Christmas Cheer, oh dear!

Sometimes the United States infuriates me, seriously, what is with all the hullabaloo over Christmas, Xmas, Happy Holidays and whatnot spearheaded by my greatest source of hilarity and entertainment Fox news. Since when is there a war on Christmas? How can we even talk about war on Christmas in a place that starts playing Christmas music in all the stores of all the land right after (and oftentimes even right before) Halloween. Christmas cheer (or insanity, however you prefer to see it) is shoved down our collective throats two entire months before the festive event, and here we are debating whether or not there’s some sort of covert war on Christianity going on, in a country more fanatically Christian than the Vatican. It boggles the mind. Of course, Italy being second in the running for country with most pointless debates about useless things, I shouldn’t really be all that surprised or shocked at the US, I’m used to it after all.  Moving on.

This year was the in-laws’ turn for Christmas so we didn’t have too far to travel, in fact we took full advantage of their hospitality. The Husband dropped the kids off on Saturday and drove home after dinner. The five plus hour round trip drive though was worth it as we had a blissful two days of alone time at home. We finished shopping for gifts, we watched movies, we ate with nary a threat or chaos of any kind, we slept in, we went back to bed after breakfast just because we could. We missed the kids terribly and the house was too quiet, but as the husband remarked we talked more in those two days than we usually do in a week.

Christmas at my MIL’s is what Christmas should be, too much family, too much food, too much wine, too much yelling, too many presents and way, way too much chaos. It takes two full days to get over it, but it’s wonderful. I just wish my family could be there too.

Hopefully your Christmas was just as chaotic and joyful as ours, if not, next year you can come over here, the fun is guaranteed.

And if you don’t celebrate Christmas I still hope you had a wonderful Wednesday, cause it doesn’t have to be a holiday to make a day good and family members love each other a little more, even for just one day.

“Delayed Italian Thanksgiving”, entertaining, and a few considerations.

This post is woefully late… I forgot to put it up, but here it was all written and ready and I felt bad just letting it sit, forgotten, in a word document, so we’re taking a leap back in time today, to Thanksgiving. And my Christmas recap will go up later in the week (not tomorrow, I wouldn’t want to shock my readers with too much, too frequent content!). So off we head, back into fall, for a few minutes we can all be a month younger.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I don’t let the fact that I’m married to an Italian and living in Italy get in the way of celebrating it! Thankfully, I have a few other like-minded expat friends here so we all get together, with a few additions from other Anglo countries, and eat the hell out of a turkey. This year we held it at my house as the place we used to have it was unavailable, and as Murphy would have it, it was the first year that everyone invited showed up. Basically I had sixteen adults and fourteen kids in my house. Surprisingly, I learned quite a bit about myself by hosting this party.

First, and most importantly, I learned, or rather confirmed, that I’m an unbelievable control freak. My wonderful housekeeper, who offered to come in a few extra hours to help, looked on disbelievingly as I meticulously set the table with rigorous geometrical precision. She jokingly offered to get me a ruler to better measure out the place settings, at which I scoffed, I’ve been doing this since I was ten with a mother who could judge a table with barely a glance, I’ve got this down.

I also learned that in the first half an hour of a party I’m the world’s worst hostess. I had asked the guests to bring their food and drink contributions table ready as my kitchen was a war zone and also the place where I was setting up the buffet so having someone come in and do last-minute prep felt, to my stressed out self, something akin to drop kicking a grenade in there and laughing hysterically at me as I simultaneously dived for cover and tried to save the food. Almost everyone complied, even a friend who came in from Milan (a two and a half hour drive) in a snow storm. One friend though brought unwashed salad still in the grocery store bag, a whole tomato, and no dressing and then proceeded to compose her masterpiece on the dining room table, at which point I had steam coming out of my ears and yelled at her. I would’ve liked to be a gracious hostess and just smile seraphically at her, I’m working on that though.

Aesthetics are important to me, which is surprising because I’m not the primping and preening type (much to my Mother’s despair and disapproval), but it would seem that genetics do have an impact and I’m biologically predisposed to needing beautiful, matching wine glasses on the table and appropriately folded napkins and such. I would sooner cut out my own tongue than serve food in the pot it was cooked in.

I love a party. Moreover, I love hosting a party. I love that feeling a couple of hours in, when I’m finally relaxed, everyone has a glass of wine in their hand, chatting, little groups coming together and disbanding, rearranging conversations, laughing and enjoying themselves, and I’m finally, finally, contented in the feeling that all that work was for something important, after all, friends coming together and “making merry”, if you will.

