Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted
according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or
slow to do the humble work.

- Mother Teresa

About Me

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Sunny Florida, United States
I am the proud mom to 6 kids: Natasha, 24, Nikolai, 20, Reese, 20, Maylee, 14, Erik, 10 and Violet, 7. The kids come from Russia, Ukraine and China; I'm so proud of my family sometimes I think I'll burst and I needed an outlet for it - so I've created this weblog. :o)
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
- Mother Teresa

Motivation for Moms

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One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.
Mother Teresa

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Sunday, June 2, 2013
(Yes, we forgot it was Mother's Day yesterday until during supper, Reese said, "Hey, Happy Mother's Day!  I forgot!"  LOL  I'd forgotten too!)

In front of the Spanish Steps, Rome, Italy
The next day, we were up again and ready for one last day of adventure.  The Spanish Steps were about a block from our hotel so we went there first. 
The view from our hotel room.  The obelisk you see is the top of the "Steps"
The best thing about the Spanish Steps was the gelato we got from a stand there!!  LOL!  Neither of us had ever had it and we simply were hooked.  We got it 2 more times before the day was out.  ;o) 

There were as many gelato stands (gelatorias) as pizzarias!!  They were EVERYWHERE!!  ...That was not a problem, as far as we were concerned, though!  lol

From there we walked to the Trevi Fountain - I LOVED it!!  it was very crowded (like everywhere we went on this vacation!) but stunningly beautiful.  Rome is LOADED with absolutely gorgeous marble statues and friezes and gargoyles and everything everywhere you look.  It's just simply unbelievable. 

The Trevi Fountain.  I don't know the history of this place unfortunately, but I know that it is said that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, someday you will return to the fountain with your lover.

Not sure, but it looks like this might be Zeus.  (Hubba, hubba!)

Hey, whatever works!!

Yes, I did it too...!

Some of the buildings are absolute jaw droppers.  Where did all of this marble COME from, and how the HECK did they work all of it like that??  Some of the columns we saw were MASSIVE.  It's just really mind-blowing.  The Trevi Fountain did not disappoint, and yes, Reese and I both tossed a coin in from behind, over the shoulder as instructed, and made a wish.  ;o)

From there we walked to the Metro subway and took ourselves to the Vatican.  (The Rome Metro is way better than the horrible DC Metro.  Just sayin'.) 

If you have ever studied Rome history, you'll know that the Romans were brillant.  So brilliant that they
out how to provide this enormous city with constant, fresh, clean flowing water, constantly.  They used
and I suppose other means, but they did it.  Well, everywhere you go around the city, there is STILL constant
flowing, clean, drinkable water!!  What people do is they carry around their water bottles and simply fill
up with
fresh water at all of these many fountains everywhere!  At first I was nervous about it making me sick (too
time spent in Russia, I suppose), but the British guy who I'll tell you about next told us it was absolutely
safe.  The water was not only delicious, but it was cool, too!!  not sure if you can see it in this photo, but this
fountain spews out of the statue's mouth.

The dome at the Vatican.
While walking to the Vatican, a young British man stopped us and wanted to know if we would like to skip the lines and buy a tour with a tour guide through the new Vatican museum (built in 2000) and Sistine Chapel.  We said yes.  Good thing, too!  I'll bet there were 5,000 people in line to get in!!  The line was 5 or 6 people wide and wrapped all the way down the Vatican Wall and around the corner.  Boy, were we glad we went with the tour!!  Worth every penny, and in fact, I got 30 Euros (~$50) back because Reese was disabled!  How cool was THAT?!

My ticket in.

The Vatican and museum were simply too amazing for words.  Marble busts, tapestries, coffins, celings... the whole thing was quite overwhelming!! 

Nope, don't know who this dude was (or hardly any of them which was a shame, but there was only so
time to show us stuff...) but the detail on his and some of the other busts was incredible.  I mean, look at the
hair - you can see STRANDS of this dude's hair!!
There were hundreds and hundreds of these lined up on the walls within the museums.  I was just dying to
know their history, who they were, etc!!

Just one of the many incredible ceilings.  Every ceiling was similarly adorned.  Mind-boggling...

Again with the hair...!

