Saturday, December 28, 2013


Since she started with the GMS orchestra, Bianca spends more time at orchestra and music lessons on Saturday than she does in a normal day of school. We're up earlier (and after a week of work, I could use a day to sleep in) than a regular school/work day. But Bianca loves it. She loves being in a place where the other kids are as intense (most probably even more) than she is about music. She doesn't complain, but I know her arms (and head) are tired by the end of her Saturdays. Her orchestra had their fall concert at the end of November and although I knew they were an awesome orchestra, watching her with them makes me so proud that she's a part of this.

I've adopted a theory about music that goes like this: Heavenly Father has allowed us to nurture our talents and our "tithing" back is to play and bring the spirit to sacrament meetings. Bianca learned and played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on viola in sacrament meeting in December. I don't understand how she can practice pretty well at home, then stand up there in front of all those people and play without missing a note. Her tone is beautiful and she's really progressing so much every week. She's upped her practicing to two sessions of about an hour each day. This isn't something I make her do, but she wants to do it.

Portia was asked to play her cello for the primary program in October and played "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." She still takes lessons with Richard Hoyt and just completed Suzuki Book Two. Richard told her that after she completes book three, then she'll be a real cellist. She's looking forward to that day. We break up her practices into two sessions (this is because she frankly doesn't have the attention span she needs for the amount of practice she needs to do). I do new Suzuki pieces with her before school/work, and Eric has taken over scales, arpeggios, note-reading, and Suzuki review after school. She's recently started vibrato. I was surprised that she can pretty much play any song you ask her to (I had assumed this was a talent only Bianca had). Maybe it's more of a string-instrument thing. Not sure.

We have had a little difficulty with Portia's note-reading recently. I had reservations with this whole Suzuki method from the beginning for this very reason, but hopefully it will still come. I got frustrated the other morning when Portia wasn't "reading" the music (Suzuki Book 3 conveniently has left out all the fingerings—thank goodness!—so now she can't rely on that) so I told Portia I expected an essay from her when I returned from work on why she needs to learn to read notes. It was sort of cute though; she had titled it S.A. Hahaha! Hopefully she'll now realize the why to the note-reading. She is so cute it's kind of hard to discipline her.

Funny story for anyone who appreciates and knows music: One night at dinner, Eric was telling me that Portia was FINALLY getting the triplets in the I Can Read Music rhythms. After dinner, Portia came up, pointed at the section of my closet where I keep things (and I had a group of 3 Littlest Pet Shop cats—which Portia had called the triplets—stashed up there when it bought them on sale and was going to give it to her for Christmas). She stated, "Dad said I could have the triplets!" It took a couple back-and-forths and a couple conferences to figure out that Portia had misunderstood when Eric had said she "was finally getting the triplets" in her music. Here's Portia with the Pet Shop triplets she actually got for Christmas:

Best investment we ever made . . .

I haven't regretted paying the little extra money it cost to install heat under the tile in our bathroom when we were remodeling. And as you can see, on a cold winter's morning, it's hard to resist!

Christmas Season 2013

Christmas season came and went so fast this year. I'm not looking forward to taking down the decorations (they seemed to take forever to put up this year). But mark my words: I will not buy any Christmas stuff in after-Christmas sales this year. Wait, unless I can find ready-made red bows. I kind of need those for the garland on the railings. But nothing else! I had been looking forward to putting up our tree all year as we bought our 12-foot, flocked tree half-off in the after-Christmas sale at Taipan Trading last year. I finally have the perfect place to put up a tall tree (in our library) and am still loving it. If I wouldn't turn into the crazy Christmas lady, I'd keep this tree up all year long. I love the snowy owls, crystal chandelier ornaments and the turquoise-silver-and-red color scheme. 

We watched loads of Christmas movies this year—all the oldies but goodies—since I'm always so tired after work and love snuggling up with the girls in my bed and watching TV. We got free tickets to go downtown to see A Snow White Christmas that the girls really liked. 

