The “Falling Leaves” Monday Listicle

I can barely believe it’s October already, it was July five minutes ago. Where, oh where, does the time go? So, now that the day’s banalities are over let’s get on with the Monday Listicle. Today’s topic: top ten autumn must haves… I love autumn… not the crappy rainy autumn that it looks like we’re having, but the lovely, colorful autumn, the sweet cinnamon and pumpkin smelling autumn, the warm sweater and comfortable jean wearing autumn the catalogues show us.

No seriously, I mostly love autumn, I love the colors, the smells, the chill in the air, and the sense of wonderful new beginnings and possibilities that the start of a new school year always brings, even now that I’m all grown up. Despite the fact that I spend a fair amount of my time bitching and moaning about the weather, I actually love living in a place that has four distinct seasons.

But still, autumn has its peculiarities… for lack of a better word… so here are ten must haves for autumn in northern Italy.

1. apples – many, many bushels of apples. So you can make lovely apple pies, and apple butters and baked apples…

2. chestnuts – falling off the trees, ready to be cleaned and roasted (or boiled, or baked)

3. a fireplace – to warm up the house until it gets cold enough to turn on the heating (and to roast the abovementioned chestnuts)

4. rain boots and an umbrella near the door – because it’ll rain, but it’s not all bad, you need rain so you can go pick mushrooms.

5. mushrooms – to make risotto with, and to cover veal scaloppini, and to batter and deep fry if your liver can take it.

6. working heating – because at some point that fireplace isn’t going to cut it anymore.

7. cozy blankets – to wrap yourself up in on the couch, in front of the fire, as you sip hot chocolate and eat apple pie

8. coffee and cake – to enjoy with your friends cause the kids are finally back in school and you have the time to actually sit and gossip, uninterrupted, for a few short hours a week.

9. baskets – for all the apple picking, mushroom hunting, fire wood gathering, you will inevitably be doing.

10. a beach house – where you can run off to once you realize that picking, peeling, coring, and cooking apples for all the wonderful cakes and pies you’re making is a gigantic pain in the ass, that there’s only so many chestnuts and mushrooms you can eat before your stomach rebels, that, though romantic, that fireplace is a bitch to clean and you use up a box of matches every time you light the fire, and that the flippin’ rain isn’t going to stop till it turns into snow in November.

At that point, and it will come sooner rather than later, you get a few friends, you leave your kids with your husbands at home, and you take off for the beach, wind in your hair, sun in your face, and the blessed sound of girlish laughter and rolling waves in your ears.

Four happy girlies taking advantage of happy hour… the sad face in the back left corner is very pregnant and drinking a shirley temple…

psyching ourselves up to get into the freezing cold water, along with the surfer boys you can barely see to the right, in their full body wetsuits… wimps!

Autumn at the beach! (Surprisingly, our teeth aren’t chattering and our lips aren’t blue, but we had just been rolled around in the surf by a larger than expected wave.)

No children on my plane, I’ve got rights.

I’ve got a bone to pick. Several airlines (mostly in the east, and namely Air Asia and Malaysian airlines) have instituted child-free areas on some of their planes. Interesting concept. Now, I have kids, and I’m not wild about flying with them and I’m even less wild about flying around someone else’s kid on the rare occasion when I don’t have my own, who doesn’t want to enjoy their child-free time? But, I’m not sure I agree with the whole precedent. From my point of view, that of a mother often flying with two children, airlines would be better off creating child-friendly zones rather than child-free zones. Seriously. A happy child flying is a gazillion times less obnoxious than a drunk businessman flying, and if you’re making the child happy you’ve got happy parents flying and happy parents buy more tickets. When I get on a plane with my husband and two kids, whichever class I happen to be flying in at the moment I’ve just spent almost four times as much as the person flying alone next to me. Because kids practically pay full price.

And unless they’re making their child-free zones sound proof, it’s really just a marketing scheme because I can tell you, from direct experience, that if there’s a screaming baby in the middle of economy class you can hear him all the way at the head of the plane. So why not make the baby more comfortable, and his parents more relaxed, so he isn’t screaming through the entire flight and everyone can sleep.