The inside of the dome looked eerily like the inside of the Capital dome in D.C.!  Reese was very
quick to
point that out, as well as other similarities.  It was very obvious that the Framers used Roman art to
many of the buildings in Washington.
(Imagine these were US Presidents and again, you'd be back in Washington!!)
Check out the floor - that is all MOSAIC!!!  Where is our artistry in society today??  It's all computer generated - are
there no more TRUE artists or artisans left in today's world...?  :o(
Kind of funny to see a statue of the goddess Artemis in the Vatican... with all of her very many breasts...  lol
I TOLD you about the celings...!!  (tapestries on the walls)
I think to see the Vatican properly, one needs one of those auto mechanic things that you lie on with wheels. 
You could just roll yourself around on your back up and down the looooong halls and admire the ceilings...
The climax of the tour was at the end when we entered the Sistine Chapel.  I expected the ceiling to be quite difficult to see but no! Michelangelo brilliantly painted his figures large enough to easily be seen from someone standing on the floor.  It was BEAUTIFUL!!  The colors were so rich and alive!!  The only problem was that my neck got really sore from craning it and I got a little dizzy from looking straight up for 10 min!  LOL!  The best thing would have been to lie on a blanket on the floor and look up.  But we were wall-to-wall packed people in there, so no dice.  Plus, they were very strict about how we were dressed, and there was no talking or any photos - even without a flash.  :o(  You know, though, the ceilings in all of the hallways and buildings were indescribable, too; it wasn't just the Sistine Chapel.  The whole place has earned its reputation for being one of the most magnificent places of art and history in the world. 

I took the opportunity to mail a couple of postcards to my Gram and to Joe from inside Vatican City.  I thought that was fun.  I would have sent more, but didn't have anyone else's address on me!!  Those two I knew by heart.  ;o)

We were dead tired by the time we were through and took the Metro back to the hotel (we're getting pretty good at it by this time!).  Reese took a long, hard nap and I read a book.  Our hotel room has 150+ channels on the TV, but not ONE is in English, so we read a lot.  LOL.  Also, we had the a/c cranked as high as we could get it but it never got below 80 degrees, I'm convinced.  Can't imagine what it's like in the summertime here...

The British guy who sold us the Vatican tour told us about a neighborhood on the other side of town that has all-you-can-eat buffets for 5 Euros (~$7.50) and Reese was so obsessed with finding it that we set off on a journey to hunt it down. 

We left around 630pm.  took the Metro to a certain spot and walked past the Roman Forum (along the wall where Nero had his residence) and by the Circo Massimo where they had chariot races as in the movie Ben Hur.  We crossed a river bridge and walked, and walked, and walked, and walked and walked... 

Lots of these old bridges over the river separating the "new" part of Rome from the "old".  To an American, it was ALL very, very old!!

It was dark by now and I was seriously tired.  Walking on cobblestones is NOT like walking on concrete sidewalks, and we'd walked on cobblestone on our excursions for the past 9 days, over miles and miles and my poor old 40-something soft American body just had had about enough.  We tried and tried to find this particular "bar" that the Brit recommended and just when I was ready to either collapse or start crying, we found it.  ...and the food didn't look too good.  UUUUUGGGHHH!!!!!  At that point, we decided to just go to the first pizzaria that we saw (pizzarias and gelatorias are literally on EVERY street corner in Rome) and we had pizza again.  Delicioso!  We also had garlic bread, which was somewhat unique to American garlic bread, but wonderful!  The manager told us that a bus would take us right close to our hotel, and we couldn't beleive it.  You mean, we walked all that way for nothing?!  *sigh*  We found the bus stsop, about a mile from the pizzaria and sure enough, it dropped us neatly off almost @ our hotel front door.  Can I describe to you how tired I was at this point?  LOL

We both collapsed into bed and rose very early to meet our shuttle to the airport.  As I write this, we are flying just out of France's airspace, over the water, on our way HOME.

This vacation was one of the very best I've ever had.  Mom was totally instrumental in planning all of the travel details, ensuring that we hit almost NO snags.  If anyone needs a fantastic travel agent - GET HER!!!!  (Jane Smith, Travel by Jane 425-221-9468) 

Traveling across the world with Reese is an experience that I value more than words can say.  We had such a great time and will always have this experience together.  Thanks for hanging out with me, Reese!  I love you!  Happy Graduation!!
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Very early on Sunday morning, Reese and I disembarked the ship and took an excursion tour, which would eventually drop us off in Rome and we'd find our hotel.
Good-bye, Mediterranean Sea...!!
 First stop: the Vatican. What a beautiful bldg! I've seen it on TV, of course, but being there in person, like most landmarks, is really awesome. 