We stayed in town for Christmas as usual. A couple of years ago, Eric and I decided it's just too hard to try to travel to either St. Louis or Dallas to see our families. So now Christmas belongs to us: We get to set our own traditions and we get to do it how we want to. We had a low-key, awesome Christmas Eve where we ate Eric's traditional Irish shepherd's pie and reenacted the Nativity from the Bible. Both Bianca and Portia prepared songs on their instruments: Bianca played O Little Town of Bethlehem on viola and Portia played Silent Night on her cello. We each read Christmas poems by Leslie Norris. And did our annual reading of Three Trees. Then Bianca and Portia watched a Christmas movie and slept downstairs by the tree. Eric and I finished the wrapping. Thankfully, this year we actually finished before 10 o'clock.

The next morning, Bianca and Portia were ready for presents at 6:30. I started the wood fire down in the basement and we opened presents.

The big presents this year were Bianca's ipod touch and Portia's balance beam. They got a shared present too, a go-kart that really won't be all that much fun until the spring. Eric made these awesome frames with prints we picked up when we were in Italy; Bianca embroidered a Y slogan for dad's carriage house; Portia drew pictures for each of us and framed them. I still stick to my 3 categories—Bianca got exercise (think Nike App for her ipod), eduction (Amazon gift card so she can read on her ipod), and a shopping trip with me to get her some clothes SHE can pick out) and Portia's exercise was her balance beam, talent was a bunch of art supplies and light-up dry-erase board, and play (Pet Shops again).  I think the girls got plenty to be grateful too, without being spoiled. I may regret the ipod touch thing though. We're setting up some rules about usage.

We spent Christmas day with the Quigley's—Bruce and Joanie and Jason and Wendy's family. It was delicious food, relaxing, and fun. I'm starting to have a love-hate relationship with the game Settlers of Catan. And I still maintain that I play boardgames for the enjoyment they provide—not just to win. It was another nice Christmas that I'm sad to see go.

Playing Settlers of Catan on Christmas Day

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Crazy Halloween

October flew by this year! So Halloween decorations came out and went back into the box so quickly I'm still not sure where the time went. The girls got to do some fun Halloween stuff, though.

Aunt Joanie and Uncle Bruce had their annual Halloween party that included traditional games like bobbing for apples, donut-eating contest, wrap the mummy. We always have such a great time with the Quigleys.

Emily, Bianca, Portia and me
The Saturday before Halloween, Portia got to play spooky Halloween songs with other cellists around the state in the Suzuki Halloween play-in. They dressed in their costumes—Portia was a princess—and played Witch's Dance (Paganini) and Moon over the Ruined Castle out of the Suzuki book, and then learned the Ghost of John and Itsy Bitsy Spider. Then they just played other Suzuki songs. There was a lecture at the same time for the parents so I missed recording the spooky stuff. The only thing I got was Musette at the end. You can tell Portia's starting to lose interest as her bowings are suffering and she's getting distracted (wow she looks around a lot).

On Halloween, the girls got to wear their costumes to school. Portia decided to be Cherry Jam (a Strawberry Shortcake character). Her favorite part was the pink hairspray she got to wear. Since I was working, I couldn't go to the school Halloween parade so Eric did and sent me some pictures at work. Look how cute my little sweetie is with her friends Ashley and Halle.

Bianca decided this year that she wanted to be Annabeth from the Percy Jackson series of books she loves. The costume didn't involve much but a Camp Half Blood t-shirt, a necklace of beads she painted herself, owl earrings, and a baseball cap. Costumes seem to be getting less interesting as kids get older. I guess that is the way things work.

Every year, we would go to the trick-or-treat at Eric's work but thankfully my work did one. So my kids got to come see my office and see the big Panda and get candy from my co-workers. I dressed up in my sari since I never get to wear it and went as an Indian princess. I wasn't around to get pictures today so Bianca nearly slipped through the cracks. Thankfully there was one picture of the three of us at work.

We had our traditional pumpkin pizza for dinner. Bianca went to a Halloween party with some friends in the ward, and they all went trick-or-treating together. Portia wanted to go with our neighbor Reba so I went with Reba's mom all over. It felt nice to get out and walk around (a common problem I've been having with sitting so much at the office). It was a beautiful fall night. And the kids returned home with gobs of candy.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life's Stages

For the last six months, there's been a mama deer with the sweetest two little polka-dot backed deer following her around—nibbling the grass, bushes, and the apples falling in our yard. They look up when we come outside, but are pretty tame. We love those deer and have pretty much claimed them as our very own pets.