The best part of any Thanksgiving, the going around the table sharing what we’re thankful for this year, was the absolutely most perfect moment of the day, when all the Italian husbands and boyfriends, despite the wine already freely flowing (or because of it) joined in in sharing their thankfulness, and each and every one of them did it in English, certainly an effort for them, but the perfect showing of love and respect for traditions that are slowly becoming their own.

 

Happy Birthday Darling Girl

I should have posted this on November 23, The Girl’s birthday, but lately everything gets in the way of this blog. I didn’t want to skip a year though so, better late than never, right?

You turned four, but all day I kept telling people you were five. I even forgot to change the number on the Happy Birthday garland in the living room, the same one I’ve been using for years, that still read 5 from your brother’s birthday earlier this year. I’ve always had a hard time really understanding how little you are compared to him, in fact, most times I act like the two of you are twins, even though you’re not, you’re almost two years younger. I expect so much from you… But you’re so grown up, so independent, how could I not? You act older and I forget… even when you melt down every once in a while because sometimes you get overwhelmed or tired or you just plain want cuddles, I forget and I scold, and then I realize my mistake, and I hug and cuddle you. It must get confusing… and I’m trying to do better, to be better at remembering that you’re still the baby of the family.

You’re still as headstrong as ever, you want to wear what you want to wear, you want to do things the way you want to do them, when you want to do them and beware anyone who gets in your way. You still have epic meltdowns, dropping to the floor with flailing arms, but they seem to be getting shorter, like you suddenly get bored with them, and for this I’m thankful.

And you’re still the most affectionate person in the family. The minute daddy walks in the door, you’re the first to drop whatever you’re doing and run to him, literally running with open arms, for a hug, what better greeting could there possibly be in the whole world? You give us lots of kisses, lots of loud, smacking, wonderful kisses that make all of our adult boo-boos go away. You insist on doing our nightly bad dream banishing ritual right back at me, because you don’t want me to have bad dreams either. You love your brother so much, he sometimes gets annoyed at all your displays of affection… but when you aren’t around he walks around aimlessly waiting for you to come back cause he misses you and is out of sorts without you.

You are the family socialite, you love to go out, out for a walk, out window shopping, out for dinner, out of town… you want to see the world near and far. You love hotels, you love sleeping in a big bed with your brother or with me, you love hotel breakfasts, you just generally love new experiences and spending all day, all night with us doing new things.

You are light, you are joy, you are boundless, uncontainable energy, you complete our family.

Happy Birthday Darling Girl, I love you miles and miles, your smile lights up my life, you make my heart sing.

Sometimes a little French Onion Soup is enough

This October was one of the craziest months I’ve had all year, and, honest to God, I have no idea of the why or the how of it. All the kids’ activities kicked in at once, as well as my own, my mom was supposed to arrive, then didn’t, then reset the date, and then changed her plans again, then finally arrived, which kept me in stand-by mode for two weeks, not being able to make any plans as she was arriving “any minute now” and then kept me busy for the two weeks she was actually here. In fact, now that I think about it, it all makes sense, October was taken over by the tornado that represents my mother’s visits.

A visit, which incidentally, was much better than expected, in part because I kept my expectations way low and in part because I sent the kids off to their other grandma for three days. My mom has a low tolerance for children and I always had unrealistic expectations as to her magically (and inexplicably) becoming a kid person as a grandmother. She does really well the first few days, then she usually overloads, but this time we got to spend some quality mother/daughter time for a few days and then the kids came back. Though I felt bad sending them away since they only get to see her once or twice a year, I’m perfectly aware that it’s all in my head. They didn’t care, their other grandma was ecstatic, my mom got to decompress, and I got to go shopping all day, cook with my mom, and go out to dinner with absolutely no organizing required and no guilt at leaving the kids home with the babysitter. Definitely the way to go for all her visits, until the kids start into the tween/teen years, at which point I will be able to just leave her to it and go enjoy myself in total independence.

The Husband’s health saga continues, he’s not terribly ill, he’s just not terribly healthy either, and quite frankly, it’s starting to get annoying for all concerned (directly, or indirectly). He’s actually starting on a path of self-discovery of sorts, which hopefully will bring him some positive results and, even more hopefully, won’t drive a wedge between us, as these things often do. Things between us, they have been tense lately, so we’re all hoping that some good will come of this, and I’ll leave it at that, for now.

