The Messina Family

The Messina Family
Barcelona 2010

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)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

I can't believe I gave in!

We usually put up our Christmas tree and decorations about mid-December. However, Rich suggested we get started today on decorating since he'll be working or out of the country for the next couple of weekends. Having another person to help lug our Christmas loot upstairs was all I needed to hear. This is a first for me, though....our tree is up and it is still November! I somewhat cringe at the whole idea. However, the house is big and the tree is in a room that we rarely spend time in...our more "formal" living room on the main floor. We opened it up and it felt really good to all be in there today, decorating. We didn't even bother setting up the tree or putting out the ornaments last year as we traveled to the U.S. for 2 1/2 weeks for the holidays. This is the first time Lily has seen our decorations. It was fun to watch the wheels turn in that little head of hers when I showed her decorations the boys made back in their earlier years. She was so excited about decorating the tree that she kept placing a small gift bag on the lowest branch of the had a looped string on it! :o) As much as I love decorating for the holidays, I am sorry that my in-laws won't be able to see our normal "international" decorations that are usually up in the house. Although as it is, the house is so large that we really only decorated two rooms and there are still shisha dogs interspersed with Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus. :o) Tim contracted some violent stomach bug that is going around and was sick most of the night. He felt much better today, which we are all very thankful for. I am hoping the rest of us escape the rath... Joe made the mistake of sitting across the table from Rich tonight at dinner. He was excused from clearing the table to meet him in the bathroom with the hair clippers. He now looks less like Linguini but we'll have to see how it looks after a shower...I think his hair was in a state of shock after being allowed to go wild and curly on top for so long. :o) All seems to be alright with the Messina men as they are upstairs battling in a boardgame called old favorite of Rich's and a new favorite of both of the boys'.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Are you all shopping today?

Well, it was a quiet day today. Lily and I worked on making our Christmas cards for this year. With all the folks added in Norway and some in Japan, we have increased our list quite a bit this year. Most folks nearly faint when I tell them how many cards I send out at Christmas (that includes Rich) but a wise friend once told me that sending out Christmas cards was like a small gift to everyone....a piece of your heart sent to celebrate the love of the season. That has always stuck with me, even with the advent of 41 cent stamps, I still think it is well worth it to have a card, picture and letter in the hands of our friends and family all over the world. Luckily, a big stack of cards will be going to military people overseas and the military will ship it for free between bases overseas. It may take a little longer, but it is free, which is wonderful. While I lived in Japan, I got hooked on stamping cards (ergh, Megan!) and now I am crazy enough to make them every year. Today I was cutting paper pieces for the cards. Lily was counting out larger pieces to hand to me to cut. She had a really good time and I can honestly say that she had her hand in making all of these cards this year. :o) I hope that is a tradition that will live on for several years!
As I watched CNN talk about people getting up at 5 a.m. to go shop for bargains in the U.S., I smiled. I am done....however, it isn't the same shopping online! Shopping in Norway is almost not an option as everything is so very expensive. I have friends that are having babies soon and I am in a panic about gifts as just a cute little hat or a little toy is about $20 here. It is insane!
We plan to come back to the U.S. for a visit next summer and I will be shipping things to myself from there. Now I know what I miss the most. Of course an Arby's sandwich won't be shippable, but I will make sure I visit Arby's once or twice! I have already started a list.... :o) You would think that living in Japan would be more isolating, but it really wasn't because of the large base with American shopping. Here, however...there is not anything like that. My dream right now? An afternoon at a Michael's Craft store....ah...that would be nice! Then I would go to a grocery store and buy food to ship back. :o) When we went to Italy in October, we shipped back 4 boxes and 3 of them were food from the post commissary! :o)
Rich comes back from Germany tonight. Tomorrow we'll attempt to take our family Christmas picture....although the forecast is calling for rain/snow mix. We'll have to head inland and upward to the nearby mountains for a more white than wet shot. Should be fun!
Happy shopping everyone...hit a sale for me! (by the way, all my friends from Japan, they do have real sales or salg Okinawa it totally cracked us up that they advertised big sales for 5% off....goodness, you gotta make it worth the gas to get there at least!) :o)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving from Norway

We've just returned from a festive meal with our American NATO friends. The boys are working on homework and I took a video of Lily singing (okay that was the intent anyways) Happy Birthday to her Godfather, Uncle Brian. She got a little sidetracked....