A couple weeks ago, as I was driving Bianca to the bus stop on my way to work, our mama deer ran across the busy street in front of my car. I slammed on my brakes even though she had already made it across because I suspected there was a smaller deer right behind her. When I stopped, it frightened the deer and she ran the opposite direction of her mom and the other baby-who-had-grown-up-there-are-no-more-spots. The mama looked across the street with a panic in her eyes. But there was nothing I could do but make my way on to work.

Bianca by that time had started saying in her not-so-sweet tween voice, Why did you stop? And there I was understanding exactly the panic in that mama deer's eyes, being scared for the child she loves so much, wanting to love the child but being so far away and it seemed there was nothing she could do. It wasn't up to her. She just had to wait on the other side and hope.

After I dropped Bianca off, I was upset all the way to work. How did I get to the point where I don't feel like I can even talk to my child anymore without it ending up in some sort of argument? I can't even ask her about her day without her completely clamping up and rolling her eyes. I really don't get it. I know it's her age. But she was my only child for so long and we could always, always talk. I always wanted to be that mom who my kids could talk to and now it seems that I'm just like every other mom I never thought I would be. When I do get small glimpses of trust, they're small and I have to dig for those bits.

On Friday, one of the small deer was lying dead on the road right outside our house. It stabbed me in the heart so hard I cried all the way to work. I don't want to see a heartbroken mama deer staggering around our yard. I'm not ready to see only bits of that family surviving on brown, crumbling autumn leaves.  As moms, we just want to love our kids and keep them close. And I'm trying, but every time I ask my daughter a question, I feel like a deer in headlights. Will she let me peek into her world this time or shut me out again? Bianca turned twelve just weeks ago. I can't imagine it getting worse than this, but somehow know it will.

Friday, September 27, 2013


We have some friends living in the neighborhood.

They wear their little masks and thieve around in our wild plum trees, eating away. I won't tell them that we don't mind sharing. I'll let them think they're stealing. They really are cute little guys.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I like to share. . .

I'm kind of proud of some of my latest work.

I admit that I kind of missed being a part of a team working for a common goal. I missed being surrounded by employees to talk to throughout the day and I kind of missed the feeling of being productive and doing a job well.

Because we're in the HR industry, I'm learning a lot fast, and because I'm new, I hope I'm adding a fresh perspective on some of these ideas.  I do love that my job is in a field I love—writing—and I have a purpose. I had the opportunity to be a guest blogger through BambooHR last week, and I really enjoyed writing this article.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Change is in the air... kind of like a whirlwind!

Last week's calendar looked something like this:

Monday -- Bianca's first day of middle school
Tuesday -- Portia's first day of first grade
Thursday -- Jeana's first day of work
Friday -- Eric's last day of work

It has been an adjustment. Our mornings start with the ringing of long tones from Bianca's viola at six a.m. That's when I drag myself out of bed and start getting ready for work. Now I've worked flexible jobs here and there over the last eight years, but not full-time. The first day I came home from working my eight hours, my body ached (and yes, I have an office job where I'm sitting in front of a computer) and my head hurt with the loads of info crammed into it. 

Bianca and Portia on Portia's first day of school
I kind of feel bad now for always nagging my kids to get started on other things after they'd stagger in the door from school. They need some down time. Their brains hurt. I get it. Now, they veg in front of the computer or TV until I stagger in the door.

After Eric stopped working (and while he's setting up his own company), he's playing mom. He gets the kids breakfast and lunches, does the dishes, makes the bed. He has dinner on the table when I get home from work. We'll  eat better now that Eric's in charge of food! He is the master chef around here. 

I feel I need to explain why we made the decision we did: Things at Eric's work had gotten toxic. This was something he needed to do. I'm trying to support him even though starting our own company is risky. 

One thing is sure: Eric is a very hard worker and he's proven he knows his way around business deals. So I'll trust for now.

Any change takes adjustment. We're bending now, trying not to break in the midst of this whirlwind. This ought to be an interesting year! Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My little "gymnasticker"

When I was little, I wanted to be a gymnast more than anything in the whole world. I ate, drank, and slept gymnastics--when I wasn't actually doing gymnastics. When the television would show a gymnastics meet, I taped it on my VHS tape and watched it over and over until I had memorized every move that I could do most of the routines myself (minus the big-ticket stuff). I was obsessed. I cartwheeled or back-flipped everywhere I needed to go, even on concrete (the mother in me cringes when I remember that).