We went out for lunch today, a rare occurrence on a week day, which, in this case, mostly involved taking the cars to get the tires changed for winter… oh so romantic, I know. As chance would have it though, we decided to go to a friend’s restaurant that we always enjoy greatly and is usually too far to drive to in the rare evenings we manage to dine out sans kids what with the babysitter waiting at home impatiently counting the minutes till she can leave and go out with her own boyfriend.

This restaurant, The Baluardo, is fantastic, the chef Marc Lanteri is French and his wife, my friend Amy, is American and their diversity really shines through, with the Italian wholesome ingredients, the American boldness and French sophistication. If you’re ever in the area it’s definitely an obligatory stop, especially if you’re into Michelin Guide starred restaurants.

Anyway…

They had French Onion Soup on the menu today. I’ve been hankering after a good, authentic, French onion soup, which is strangely a much harder dish to find than one would think. Also, I’m extraordinarily picky when it comes to French Onion Soup. Mostly I only like the one I make, which is truly delicious, and for which I can take none of the merit other than being able to follow a recipe. If you want to try your hand at it I got the recipe from Deb of The Smitten Kitchen, since finding it I’ve tweaked it enough to make it my own, but the original is the best place to start experimenting. After eating it today, I wrote on facebook that French Onion Soup makes me happy. And it really, truly, does. It’s so simple, just a handful of ingredients, but it’s so comforting when done right, so light yet tasty, it has so much depth of taste and texture. I needed it today, I needed something simple to make me happy, I needed to be reminded that life doesn’t always have to be about the complicated dishes, that sometimes the simple things, if prepared with great care and attention – because that’s the only way to get a French Onion Soup to taste right – can be just the thing to set your world back right-side up. If only for a few minutes.

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Tick Tock says the Clock, Thirty-eight says the Date.

Tomorrow’s my birthday. Every year the approach to my birthday is a little bit different. Last year I was down in the dumps, this year, I’m neither here nor there, I’m pretty even keeled. It feels almost like it’s too early for it to be my birthday already, I haven’t wrapped my head around the fact that summer’s over, much less that I’m a year older tomorrow.

Looking back on the year that’s been, not an awful lot has changed yet I feel like I’ve changed a great deal. Physically, I’m stronger than I was, exercise has become a part of my life again, yet I haven’t lost any weight, which was an obsession last year, and more of just passing note this year. I thought I’d be in the new house by now, I’m not, yet I care much less than I probably should. I’m healthier, yet I’m also much more forgiving when I find myself hand wrapped round the chocolate bar right before bedtime. I’m more patient with the kids, yet, bizarrely, I’m stricter with them. I’m busier yet more organized. It’s all really quite surprising. And the guilt, well it’s not gone completely because that would, of course, be unrealistic, but it rears it’s ugly head less regularly.

My mom was supposed to be coming in this week, she didn’t because she was having some health issues so she had to postpone her trip by a few days. A lot of my ambivalence towards her seems to be gone, or dormant at least. I’m trying not to worry about what she thinks, how she’s going to behave, how she’ll react, how or if she’ll judge me, I’ve realized I have no control over these things anyway. I decided to give myself a break and hire some extra help while she’s here, and I’m thankful that I can do that.  It’s not going to be the perfect visit, I’m just going to try and not let the disagreements and the disappointments get to me. She is who she is, and I am who I am, so I’m just going to try and enjoy her visit and leave all the baggage at the door.

The Husband, he got me the most awesomest present in the world. (Hyperbole). I already know what it is, because I’ve been talking about it for weeks hoping he’d get the hint. And he did. It arrived the other day and as soon as it’s set up I’ll photograph it and share. Tomorrow evening we’re going to go out to dinner with the kids, to a mid-level fancy-ish restaurant that I love and where they’ll behave (with they’re ipods), I didn’t feel like organizing anything too complicated, involving babysitters and whatnot, and I wanted the whole family together (and I don’t feel like cooking). On Friday I’m going to a Spa with The Girls in the morning and lunch, I’ve got a great group of friends and I’m so happy to be spending time with them. It all feels very simple, I’m not stressing over anything, I’m not organizing anything complicated and I have no expectations that someone else will. And it feels good. So, tomorrow’s my birthday, and I’m surprisingly relaxed, a little older, and hopefully just a smidge wiser, can’t really ask for more than that now, can I?

Sometimes you can’t see the mountain for all the horse shit coming at you.

I’m in a ranty mood today, just thought I’d put that out there as a warning of sorts. The past few months haven’t been bad, per say, but they certainly haven’t been anywhere near the spectrum of good. I’ve been fine and the kids have been good and we’ve been going about our daily lives quite well, thank you very much, but the Husband, well, he could justifiably complain for a while.