Here are some pictures from our Thanksgiving meal and Lilybug being...well....Lily. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here are some video clips of the kids...wishing you all a happy Thanksgiving. Rich is in a class in Germany all week and so won't be here. The boys have school. We will be meeting up with about 80 Americans at the NATO base for a potluck Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow night. We'll be thinking of all of you!

Laughable, Lovable Lily!

Lily gives Momma a smirk after her new haircut

Lily with her two greatest admirers: her brothers, Tim and Joe

Lily Su Grace Messina - 2 1/2 years old

Lily models some wonderful clothes from her cousins, Kara and Alyssa. From her snowman sweatshirt all the way down to her favorite Elmo slippers!

It's Tigger!

Lily has changed so much since we adopted her a little over a year ago! She has changed the most in the last six months since we moved to Norway! She loves to sing and dance and hop. Oh, how she hops! I love it most when I am trying to change her clothes or wash her hair in the shower! Tigger was the most appropriate outfit for her this Halloween! She is constantly jabbering away in English, giving a running commentary of all that is going on around her. It's like having a pint-sized female Howard Coselle around me at all times. She has a few Japanese words that have stuck in her head, which amuses me as she wasn't really even speaking when we lived in Okinawa. She was obviously listening though! She attends Norwegian classes with me once a week and although she is drawing the whole time, she will sit and repeat everything Pastor Sam says under her breath. She says hello and goodbye very well. She kept telling everyone "Ha det!" in Italy (goodbye in Norsk). By the time we taught her ciao, she was back in Norway. She has a little friend from Lillegym that is from Argentina and she is starting to say hello and goodbye to her in Spanish. Of course, we still use a few Chinese words with her and I am starting to push some Chinese language learning DVDs her way. She can say hello and goodbye and I love you in Chinese as well as a few other random things she has kept from her past life in China.

Lily is in love with Seasame Street, Winnie the Pooh, Blue's Clues and she also likes to read Clifford books. She is an avid drawer and is mastering drawing snowmen right now, also a favorite book topic for her. She was able to get a hand-me-down tricycle, which she rides around in the basement. She loves it! She usually has a play phone tucked under Bob (what she calls her short arm) and a purse or two slung over the handle bars as she pedals back and forth on the wooden floors. She continues to love her little kitchen and can't resist making hot tea and a meal of hotdogs, french fries (or fred fries, as she says) and eggs if you are in the room with her.

Below is a video of Lily on a road trip where the boys (with virtually nothing to do) decided to teach her how to do the pro baseball salute to the fans...with "Peace Out"....unfortunately, she has a little issue getting her two fingers up so she needs bob's assistance which slows her down a bit. Rich was not thrilled when his two year old daughter kept doing this little act all over Europe. However, I thought it was a riot.

The Talk about Tim...

Tim in Florence, Italy next to Michaelangelo's David

Tim on a hike near our home in Norway.

Tim at the overlook of Florence, Italy.

Cyndi and Tim watching the canals for gondolas in Venice, Italy

Tim finds a friend at San Marco's Square in Venice, Italy

Tim really loved the Venetian masks and jesters hats in Venice!

Tim is turning into quite the young man these days. He is 11 now and seems to realize that he is starting to grow up and is savoring his youth. He usually allows Rich about 5 minutes after getting home in the evening before he starts pestering him about playing a game of ping pong with him. Tim has gotten quite good and would play ping pong all day if he could find someone that was willing. He is doing a badmittin unit in gym at school right now and he is realizing that his ping pong skills have really helped him.