The piazza was PACKED, as the Pope Francis was canonizing 3 new saints that day.  What an experience to be there to see that!!
 To our disappointment, we found out that our St. Peter's Basillica tour was cancelled as Pope Francis was naming 3 new saints today. But we were free to spend time in the Piazza just the same. To our amazement, the service was just beginning and we got to watch the Pope right then and there, give this service! 

A Swiss Guard (not a court jester).  Rumor has it that Michelangelo designed their uniforms.  Hmmm...
 We watched for an hour until our tour guide had us go, but what an experience! We were hoping we could wait until the end when the PopeMobile drove through the crowds (we had a good spot, too), but we had to leave. Still...!!

The pointed roof that is slightly illuminated in the center of the photo is the Sistine Chapel.
The top floor to the right is the traditional residence of the Pope.  However, Pope Francis chooses to live in the Hotel with other guests, rather than isolate himself in the Residence.  Every morning when he rises early, he goes to the Hotel clerk and hands her some coins to pay for his room for the night.  I love that guy!!

After that, we boarded the bus and went to the Roman Forum, which I knew almost nothing about. It was really ...amazing!!

We saw the grave (what was left of it) of Julius Caesar, the castle of Nero and massive miscellaneous ancient structures.

Julius Caesar's grave

 It was really amazing to sit there on a collapsed marble pillar and look around and try to imagine where I was and what happened there ~2,000 years ago. I tried to imagine the Roman peoples going about their daily lives, the dignitaries and politicians strutting around in their togas looking so important, and Roman guards, always looking for trouble. Really hard to imagine that I was THERE, and not watching some documentary on TV, or reading about it in books. I was touching the marble, sitting on a column, looking at the tomb of Julius Caesar, himself...

Ruins of the Emperor Nero's castle
Onward. Next stop, the Colisseum! Simply put, the Colisseum is massive. How these people built this collosal building in 8 1/2 years is staggering.  

We walked around the outside and entered.

Much of the Colisseum was plundered over the centuries.  This explains all of the holes (metal pipes were removed), missing marble (the place was pretty much completely covered in marble - only one small section of original seating remains as the seats were marble and they were all stolen), and general condition of the place.


Our guide pointed out small details and gave us the overview of the place. Death. Torture. Blood. The Colisseum was the place for it. Murders by the thousands while crowds cheered on. The entertainment of the Ancients.

  I wished for a more extensive tour, but alas, we had to move on. Time to catch our taxis and go to our hotels...

The taxi ride to the hotel reminded me a bit of car rides in Russia, but I have to admit, this time it was kind of fun.  Roman drivers are crazy, fast drivers, simply put.  I, while clutching the seat with all of my might, equated the ride to a ride at Universal Studios.  I think Reese put it better when he compared it to a video game.  Where in Russia, I think drivers tried to hit the pedestrians, it did seem that Roman drivers simply were aloof to pedestrians.  I actually witnessed cars braking and once even stopping to avoid hitting one.  That impressed me.

We were so tired that we did almost nothing the rest of the afternoon and evening but rest, much to Reese's dismay.

One more day in Rome, then it's back home...
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Changed our clocks fwd an hour as we crossed a time zone, heading back into Europe from Asia.  Good thing too, cause Reese didn't get in until almost FOUR o'clock this morning and he needed that extra hour!  LOL

It's been a beautiful morning - finally!!  Crisp, blue skies over sparkling azul waters - calm waters as far as the eye can see.  A perfect, beautiful morning for our last day here.


It was a very quiet, relaxing day.  Gorged ourselves again at Johnny Rockets and spent the last of my $100 shipboard credit on a sweatshirt.  Reese has $40 left of his to spend on something. 

I took a nap on my balcony in the sun - glorious!! and have begun to pack my suitcase and get organized.  I've been VERY proud of Reese and myself in how tidy and neat we've kept our stateroom.  :o)  The only real mess we've consistently left out was the increasing mountain of packages that we've collected at each port.  By now, the entire couch is completely covered.  Our stateroom attendant, Kenneth, surely is pleased with us.  :o)

Tomorrow life as we've known it ends, and we disembark into Rome to spend 2 days there on our own before returning... home.
Monday, May 20, 2013
Woke up to a raging thunderstorm!  It's an interesting feeling hearing the surf breaking against the ship (we have a blacony) while hearing also the rain peltingdown and thunder cracking sharply every few minutes!  The ship didn't seem to rock much - I could hardly feel anything different.

