bye-bye Florence.

Its our last week in Florence. I cannot believe we are at this threshold, the tail end of our year-long adventure abroad. In case you hadn't heard: last spring we sold our home, cars and put our belongings in storage; we climbed a plane, landed in Amsterdam and assembled 4 bikes. Two panniers apiece, we cycled from Amsterdam to Paris, took the chunnel to London and finished the 2009 summer with a week-long soccer camp (for the boys) in Manchester City, England.

Then, we flew to Florence. Mid-August, we rented a temporary apartment, inserted the boys in an Italian school (aka full immersion) and they tried out/played soccer for a premier club. Over the first few months, James and I dealt with paperwork (many lines, many offices, many hours) for permission to stay. We toured every corner of Florence and much of Tuscany. Throughout the year, we had 3 week visits from both sets of grandparents (Dec, Jan) and my brothers' family (cousins!).

In February 2010, James returned home [early] to look for a job. For four months, February-May, Janelle and the boys stayed in Florence while James hopped couches and interviewed his way around Seattle. He recently landed a job, and is joining the boys and Janelle for a last 'hurrah.' We will all say goodbye to Florence on June 14, then take a road trip together: Lucca, Parma, Modena, Rimini then to Milan for our return flight to Washington state (June 23).

Our year was full of highlights and discovery, challenges from popped tires to circus dogs, logistics to art and wine and festivals, learning a new language (boys did, Janelle didn't, James already knew Italian) and so much more. I don't know where to begin, none of us can fathom how this year has changed and molded us; we will be digesting and re-integrating and reflecting for months---and years---to come.

James is working on canonizing our adventure in book-form; during our year, he did a fantastic job writing a post called 'top 5' for each month. Janelle 'canonized' much of the adventure here at familyfrolics, and also on her food blog, talkoftomatoes. The boys both kept journals, with lots of sketches and postcards, and observations along the way.

May: packed up lives state-side, boarded plan and landed in Amsterdam for a week.
June: cycling across Holland (windmill counting begins, baa-ing like sheep not uncommon)
July: cycling across Holland, Belgium, France.
Aug: London 10 days, Manchester United Soccer Camp, fly to Florence, swimming, soccer tryouts.
Sept: choose apartment, boys' school in Florence; tourist activities.
Oct: 3 week return state-side (unplanned---required for paperwork); visit Montana cabin, family.
Nov: daily life in Florence
Dec: 3 week visit from James' folks (Lucca, Orvieto, Civita, San Gimignano, Florence); Christmas festival

Jan: 3 week visit from Janelle's folks (Rome, Florence)
Feb: James returns to states; road trip: southern Tuscany/Elba Island (hot springs!)
Mar: daily life in Florence
Apr: 3 week visit from Janelle's brother/sister/nephews (road trips: Chianti, Cinque Terre, Venice)
May: daily life in Florence

I could put 50 links to the above months, but if you are curious and want to read more: in the left hand column there are archives by dates, click on any month to see posts for that month.

Our final month abroad [in Italy], June 2010 includes: finishing up the soccer season, saying goodbye at school, closing our accounts at the apartment, shipping home belongings, gearing up for the World Cup (what color will you wear?) and a final road trip (more about that soon).

By the way... just because we are returning state-side by NO MEANS means our frolicking is over. On the contrary we already have plans to visit a cabin in Montana, tour around our home city of Seattle, join up with soccer teams and pop up to Vancouver BC, Canada... all before the end of July.

Re-entry will no doubt be a whirlwind, and certainly we will appreciate the nuances of 'reality bites.' But even if we are sad that this chapter---this year long adventure abroad---is coming to a close, by no means will we stop embracing life to the fullest, at every possible frolicking moment.


  1. I have quietly been following your family's journey over the past year, in part with envy as I lived in Bologna, Italy for year as a college student TWENTY years ago, and in part in awe of your courage and sense of adventure. Thank you for allowing us to live vicariously through your time in Europe. I miss it there so much! I'm glad to hear that you have lots of plans when you return because I know how difficult re-entry into the US lifestyle can be! I pray for your family's safe return and wish you many more amazing journeys. What a gift you have given your boys! Bravo!

  2. What a beautiful trip it was! I've loved every minute of it, following closely from the Midwest, with envy, surprise, elation, and mouth-watering appreciation. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience!

  3. Anonymous10.6.10

    I just recently found your site - wish I had found it sooner! I have gone back and read most of your entries. A standing ovation to you for your courage and determination; you have given your children something they could never learn from a textbook! My husband and I spent time in Florence last July, and it is our dream to one day live there. Reading about your experiences there was wonderful. Thanks for sharing your incredible journey, and I wish you all the best back here in the states.

  4. Anonymous10.6.10

    Darling family - It is with both sadness and pleasure that we see you coming to the end of this adventure. Sadness because this first trip will always be the best, and can never be repeated with such complete innocence. Pleasure because we know that you have many more things to experience, but also, a little selfishness on the part of we grandparents who can't wait to see all of you again! We want you to know how very proud we are of you, and how much this experience has given to all of us - even to strangers who, when we tell them about your adventures, look at us with awe and then slowly, just a glimmer of hope that perhaps one day they too could do something so incredible. So you see, you have been a shining example for far more people than you know. Can't wait to see all of you! Love, Oma and Opa

  5. I will so miss your stories and pictures from abroad, but am sure I'll still love the ones stateside. Good luck on the return trip. Keep me posted.

  6. memoryminded: thanks for following---and for commenting! Love knowing other people's stories and experiences; we just had the BEST experience staying two nights at an agriturismo near Bologna... what an amazing region for good food!

    Kate: Loved sharing with you---am hoping now that we are stateside, we will deliberately run into each other... some food conference or something;)?

    Oma/Opa: Thank you for the kind words; seeing family will feel so good, as will digesting all of what we experienced. It WILL make us hungry for more... but this year is special and you are so, so right: not replaceable or repeatable. What a gift this year has been! Even for all the hurdles and challenges, red-tape and putting our lives in storage;). Before you know it, we will have a home again, with chickens and soccer schedules and family dinners on the calendar;)!

    Hip Mom: You got it;) LMK when you are visiting Seattle next;). Then we can catch up properly!

  7. You should add a trip to the midwest :) Our beaches are WONDERFUL this time of year ;)

  8. Jodi: aw wouldnt' that be tooooo fun????


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