Starting in the airports, with dedicated lines at security, where they scan strollers without having to close them and lift them onto the machine and preferential lines, not for the businessman and his teeny tiny laptop case, but for the frazzled mother travelling alone who has managed to take the concept of multitasking to a whole new level but could still actually do with some help. With amenities on the plane as well as basic necessities like diapers and milk, baby food and snacks because accidents happen, you can forget something and your child doesn’t have to go dirty and hungry for 6 hours. They remember to stock the gin, they can remember to stock the milk. (Like Japan Airlines does,  and Lufthansa) Make us pay for them, but make them available. Slightly larger bathrooms, so my toddler and I can both fit in there. Games and tv programs, specific seats for children so they can actually sleep and not drive everyone around them batshit crazy because it’s two in the morning and they can’t fall asleep sitting up (like the SkyCouch on Air New Zealand).

I’d gladly pay for my child to fly more comfortably, and any parent who’s ever had to travel with a young child would, I’m sure, pick the airline that made their flight more pleasant. After all, all these children that are such a nuisance, such an annoyance on flights, are future customers in the making.

And let’s talk about us parents. Flying is nerve-wracking. You’re wrestling your kids through a crowded airport with more luggage than a football team, you’re afraid of loosing your children and your sanity along with your flight. You’re stressed and that stress is going to make your kids go apeshit. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to know that you’re flying with a company that wants your business and wants to make you comfortable rather than the douchebag flying alone and giving you the evil eye when you and your brood make your way down his aisle, like his mere presence is somehow more relevant, more important, more untouchable than your own?

Airlines shouldn’t be making child-free zones, they should be making child-friendly zones. I’m betting there’s more money in it for them at the end of the day, because any parent is going to gladly spend that extra dollar if it makes their own experience more comfortable. And everyone else on the plane gets to be more comfortable right along with them. Win-win.

Because the next step is child-free flights, I vote for asshole free flights, how about you?

 

If you liked this post please consider sharing it with your readers, almost all of us will have to travel with our children sooner or later and if enough parents raise their voices maybe the airlines will start giving a crap what we think…

Only hot, young, guys need apply

It’s 2.30pm and I’m still in my workout clothes. At this point I’m not even going to shower and change out of them cause I have Yoga in another 4 hours so what’s the point. I mean, seriously, showering, shaving, washing my hair, blow drying it (cause I’m a wimp and can’t go out in wet hair when it’s chilly anymore)… only to get back into a very similar workout outfit? Talk about a hassle.

It’s 2.30 pm and it’s the first time I open the computer today. How does that even happen? I haven’t checked my emails, haven’t been on facebook, haven’t visited any of my “daily reads” blogs. And this is exactly what it’s been like for the past ten days, honest to God, I don’t know how this happens.

It’s not like I did anything earth shattering today, or any other day last week, in fact. I get up, I wrangle the kids, I take them to school, I run errands, I go to the gym for what feels like four, but is actually closer to one and a half, hours, I come home, I eat, I get the kids, I put them down for their naps and BAM! It’s 2.30. What the hell??

This nonsense started almost two weeks ago, when, getting up from the couch with a pain in my back, I decided I was done with feeling like I’m a hundred and three. My grandma, who is actually almost a hundred and three is more limber than I. I spent my days recently with pain in my shoulder, in my hip, in my lower back, in my knee. I have neither fallen or been in an accident. Is there any reason on this green earth why an otherwise healthy woman of some thirty odd years of age should have such a list of ailments? Absolutely not! Is the thought that started me on this road of not having any time for faffing around. Because I started going to the gym. Every day. E.v.e.r.y. d.a.y. for an hour and a half. With, thank god, a very cute personal trainer.

In fact, if he wasn’t quite so young, and fit, and blonde and blue-eyed, and smiley, and cute, I probably would have throat punched him by now. Because the pain I was in before is nothing compared to the pain I’m in now. The pain I’m in now laughs in the face of the pain I was in before. I’m doing squats, and lunges, and all manner of outlandish movements on weighted medieval torture devices. And then I walk, oh my lord, I walk for like forever, uphill, then downhill, then at a faster or a slower pace, I walk, and walk, and walk, and by god, I don’t go anywhere. Talk about frustrating.