He had problems with his eyes all summer. The industrial amounts of cortisone and other drugs he’s been taking in the last three years since the transplant have, amongst all the other side effects, given him cataracts in both eyes. Cataracts aren’t a huge deal, young and old people get operated all the time with few adverse effects. But, for whatever reason, his eyesight, which had been giving him problems off and on for a while went on a permanent vacation in July. He had to hire a PA from one day to the next to read him emails and drive him around. He became, for all intents and purposes, blind overnight. He called his doctor and threw a fit to have the operation on the first eye in the middle of August (unheard of in Italy, where August is considered the “vacation month”). He saw the light, literally and figuratively, for less than a week and then started having problems again – I had a mini meltdown on his one and only week  of vacation because I was feeling sorry for myself as I was having to shoulder all the responsibilities on my own again (boohoo). His doctor finally realized that he still couldn’t see because he had developed an infection from the cataract operation because… oh, yeah, his immune system’s suppressed. Surprise, surprise.

To make a very long, boring, and occasionally sad, story short, the past few months have been challenging. But that’s ok. Challenging is fine, challenging is not catastrophic.

We’ve also been having a long list of problems with the money pit that has become the house renovation, aka, the worse financial investment we’ve ever made in our lives, which, incidentally, is why I’ve never mentioned it again on here.

Apparently, renovating a house is what Italians do to atone for all past, future, and hypothetical sins. I’m starting to think we’ll be sinning a lot in the next few years due to all the atoning we’re doing right now (our past sins can’t possibly justify the hellishness we’re going through with the fucking house). I’m hoping we get over hating the stupid house by the time we move into it, if that ever happens.

 

But what I really wanted to talk to you about today is my friend. Because, I swear to God, I have no idea how she hasn’t yet snapped and started randomly yelling incoherently at people in the street.

This friend of mine, she is getting divorced. Divorce is a gigantic pile of horse shit, we know that, but looking at her I’ve come to the conclusion that in Italy there is no point in divorce, better just to kill the effing asshole and be done with it.

But let me give you some background. Last year, she finds out that rat faced bastard (rfb from now on, he doesn’t even warrant capital letters) is cheating on her, so in a fit of anger she kicks him out of the house. He moves to France and shacks up with the other woman. A few months later my friend finds out that rfb has gone bankrupt, she finds out because she has people knocking at her door and calling her house at all hours demanding money. Money she doesn’t have because rfb is MIA. So she sucks it up, sells all her horses (she bred mini horses), which she loved and hoped to find some sort of financial agreement with him. His family is loaded, with a capital L, loaded and shrewd as he has nothing in his name. Between insulting her wifely abilities, telling her she should have just sucked it up cause all men have lovers, and spreading lies about her in town, her in laws helped her pay the bills (after her car got repossessed and all her utilities, including electricity, had been shut off because he went bankrupt and hadn’t paid anyone in a while). Did I mention she’s got two kids? Both of which, hurtful rumors aside, are rfb’s. So between one breakdown and the next my friend gets herself a lawyer (paid by the state, because she can’t afford one, and won’t take money from her friends many of whom offered) and tries to put her life back together.

Unfortunately, she finds herself with a (female) judge who is really misogynistic or (likely) has been bought off by her in laws that gives her the most ridiculously absurd settlement offer ever granted in all the lands and then tells her to buck up and get a job to support herself and her two – school age, not independent – children. In a country where the unemployment rate is the highest it’s been in the past thirty years and only expected to get worse. Meanwhile, rfb is living in the next country over, which isn’t allowed after filing for bankruptcy in Italy, has opened another company under someone else’s name and is merrily working again full-time as can be evidenced by his girlfriend’s new car, house, and expensive toys and clothes for his kids.

But no matter, my friend she plods along, has started working part-time and teaching English to make ends meet. Did I mention she’s not Italian? She’s British. But she doesn’t have the option of moving to England, closer to her family where she could have some help (and quite possibly a better chance of finding a job), because rfb has joint custody of the kids.

But why am I sharing this tedious story? Because my friend, she came over tonight to catch up on the past couple of weeks, during which time she’s had to have her eight-year old dog, who she loves dearly, operated on (again), and has had herself several visits with her own doctor, as she hadn’t been feeling well lately. Her doctor tactfully (and I’m totally being sarcastic here) informed her that her thyroid is quite enlarged and along with the other symptoms she’s having, quite likely she has throat cancer.

Fantastic. Just fanfuckingtastic. Because, really, with the year she’s had what other news could she possibly have expected?