Before I forgot, I wanted to mention a bit about yesterday's Turkish carpets: the carpets are all hand knotted by Muslim women and a 6X9' rug can take 1 1/2 years to make!  When the dealer tried to sell me one, I told him I couldn't afford one, and he brought out smaller and smaller sizes.  The smallest one was about the size of 2 placemats and was still $100!!  While I could afford $100, what would I do with such a tiny rug??  I should have asked him if he had any rugs coaster-size...  LOL

Today, we are headed to Crete (hopefully the rain will stop!!!).  Not real sure what we are seeing today, but if it's anything 1/2 as fun as our previous port days, it should be a blast!


It's almost suppertime now and Reese and I just got up from our routine after-our-shore-excursion nap.  Our day was no where near as fun as previous excursion days, though it did have its highlights. 

After running through pouring down rain and deep puddles to our bus, our driver (who didn't introduce himself to us) took us deep into the island of Crete.  All of us were pretty disgusted by the heavy rain, and I said a quiet prayer that God would give us beautiful weather for the day.  We drove up, up, up a mountain and by the time we hit our first stop, the sun came out, and the day became absolutely beautiful!  Thanks, God!!  :o)
We even saw a beautiful rainbow, but I didn't get a good enough picture of it to publish here...
Our first stop was at a winery. 
I went ahead and let Reese try the wine cause he was of legal age there, and to let him discover for himself how terrible wine tastes...!  ;o)  He agreed.

We were served a glass of wine made right there, along with a plate of food that was almost entirely inedible - I won't describe it here (no point), but it was so bad almost no one did more than pick at it.  Reese made a design out of his:

After that, we saw the winery and a museum of old Greek stuff.  Then, we visited their store and I loaded up on more spices and olive oil products.  ;o)  Love me some olive oil stuff!!
Corner of the winery.  Sooooo pretty.
After that, we took the bus to an old ruinous monestary on the side of a hill.

Church inside of the monestary.

  It was incredibly cool, but I know nothing of it because our guide didn't tell us anything.  If he did, he only told those of us standing next to him.  :o(  But it was still cool.  There was a little bitty store there with an adorable monk selling icons and other religious goods, and I took the opportunity to buy a couple of Christmas gifts for my niece and SIL (they don't read my blog I'm sure, so it's safe to say it ;o)  ). 
Entering the monestary grounds.  Greek flag flying above.
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Though much of the monestary was in ruins, other parts were intact, like this church.

The countryside was beautiful and so peaceful.

Not sure what this stair area was all about, but it was fun climbing around on it.  
Yep!  I had fun climbing on it, too! 

Hangin' out at the ruins.  Just another ordinary day.

Taken from the top of the "stairs": Not sure what this long hallway was for, but you can see the roof is gone and you can see the arches that made up the supports for the roof.  It was cooler than it shows in the photo.
This was a courtyard of sorts.  The buildings surrounding it were mostly intact.  Very calm and peaceful here.  A good place for a monestary!
One more: near the edge of the monestary walls.  Once I get the yard equipment photoshopped out of this photo, this will be one of my favorites.
After that, our guide took us to the town of Vamos and pretty much just walked around.  Very boring, though it was very pretty and a charming little Cretan town.
I took this one for my Mom: it's a travel agency!!  "Simpson Travel".  LOL!  Inside was actually really modern, with modern furniture!  No people inside, though.

Along the streets of Vamos.  I guess lots of tourists stay here; the townspeople have no jobs here, so they rent their homes out to tourists.  Ya gotta do what ya gotta do, I guess.
By now, most of the tour guests were tired and bored but we had one more stop - a shopping market.  Ugh.  So, in downtown Chania (KHAN ee yah), we shopped.  I'm sure the market was very interesting, but again, our guide either didn't tell us anything, or you had to be standing right next to him to hear anything, so we wandered around until we could board the bus and head back to the ship.  One interesting thing though: Reese found an Armani belt for 5 Euros (~$7.50) and I found a set of 4 nesting make-up bags by Chanel for 12 Euro (~$18).  We don't know if they are knock-offs or not - I'd like to sell mine on eBay or the like...

After we FINALLY got back to the ship, we visited with some ship-friends over pizza, and took a long nap.  Now it's suppertime!!  :o)


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If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.
- Chinese proverb
It is not the will of your Father that any one of these little ones should perish. Matt. 18:14

Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. Matt. 18:5

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

My family

My family
Nikolai, Mark, Missy, Reese, and Erik

Nikolai, 19

Nikolai, 19

Reese, 19

Reese, 19

Erik, 9

Erik, 9





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