And that’s why it’s 2.30pm and I’m sitting here for the first time all day, finally in front of my long forgotten friend, wondering if I’m too stinky to just stay like this until yoga tonight or if I really should go shower, and change into a fresh pair of yoga pants. All this so I can fit back into all the marvelous clothes I have in my closet and I can play with my kids without creaking and huffing, puffing and jiggling and complaining. Ugh.

Baby blues or I’ve got too much time on my hands

You may, or may not, have noticed that my posting has been erratic lately… well, I actually have a valid (ish) reason this time. My kids started preschool last week. Scuola Materna, is what it’s called in Italy (translates directly into maternal school, which I think is kind of cute), and, though not mandatory is still when most Italian kids start school. So it’s a very emotional time. Very emotional. It gets even more emotional when you’re set to get your period. I’m just saying. So, the Girl, who’s turning three in November, started Scuola Materna this year (the Boy started last year) and I officially don’t have any babies in the house any longer. Or such is the sentiment that’s been pervasive in my mind all week…

Kissing her brother goodbye

She was very grown up about it, on Monday and Tuesday she went by herself, then the “big kids”, her brother included, started on Wednesday. She only cried once, and she was very proud of her new school smock (which they wear over their clothes at Scuola Materna, so it’s kind of like a uniform, but not), and she was thrilled to go to “the big kid school”. I, on the other hand, have been sniffling all week.

walking to school

in the classroom with her smock on, looking a bit sad…

When I had the Girl I assumed we would have more babies, then the husband got sick and now we would have to be highly motivated to have more babies if we wanted them. We can’t have them the traditional way (wink, wink) anymore, and though we do have a vial of “material” sitting around in a sperm bank somewhere, we’re not sure any of us would survive me having to go through all the hormones that come with assisted fertilization. I can barely deal with the hormones my own body produces.

So the Girl starting preschool this year, made me face the fact that maybe we’re done with babies, and I’m not sure I want to be done with babies. Okay, so she hasn’t actually been a baby for a while, she was a toddler, but you know what I mean right? She’s started on the long road to independence from me, my mornings are free, they’re out of diapers (during the day), I can sell my strollers, I don’t have babies anymore. Am I ready not to have babies anymore?

both of them off to school on wednesday in their smocks

I would have liked to go through my last pregnancy knowing it was my last pregnancy… sounds ridiculous, I know. What with so many people not being able to have kids at all, and others with more kids than they can handle, I’m sitting here whining, when I already have two, and a boy and a girl at that. I’m pretty lucky.

I’m just not sure I’m ready to close up shop, by the same token though, I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m ready to start again, with the added hassle of ivf… how confusing. Of course, I had no guarantee of having more babies even if the husband hadn’t gotten ill, but now I know for certain I won’t be waking up one morning wondering why my period’s late, and that makes me a little sad. And yeah, maybe I’m being excessively self-indulgent, maybe I’m making it more complicated than it actually needs to be, but still, sometimes I feel like I’m mourning the babies I didn’t get to have.

The – my readers are audibly groaning but I don’t care cause I love weddings- monday listicle

Oh boy, oh boy, this week’s listicle is going to bore some of you completely out of your minds but I’m excited! Can you tell? I love weddings. Love them. Seriously. I simply can’t believe Stasha handed me the opportunity of showcasing my wedding pictures on a silver platter! Aren’t you thrilled! I did write an actual list, but you get wedding pictures in the mix, lucky you! (Seriously, Stasha, what were you thinking? You must have known some of us would go overboard and our readers would be groaning!) So, ten things wedding… ta-da!!!

(The following pictures are of my wedding and bear no relationship whatsoever to the text, I just figured you needed to see wedding pictures in a post about weddings, right?)

1. I attended both my Mom’s weddings. My parents were married when I was eight, they got married in Vegas because an immigration officer told them to (long story, fodder for another post). My dad didn’t want to marry my mom, not because he didn’t love her, because he did, more than life itself, but because he was twenty-eight years older than her and wanted her to be free to leave him at any time. She never did.