I still love to watch gymnastics on television. While I was watching a meet a couple years ago, Portia sidled up to me and watched over my shoulder. That's when she proudly proclaimed (as a 3-year-old) that she wanted to be a "gymnasticker". I put her in gymnastics for a year and then we moved, and fast-forward a couple years, I signed her back up for gymnastics lessons at Gymcats at Thanksgiving Point when she was five.

She and her friend Ashley have taken lessons together since March, and they had a "recital" this Saturday to show us (the parents) the progress our kids are making. After all, they have elaborate dance recitals for dance--why not have a gymnastics recital?

Uh oh, looks like Portia's arms may be double-jointed as mine are
Portia practiced her floor routine at home. She was cosi-cosi (our family's newly adopted Italian term meaning so-so) on bars, but bars was never my strongest event when I was a kid. She was completely clueless on her beam routine, but boy did she finish her routine with gusto (she did a round-off dismount and landed on her bum with all the force she mustered)! And her vault looked pretty strong as well. But by far, she looked comfortable out there tumbling on the floor. They even got medals at the end. Portia's convinced she got first place, and every one else fell somewhere behind her.

Lately, I've been giving Portia private gymnastics tutoring at home. She's loving it. She's been cartwheeling all over the place, even up the stairs. I didn't think it was possible either, until I saw it. And I'm loving this too!

My little "gymnasticker"

Saturday, August 17, 2013

An artist in the making

When I was a little girl, I spent all my days drawing and coloring. Before I could write, I would paste pages together to make books and then I'd draw stories. When I learned to write, my stories came to life in similarly glued-together books. The writing stuck, but somewhere along there, my first love--drawing--got lost in the shuffle. I see in Portia the same passion for drawing that I once had. (I find it interesting the things we can pass along to our kids.) Well, I don't want her love for art to get lost as mine did, so I'm trying to encourage her to keep it up. As such, I put Portia in art camp with Portia's old pre-school teacher, Miss Melissa, the second week of August.

It was all afternoon for four days, and Portia LOVED it! She made this awesome kitty mask (it was plastered from Portia's face, but she decided to add triangle ears to make it more cat-like).

She also made a clay pig (Portia painted hers blue), splatter-paint initial boards (I love how the splatter artistry is also attached to Portia's skin), and painted a woods scene. The pine trees and river and clouds were amazing. I called Melissa afterward and asked, Did Portia really paint that? She assured us that each child did their own work. The instructors taught the techniques to use the brush to make a pine tree or the splash of the water against the rock, but yes, it was all Portia. In the picture below, Portia's painting is to the right of her, as well as her blue pig with pink eyes.

The art camp was for pre-school alumni and friends, so Portia didn't really know many kids. Here is a friend she made named Jada.

I think my little girl has talent. I'll try not to let her forget about it despite the other talents she may be nurturing along the way.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."

...says Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. The Tempest is one of my all-time favorite Shakespearean plays. And I realized this weekend that I have a lot of favorites. As Bianca and I sat at the Bard's Inn breakfast table eating our egg-and-bacon-crescent blossoms and fruit medley, we overheard a family going around the table answering which is their all-time favorite play of Shakespeare's. I can honestly say I don't know which is my absolute favorite. Bianca said hers was Taming of the Shrew, which she got to know up-close-and-personal this year as she played Bianca in Westfield Elementary's sixth-grade rendition. And, of course, it's her name-sake. I love that one too. The Tempest is my Miranda's name-sake, so this one is particularly special to me. There's even a quote from the play etched into her headstone--"O, a cherubim, thou wast that did preserve me. Thou didst smile infused with a fortitude from heaven." It brought tears to my eyes when I heard Prospero say the line at this year's annual mother-daughter trip to Cedar City.
Miranda and Ferdinand -- The Tempest

This year was the first time we spent two nights at the B&B and saw two plays, The Tempest and Love's Labour's Lost. I filled in the play-bill where it lists all the plays and you mark if you've seen it or not. (I didn't count community theatre productions, just professional.) I thought I had seen a lot of them, but I have a lot to go. I made Bianca promise me that we would always, always try to spend our weekend together at the Shakespeare Festival. She told me she would have to see if it would fit into her "tour schedule" as she has high hopes of becoming a professional violist someday. I smiled and told her, "We'll make it work."

