Today we said goodbye to the Mitchells, and hit the rails for Rome. The seven hours on the train passed quickly and easily, as we had WiFi and the boys were able to do schoolwork and Alex and I were able to work on travel logistics. Alex takes on the majority of this task and it is no small feat, coordinating transportation for the five of us from place to place and mapping out the best places to visit.

Staying with my childhood friend Colleen and her family has been a trip highlight. Colleen took amazingly good care of us, feeding us incredible food and showing us around her charming small Italian town. Having the luxury of a whole week to reconnect with her and to see her life abroad was such a gift. We’re alike in many ways and we treat our differences with respect. We love the outdoors (especially fall!) and we have a shared North Idaho pragmatism. We’ve had tremendous experiences beyond our small town roots, and we both hold that place sacredly dear in our hearts. We’ve each experienced the grief of the loss of a parent, and both her mother’s birthday and my father’s birthday occurred during our week together–an unexpected experience to share, and one that was deeply meaningful.

She and her husband Jason have twin boys who are ten years old (we were both pregnant with identical twin boys for one month of overlap!) and Cole and Luke were wonderful playmates for our three. With Jason’s military career, their boys have lived nearly half their lives in Europe and are fluent in German and are learning Italian. Colleen and Jason have taken them to see many wonderful places in Europe, and all five of our boys share a passion for geography and history. They geeked out over the wonders of the British Museum that they had all seen, played the board game History of the World, hiked a barefoot trail, played with Rubik’s cubes, watched movies, and plotted to steal potato chips from their parents together. At one point Colleen pulled out a map of the world and they all swarmed around her and she commented “I pulled out a map and now I have five little guys all shouting in my ears about classical cultures!” It was so gratifying to see them all thriving together joyfully.

It was also such a relief to relax into a home and family for a week. We’ve spent nearly three months moving from place to place, needing to be endlessly vigilant about everything from security to food safety to train/bus times…and for one priceless week, we got to embrace carefree enjoyment of a wonderful town and wonderful people…and be taken care of. So amazing.