2. My Mom got married again last year, to a very nice guy. She had a church wedding with a full catholic mass, she had a beautiful white dress and long veil. She finally had the wedding every girl dreams of that she couldn’t have with my Dad (who was divorced and couldn’t, obviously, remarry in the Catholic Church).

My Grandma and me. You can also see my brother reflected in the mirror, looking like a 1920′s movie star.

3. I had the absolutely most perfect wedding (for me) courtesy of my wonderful parents.

 

Proud parents and younger brother (he doesn’t usually have an evil warlord expression on his face…)

4. I’ve often wished I was British so I could have an excuse to wear fabulously ridiculous hats to weddings.

5. I cry at weddings. I also sneak into church when I see a wedding is about to happen, I can usually be found in the back pew, dabbing at my eyes with a hanky. I normally leave before the end of mass, but I like to at least see the bride’s entrance.

6. A friend of mine got married in a gorgeous red gown and looked amazing,  I kind of wished I had thought to wear an unconventional color at my wedding, but I’m way too traditional (and I didn’t want to give my dad a heart attack).

7. I didn’t watch William and Kate’s wedding for no reason other than I got distracted when it happened, although I still remember Charles and Diana’s wedding (I was nine).

8. I hate typical Italian weddings, where you go to church in the morning and then have lunch, which usually starts late because the happy couple is off taking pictures and then lasts well into the evening. I went to a wedding once where we were at church at 11am, sat down to lunch at 2pm and finally got up from the table at 7pm. I wanted to shoot myself.

9. I love looking through other people’s wedding albums, if only to mentally laugh at all the out of date fashions.

10. The most important thing a priest ever told me was to remember that after the wedding was marriage…


The bad guy

The thing about having kids, I’ve found, is that there is no way for you to really prepare yourself beforehand. Sure, you go into it with a lot of ideas, a ton of opinions and a truly ridiculous amount of information relative to the first year of a child’s life but you still end up just flailing about in the dark with nary a clue as to what you are doing and where you are going and how on earth you are going to get there, somewhere, anywhere.

I had a very strict mother, I didn’t want to be a strict mother, I wanted to be a laid-back and easy-going yet firm and friendly mother. Notice how that sentence is just a long, run-on oxymoron?

I’ve since realized that I can be easy-going and friendly but that’s not going to result in my also having well-behaved, respectful kids, the only way I can get that is to be firm, and be their mother. I’ll never be laid-back; I was born without that particular gene. And since I’d rather have well-behaved, respectful kids than not, I’ve found myself becoming stricter and stricter. Basically, I’m turning into my Mother. I’m living a cliché.

But still, I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to be the one always yelling and scolding, I don’t want to be the pain in their patootie (literally and figuratively). The hard part is trying to figure out how much is too much and how much is too little. I want them to have fun, I especially want them to have fun with me, I want them to be silly and enjoy their childhoods and I want them to have good memories with me, the good, happy moments have to largely surpass the annoying, boring, trite, ones. But I also want them to be polite and to listen to me and to follow the rules. When I say let’s go, we go, when I say we put up the toys, that’s what we do, but I’d like it to be done with much less yelling on my part and fewer sour pusses on theirs.

I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I do want to be the boss. I don’t believe we live in a democracy, I’m aiming for more of a parliamentary monarchy, they get to say what they want, but my opinion is the only one that really counts. After all, I’m their mother, part of my job is to teach them both manners and morals, neither of which can bear any argument.

I’ve been reading this book called “Bringing up Bebe”, written by an American mother living in France, it’s really good and quite funny at times and she brings up the notion of “cadre”, which literally means square and in this context is used as a framework of set rules that cannot be tampered or argued with. I’m very familiar with the French concept of cadre as I went to a French school (in Houston) and education is based on it. In it’s application to motherhood, though, it basically means that you have a set of rules that you do not deviate from, ever, that create the basic framework of your child’s education and within that framework you give the child the freedom to make his choices and do what he will.