Some years my friend Rachel and her son Conner come along, as they did this year. We did some "traditional" things, like Wingers (for some reason, we always eat there) and the Green Show. And of course, the plays, which were particularly interesting this year. I really liked both of them. We probably should have fit King John into the mix as well, as I hear it was fantastic, but I haven't even started on the Histories yet and am not sure how eager I am to tackle those. I'm not exactly a history person. Give me my tragedies and comedies for now.

Bianca and I took some early morning walks and we even checked out a house for sale down there--a cute little Tudor-style cottage. Now ideas of having a vacation rental that I can decorate all Shakespeare keep running through my head. I think it would be nice to have a place to stay down in a town that celebrates William Shakespeare. I'll have to think on this one...

I do love our time down in Cedar City. We need these mother-daughter bonding weekends. I realized that Portia will be the age next summer that Bianca was when we first started taking our trip to the Shakespeare Festival. She just seems so less ready. I might push it a little while with her. But the next time they do Merchant of Venice--Portia's namesake--I'll have no choice.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

A little motivation

Bianca was working really hard. She practiced her viola most days while we were in Europe. She knew she needed to have several pieces performance-ready. Because of the audition. It's been looming over us all summer. Some days she would put in two or three practice sessions, without me encouraging her to do it. And the kind of practice was different--instead of running through her pieces straight through, she was stopping at mistakes, picking those sections apart, practicing them slower, then gradually faster up to tempo. It's like her practicing was become more mature right before my eyes (well, my ears anyway, as she practices upstairs in her room).

I knew she was putting a lot of pressure on herself. One particular week after a lot of extra practice sessions, Bianca's teacher was doing as she always does--finding parts that needed help and correcting her. Near the end of the lesson, something just broke. Roberta stopped and asked what was wrong. Bianca was in tears. I knew what it was--that her many extra hours hadn't really been acknowledged and that lessons were going on as usual and that corrections were continuing to be made. My eyes started welling up too, I'm a sympathetic cryer. And no one wants to see their child hurting. Larry, Bianca's teacher's husband, went out to feed the fish after the lesson and asked if Bianca and Portia wanted to come watch. Of course they did. I was glad for I had time to explain to Roberta what happened in the studio back there. She was full of praise for Bianca and worried that she's putting too much pressure on herself. Maybe she was. Bianca can be intense at times, and I think she felt she had something to prove.

Up until the audition yesterday, Roberta stressed that I needed to downplay the importance of the audition and that no matter the outcome, it doesn't change the improvements Bianca's made. But I was worried. If she didn't get the outcome she wanted--the coveted place in the prestigious orchestra--how could I explain to her that hard work really gets results?

Thankfully, it all worked out. Bianca was ready. She was confident, poised, and she played beautifully at the audition. She had the first two movements of the Telemann Viola Concerto prepared, as well as the courante from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1, which she had learned in three weeks. When the director said she had a place in the orchestra, she couldn't stop smiling. This orchestra is a huge commitment--every Saturday for over five hours. But it's a full-scholarship orchestra so once you get in, you're immersed in it. Saturday sessions include music theory and ear training classes and music history. I told Bianca that yes, she worked hard to get in, but it's just the beginning. This orchestra will be a lot of work. And a lot of early Saturday mornings.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hiding in the forest

Portia and I have been reading Bambi for our bedtime reading. Portia gets really into whatever book we're reading, and her room is now covered in little chalk drawings of Bambi, Faline and Gobo. She prances around the house on all fours (no, this little phase of hers still isn't over) and really becomes a deer. She's an all-or-nothing sort of girl. A couple chapters ago, we read a really descriptive part about hunters shooting off their "lightning crashes." The animals were so frightened and out of their minds and dropping down everywhere in the frantic run away from the hunters in the meadow ("Get to the forest where it's safe!"). I'd forgotten how sad this book was since I'd read it to Bianca some years back. Last week, I was a complete mess and couldn't read anymore. I suppose Portia isn't the only one who immerses herself into things!