Tim is in the 6th grade at the ISS middle school, same as Joe. They don't have any classes together (which is good) but they are in the same school. Considering they each have 12 classes, it is a small miracle they aren't together for any of them. Tim didn't go to Barcelona this year because it is only for 7th and 8th graders, but he is looking forward to going next year. He attended Lierskole for a week with his classmates up in Hardangerton, Norway and had a great time. He is looking forward to that next year again too. (Lierskole is when the entire student body of a certain grade and their teachers go to live in cabins in a Norwegian national park and conduct classes from there for a week)

Tim played JV soccer alongside Joe this fall and is playing JV basketball and club basketball as well. He also enjoys lacrosse. Tim is in the photography club at school, where he gets to work with a professional photographer once a week for an hour. He has assignments each week and is learning a lot about photography. Both boys are very much into picture-taking these days. It is hard to be in Norway and not take pictures as it is such a beautiful country!

Tim is doing well in school with mostly A's and a few B+'s. He is not as socially at ease as his older brother and is often seen tagging along after Joe and his friends. He has a strong work ethic in his school work though and is starting to learn to take pride in his work rather than just cranking out assingments like a robot. This has made a huge difference in the quality of his work. I am so proud of him!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Just about Joe....

Joe in a cucumber eating contest in Sola, Norway. He came in 2nd! Not bad for an "Englishmen" as the farmer announcer called him!

Joe and his classmates from ISS in Barcelona, Spain

Joe and the Green Goblin on the streets of Barcelona

Joe and his host student, Sergi Aguilera, who will be living with us for 10 days in May

Superman, Joe Messina, holds up the leaning tower of Pisa

Yes, he has an appetite...good thing as these pizza slices we bought on the streets of Venice were huge!

My oldest just turned 13 years old on November 13th! Wow! I can't believe it!

A little about Joe....if you have ever seen the movie, "Ratatouille", you know the character Linguini (good Italian name in a French setting in the movie). Linguini is Joe in a cartoon character. I swear they could have used him as the template for the drawings....tall, lanky and freckled with curly, out-of-control reddish-brown hair on the top of his head. I laughed out loud when I first saw his character. Every now and then I call him Linguini, which, of course, I get a goofy grinning/grimace shot back my way that only a teenager can give. :o)

Joe is in the 7th grade at the International School of Stavanger (ISS). He plays on the JV basketball team and also plays club basketball. Between practice and conditioning, he is usually at the school for some kind of practice four days a week. He is also has taken up a new sport, lacrosse. That meets twice a week for a couple of hours. Don't worry, he has plenty of time for homework and practicing his trombone. He continues to be one of the "cool guys" at school and so far I have been happy with his choice of friends. ISS has students from 35 different countries, so his friends come from all over the world. Speaking of all over the world, Joe just returned a few weeks ago from a 9 day field trip to Barcelona, Spain. Pretty cool! The son of the family he stayed with will come stay with us for 10 days in May. The pictures above are mostly from his trip to Spain, where he was able to really experience a great time in Europe. The rest of the pictures are from Italy, where we went for fall break in mid-October. In October, Joe was in Lierskole up north in Norway for a week, in Spain for a week and a half and in Italy for a week with us. That kid gets around! We are really proud of him!

A Change of Scenery

Joe shows off his cow costume...he is even mooing!

Lily and Cyndi playing at a special Halloween Lillegym class at the British International School

Joe and Tim talk with their buddy, Zac, during trunk or treating at the NATO base.

Thank you Aunt Amy for the adorable Tigger outfit that Lily adores!

Welcome to the new blog site for the Messina family! The other site was not as user-friendly as I had hoped so I chose a new venue for our antics to be recorded and shared!

Many of you are hoping to see some Halloween pictures of the kids. Halloween is not really celebrated in Norway. The Americans (and even some folks that weren't American) met in the new parking garage on the NATO base and we did "trunk or treating." The kids went around from car to car getting candy from the trunks. It was safe and small and the kids must have done the circuit of 2o cars about 4 times apiece. Lily was still a little overwhelmed, but she had a great time. Every time she sees the parking garage, she asks, "trick or treat in there, Momma?" For those of you that have remembered Rich in the cow costume, you'll be appalled to know that now Joe has inherited it. Yes, our Joe, who just turned 13 (yikes!) is wearing the Halloween costume his dad wore two weeks before he was born.....THAT will make you feel old!