busy Week...

Well, Joe and Rich ended up getting sick but thus far the Messina women have staved off the bug. :o) Lily and I took our chance to get out of the house on Monday morning to play in the snow! We had an inch or two on the ground. Lily had never been in the snow before, so this was sooooo much fun. I decked her out in her Norwegian snowsuit (that the kids her age pretty much wear all the time just in snow) and her snow boots. I put on a cute little mitten that I think had been one of my nieces' mittens and off we went on an adventure! She just kept smiling so big! I let her taste the snow...helped make a snowball for her and we made a microscopic snowman that was about 8 inches tall. (I didn't have much to work with and it was enough to impress her.) You'll notice in the pictures that the sun is just coming up...or it looks like it. It was 11:15 a.m. The days are getting pretty short around here. The streetlamps are on and it is really more dark than light by 3:30 p.m. and the sun really isn't up until 9:30 or so. That would be on a clear day. We haven't had many of those as of's been pretty overcast, which also diminishes our sunlight. And by the way, she hasn't taken off that mitten (looks like a little bear or something) since. She sleeps with it on and has to have it with her everywhere she goes. By Tuesday, everyone was back at work and school. The boys had their choral concert Tuesday night. In the 6th and 7th grades here choir and band are required classes for every student. We'll go back for the band concert in two weeks. There were four choirs that sang. It was fun to see the boys singing on stage. We were told when joining the school that they would have to have button-down white dress shirts and black dress pants and black dress shoes for concerts. Everyone looked so nice! Tim was easy to spot as he was the only one with flaming red hair! The choirs sang in English, Spanish, Catalonian, and a variety of African languages, which was really very cool. The 6th graders stole the show with their enthusiastic personalities and strong voices. I think there are about 40 6th graders at ISS and they all knew the words to their songs and sang their hearts out. It was a wonderful evening. I am so excited to see the band concert! Wednesday night was the premier games for the boys JV basketball team. There are so many boys that have come out to play basketball this year between 6th and 9th grades that they have 3 teams. This is kind of a good thing as basketball is not at all a Norwegian sport and it is sometimes hard to find other teams to play against. This was an in-house game. Joe was on the white team and Tim on the red. Yep, they were against each other. Tim is a great defensive player...but a little timid. He should have plenty of time to get over that! Joe scored a couple of times and also fouled a couple of he doesn't seem to have that same problem of being timid as Tim does. It was fun to cheer them on...and be able to cheer for each basket matter which team scored. The girls team played afterwards. If men's basketball is rare here, women's is nearly non-existent. Even at ISS, there are only enough girls for a combined JV or Varsity. So the girls team takes the court ready to go to battle with another team from the local area. All the parents are staring at the visitors bench. What we thought was the cheer section was their team....girls around ages 8, 9 and 10 years old. There was something lost in translation....girls in grades 8, 9, 10 vs ages 8,9, 10. Hmmmm....The athletic director was quick on her feet and had the ISS women's team scrimmage each other for 2 quarters and then went to another smaller gym in the school and had a 3rd and 4th grade team that was practicing for intramurals come over and scrimmage the visiting team for 2 quarters. It all worked out! It was something to chuckle over though! (That and Lily working the crowd by honking people's noses she knows with her bear-mittened hand!)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Christ the King Sunday Blows in

Today is Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Church calendar. Next Sunday is the beginning of Advent and the new church year. Every year on Christ the King Sunday, our entire parish gathers for a service together in the Stavanger Domkirke (Stavanger Cathedral). This is a gray stone cathedral that is hundreds of years old. It is at the center of Stavanger Sentrum and is a very well-known Norwegian landmark. The service was at 2 p.m., which is quite late for us. However, it was a chance to see the other members of our St. Svithun's community. Norway is a socialist country and they have the state religion as Evangelical Lutheran (which is just fine by me as I was raised in the Lutheran Church). I became a Catholic 5 years ago and well, there are more Muslims in Norway than there are Catholics. There is one church in all of this area and I think there is only one diocese in the country. St. Svithun's Catholic Church has a large congregation of mostly foreign people. Yes, there are some Norwegian services each Sunday. There are also services in 8 other languages at any given time. Luckily, there is a big enough English-speaking community that we are allowed to worship in English every Sunday. Other language communities are not as fortunate as we are as they only get to meet once or twice a month in their native languages. Today's service was primarily in Norwegian. The homily was printed out in English for us to follow. Most of the singing parts of the Mass were done in Latin (hello....a foreign language to ALL of us). The prayers of the faithful were very moving. Each petition was read from a member of each language community: Norwegian, Tamil, French, Polish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, English, Spanish and German. Our hymns were in all the different languages as well...different verses were printed in different languages. It was really neat. Tim is back and up for action and so far none of the rest of us have caught his nasty bug yet. We attempted to take some family pictures for Christmas cards today on the edge of Hafsfjord, near our house. It had snowed and blowed all day long. It was frigid. We were being blown over and my hair and long dress were blowing everywhere. I thought I was going to end up with a Marilyn Monroe-esque type picture or one of us would get blown into the drink so we called it quits. We warmed up and then sat by the tree inside out of the wind and took some more shots. We'll have to see which ones come out best. We really wanted a true Norwegian background, but we may have to make due with the time crunch of getting photos sent to us here. After dinner tonight we played with the Van de Graff generator. The electric current travels really well through the wooden floor! Here are some pictures of our escapes today. You'll notice she has a "Santa bell" in her hand in the pictures next to the tree. (She loves Polar Express.) She wanted to hear it picture...she had it in her ear! Luckily her ear canals are tiny. Crazy girl! Quip of the day from Lily: Discussion this morning as I was getting her dressed...Joe was in there talking with us both. I was encouraging her to go to the bathroom on the potty so she didn't have to wear diapers anymore. Mom: Do you think Joe wears diapers? Lily: No, Silly!!! Joe-Joe wears big girl panties! At this point Joe almost wet his pants, he was laughing so hard. It actually made him blush. :o)