I basically grew up in a “cadre-style” household, but until I read it described from an American’s point of view I had never realized what it was. To give you a very specific example (one which I’m in the process of implementing right now) I used to fight nightly with the kids at bedtime, yelling at them, chasing around after them, screaming, crying… it was complete chaos, but now they get ten minutes of crazy time, then they brush their teeth, they go potty, they get in bed and I read them a story. Within this framework, they pick which toothpaste to use, where they brush their teeth (I used to insist they stand at the sink, now I don’t care where they are when they’re actually brushing as long as they spit and rinse in the sink – as opposed to, say, the toilet), they pick which songs I sing to them and which story I read. They have some control, but they’re doing what I say. Now, if you’re reading this thinking, “we’ll that’s obvious, isn’t it?” then I envy you, but to me it was a bit of a revelation.

My cadre is still a work in progress, I’m still defining, both for myself and for them what the framework to our lives and routines is but it’s already making things easier. They have fewer rules to follow and they are clearer, more easily defined. It’s easier for me too, cause I’m not getting frustrated at every junction, I have to stop and actually think about what it is I want from them exactly and what is the best way to get there. I have to think more, but I yell less.

I’m still flailing about in the dark, but at least now I’m actually thinking about which direction I want to go in and formulating a plan as to how to get there.

I don’t want to be the bad guy, but I don’t want to be the good guy either, I guess I just want to be the person they look to for direction and for comfort as they live their lives autonomously. Or, you know, as autonomously as two people who still need me to wipe their bums can live.

Like the mighty salmon. Or possibly something more flattering.

I’ve been noticing certain signs, lately, that I’m getting older; time, it moves inevitably, inexorably, forward whether we agree with it or not. Here, a few examples:

Hair management and the removal thereof – I started laser hair removal a few months ago, this, I believe, is an unmistakable sign of aging. At some relatively recent point in the past shaving transformed from a daily nuisance to an insurmountable obstacle, fraught with anxiety, that basically resulted in me wearing pants, or tights, or very long skirts most of the time cause I simply found no way to fit it into my schedule. Waxing is painful and despite the inevitable comparison with childbirth, has become both unendurable and too easily forgettable since it is only necessary occasionally and requires a certain degree of planning and appointment taking. So, I decided to go the way of a more permanent solution, I realized, in doing so, that though there aren’t many twenty-year olds getting lasered, in my age group pretty much everyone I know has either done it, is doing it, or is seriously considering it.

Another unmistakable sign of aging is Botox. I’ve always been wary of botox, not from a deontological or moral standpoint, I certainly have enough trouble worrying about what I’m doing to worry about what everyone else is doing and why, but rather from an angle of fear and distrust. Who knows what the far-reaching consequences of injecting muscle freezing liquids into our faces could be? Not that I’m a clean-living fanatic, I certainly ingest my fair share of poisons, it just seems to me that the far-reaching consequences of Nutella are quite simply extra fat and higher blood sugar, whereas with Botox I imagine myself twenty years down the line with my eyebrows drooping over my eyes… and yet, everyone is botoxing away all signs of expressiveness from their faces.

And what of our feet? I was with a friend recently talking about varied and sundry girly topics and we noticed we both had dry heels. What’s with that? I never had to pay specific moisturizing attention to my heels, now it seems that if I don’t slather on Vaseline followed by thick socks every night even in the middle of summer, my heels crack like I’m some poor, lost, dehydrated, soul, walking aimlessly in the Arizona desert. And my friend commented that she now looks at her feet and they reminded her of her mother’s, me too! I exclaimed, remembering playing in my mother’s bathroom, as little girls do, unwilling to have her for even an instant out of my sight (which explains why we, as mothers, have collectively lost the ability to be in the bathroom alone) and watching her furiously scrubbing at her feet with a pumice stone, muttering (and, quite likely, swearing) under her breath.

I see a future looming before me wherein I covet, if not outright get, some sort of boob job, a future wherein I worry about broken capillaries and droopy knees. Right now I don’t wear miniskirts because I could stand to lose a few pounds, and they seem… unseemly… but soon enough I won’t wear them because I’ll be too old (though, truth be told, some may opine that thirty-five is already too old).