Because Portia is young and spirited (see previous post on spirited children!), I have to liken things to Portia in her cello practice so she really gets it. One of Richard Hoyt's latest corrections for Portia was that her thumb needs to be tucked behind the neck of the cello, not peeking around, so that her hand is curved like a C. So Portia's thumb became Bambi and if Bambi is in the forest (behind the neck), he is safe. If he's in the meadow, he's vulnerable and the hunter could show up anytime. Now all I have to say is, "I see Bambi" and she quickly tucks her thumb behind the cello's neck. Ah, the things we parents do to keep our kids moving in the right direction!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Last but not least: Portovenere

In La Spezia, before we boarded a boat for Portovenere
We ended our vacation with a bang: Our last day in Italy ended up being my very favorite! We started off the day at the beach in Lerici. It was warm, so the beach was crowded. The ocean was cool so the kids were happy. I just sat with my feet tucked into the warm sand and relaxed. It had been a long and busy (but wonderful) two weeks. Italian sales guys would come by us and try to sell us things off their portable racks or boards of goods while we sat on the beach. I didn't mind. The shopping was coming to us! One piece of advice I would give to anyone wanting to travel to Italy is learn your numbers (and a couple other little gems to get around and order food--Acqua Non frizzante, per favore) because in order to buy things, you must know your numbers. Especially to negotiate the prices of things. I got myself and Bianca both a pretty Italian dress (light, more like a swimsuit cover-up) and an awesome handkerchief hat (yes, Eric, this is how I get you back for wearing that fedora everywhere!) Eric said I look like a bike "rider chic". I say, not bike, but definitely a "writer chic." Anyway, it's not fussy, it kept my head cool in the sun, and I didn't have to worry about my bangs that have been giving me problems for the last three weeks!

After we finished swimming in the morning (and unfortunately missed out on the Mary Shelley museum because it kept such odd hours), we headed to La Spezia. We had a quick lunch at a stand near the port (our sandwiches were quite good, considering). I also got some pretty awesome pictures in La Spezia.

Bianca (being the musician she is) like the name of this Piazza in La Spezia
Bianca and Portia by the port in La Spezia
Large anchor, anyone? (La Spezia)
After lunch, we got on a boat headed for Portovenere. It was quite inexpensive (25 euros for all of us) and headed to Portovenere. Here we are right off the boat.

Arriving in Portovenere
This little gulf is called the Gulf of Poets because this is where Shelley and Lord Byron would go to get inspiration for their writing--I think there were others as well, but these are the two I remember. And it was gorgeous! I understand completely why they would be inspired here. When we walked up some steps, it opened up to this cliff intermixed with ruins. It's everything I hoped the coast of Italy would be.

Lord Byron's Grotto
There were little alcoves built into these ruins. I wanted to climb in with a notebook and
start writing poetry myself! 
Playing in Byron's Grotto
The Church of St. Peter and the square Spallanzani
Ah, sitting next to Mother Nature (Madre-Natura)
We stopped at the Church of San Lorenzo, built around 1130, where it is believed a miracle occurred with a Bianca (white) Madonna back in 1399. We even sat for mass here.

We had to take quite a few stairs to make it up to the castle. There was so much to see, it took us forever to get up there.

Lots of stairs to climb in Portovenere
Taking the stairs up
The view from Portovenere is just beautiful!
Still on our way up to Doria Castle (that's it in the background)
Bianca exploring the ruins
More ruins
We went up to the Doria Castle next and wandered around its ruins. The view out to the sea was awesome here and there were so many little windows and niches. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

 I love the reflection in the window

On our way down, we had some gelato, bought some pesto (Portovenere is famous for their pesto), and had to get on our boat back to La Spezia.

Bianca and Portia found some friendly Italian gatti (Portovenere is called Kitty City!)

The view was amazing!


In town of Portovenere

Isn't the knocker cool?
The doors to San Lorenzo Church (see statue above the door)
I love the foliage everywhere!
It's kind of a door-like opening
Sadly, this was our last day in Italy. We packed up that night and headed out bright and early the next morning (about 4:30am) to drive to Milan to board the plane. As we were saying goodbye to Carro for the last time, I saw a firefly. I didn't know fireflies were in Italy! We were exhausted by now but still realized what we were leaving. Italy was as beautiful as I'd hoped.