Surprising, isn’t it, how the encroachment of time becomes suddenly apparent and unforgiving, not by looking at our children growing bigger, stronger, more independent, every hour of every day that goes by, but by stopping to notice the evolving nature of our daily beauty routines. Routines aimed at maintaining, preserving, furiously negating the passage of time… becoming by and by more convoluted and time-consuming as we progressively have less and less time and patience and quite possibly desire to fight what is destined to be an inevitably losing battle.

And yet, despite it all being quite clearly ridiculous, I still cannot resist the siren song of laser hair removal, or of that wonderful anti-wrinkle cream, or the inevitability of just one small shot, for that frown line between my eyes and I cannot simply ignore my heels, so I slather and scrub and make appointments and endure pain and the clock inevitably ticks forward, but though I often wonder why I let myself be taken over by the fickleness of vanity I simply cannot let myself age without an attempt at battle. Aging gracefully is one thing, but giving up and letting go to the passage of time passively is simply unacceptable. The wild salmon, after all, swims upstream.

 

Linking up with Shell today, it’s been awhile!

Monday listicle the days of yore

Stasha’s Listicle this week calls for us to list ten things school, any ten things school… Stasha, really, you shouldn’t be giving us this much freedom!

My kids start school next week, preschool, most everyone goes to preschool in Italy so the general feeling when they’re three is the same as what you get in the US when they start kindergarten. FREEDOM! (evidently a recurring theme today.)

But, as we’re on vacation this week, enjoying the last few days at the beach under a torrential rain, I’m not really in the “back to school” mind set yet. I’ll likely be writing a tear jerking post next week about how “my baby is all growed up”, but right now I’m more concerned with ending cabin fever syndrome by taking off for the aquarium in Montecarlo. Also, and completely unrelated, yesterday I accidentally found (i.e. googled) an old high school boyfriend who had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. This convoluted confluence of events led to the following listicle:

Boys from school

1. the first memory I have of a boy at school was in the third grade, his name was Jack and he had a crush on me, I learned of this crush because he kept asking me to chase him and then look up my skirt. Having just arrived to the US, this was all very “foreign” to me. Sadly a few days later he was shimmying up more interesting skirts than mine.

2. my first real “friend who’s a boy” was in the sixth grade, Jeremy, we went to school together all through middle and high school and are still friends to this day. At some point or another we both had a crush on the other, but the stars never aligned correctly and we never had a crush on the other at the same time (that we know of).

3. my first kiss was in the eighth grade, at school, behind the admin building. It was wet, and very quick and I ran away giggling delightedly with my best friend right after, wiping my mouth profusely on my school uniform sleeve. This is why I’m so shocked to hear of all the six graders having varied degrees of sex nowadays, this boy was my “boyfriend” for over a year and the most he saw was a boob.

4. my first boyfriend was a year younger than me, I was a sophomore and he was a freshman, though we were the same age (I was the youngest in my class by a stretch), this of course didn’t mean anything and I was called a “cradle robber” for the rest of high school. I broke up with him the summer prior to my senior year because I thought I was too mature to go out with a younger guy and he rode his bike to my house every day for weeks delivering flowers and cards. I was an idiot. I later changed my mind but he was dating a new, foreign girl, and I pined after him for my entire senior year (with much hilarity from my classmates) Incidentally, he’s the one I recently googled, he’s a neurosurgeon (typical) and, though bald, still cute.

5. my senior year I dated a series of losers, college losers, which, somehow, in retrospect, is all the worse. I was the object of a classmate’s crush, a good friend who contributed tremendously in my passing the IB exams (he’s now a classics professor at some northeastern university), and with whom I acquiesced to attend the prom. Since I was a monstrous idiot (i.e. teenager) then, I effectively ruined both his and my prom, but thankfully he hasn’t held a grudge.

I’m capping my little list at 5, because though there were other boys (of course. Like one a week who held my interest for a few days for whom I would’ve “just died”, of course… fikleness thy name is adolescent girl.) these are the most significant ones. What this little walk down memory lane has done for me today is to mostly inspire terror at what my future holds as a mother of both a boy and a girl. God help us as we embark on this new school journey, from the other side.