I’m in a really raving bad mood tonight, because life, it can be wonderful, but lately it really seems like a gigantic pile of shit. And the worse of it is that my friend, she sat there and told me this laughing and joking because the truth is if she cried I don’t think she’d be able to stop. And that just breaks my heart.

One week down, how many more to go?

Week one of school is finished, and I survived. Unbelievable. Because, let’s be honest here, getting the kids back on a school schedule after the summer is much harder work for Mom than for anyone else in the family. I’m not a morning person, and quite probably neither are my kids, whether it’s survival instinct (who knows what I would have done with one of those children who wakes up every morning at 6.30 all chirpy and talkative?) or their natural inclination I have no idea, either way, I tried to bring their wake up time up (and consequently all the related sleep times up) for the two weeks prior to this and I clearly failed, if the amount of tantrums, hysterical, over-tired crying fits, middle of the night wake up calls, and generalized grumpiness are any indication. I’m hoping this week will be better.

Although, as I started planning their weekly activities I already wanted to pull out all my hair… I don’t know how mothers with more than two kids do it (and I quite envy mothers of singletons right now, for organizational purposes, at least). The Boy wants to play soccer this year, they start them at 6 here, but as he’s tall they’ll take him anyway, the Girls wants to do a dance class, and I would like them to do a swimming course before the start of the skiing season. It shouldn’t be that complicated, I thought, I don’t want to over book them, but an activity each and a joint one shouldn’t overextend us. I am so naïve.

Oh, and I need to keep one afternoon for their American babysitter because I’ve realized that when they have someone (other than me) who speaks English to them they’re more prone to speak it in general. Easy peasy. Right.

So, this is what I found out after a round of calls and a couple of hours of scheduling: soccer is Tuesday and Friday, because apparently 5-6 year olds who aren’t allowed to play in the tournaments and who are basically going to chase a ball around a field for an hour and a half need to “train” at least twice a week. Every single dance school but one in this god forsaken town, in an evil conspiracy to drive mom’s insane (I presume), decided that Tuesday was the only logical day for the 3-4 year old dance class, and the one that went against the mold already has a waiting list. Oh, and by the way, our lovely American babysitter only has one afternoon off from her primary job. Guess which day. Tuesday. And after a half hour of route planning and head banging (not the heavy metal kind) I resigned myself to the fact that without the aid of cloning or a teleporter there is no way I can get them both to their activities on Tuesday. Seriously, how does everyone else do it?

Anyway, before letting myself get sucked into the insanity of a new school year, I’d like to wrap up our summer. We got back from our extremely long vacation to a garden that looked like this:

my tomato plants

my tomato plants

 

cherry tomatoes

cherry tomatoes

Eggplants! I have 3 plants just like this...

Eggplants! I have 3 plants just like this…

Peppers, I have eight plants of lovely green, yellow, and red peppers. Not as pretty as the supermarket ones, but yummy all the same.

Peppers, I have eight plants of lovely green, yellow, and red peppers. Not as pretty as the supermarket ones, but yummy all the same.

So we had a LOT of this:

Caprese salad - the tomatoes and basil are from the garden, as is the basil in the pesto.

Caprese salad – the tomatoes and basil are from the garden, as is the basil in the pesto.

Tuna salad bruschetta

Tuna salad bruschetta

And since this was overflowing:

large lavender plant

large lavender plant

so I made sachets for my closet and drawers… but when that wasn’t enough I figured I could use it to experiment…

Sausage risotto with rosemary, lavender and saffron.

Sausage risotto with rosemary, lavender and saffron.

so creamy makes me hungry again...

so creamy makes me hungry again…

Have I made you hungry yet?

I’m slowly getting my act together again with the start of a new school year. I’ve got several posts I think you’ll like in the works, and I’m pretty confident I’ll even manage to finish them and post them, so yay for school, despite the scheduling headaches.

Two cutie pies on their first day of school. Sweet brother carrying his sister's backpack. A little southern gentleman in the making.

Two cutie pies on their first day of school. Sweet brother carrying his sister’s backpack. A little southern gentleman in the making.

Life Lesson #1: Chillax, dude

Living life, as one does day in and day out till one no longer does, we learn things, life teaches us things, but oftentimes we forget these small, seemingly unimportant lessons. I figured I’d try and remember at least a few of them when they hit me upside the head.

The other day I made the unfortunate mistake of making a comment on one of my sisters’ facebook statuses (stati?), but let me give you some background. This sister of mine, (half-sister, to be precise, different mothers) she has always had a ginormous chip on her shoulder, I dare say, this chip, it is the size of Texas, and just as loud, and occasionally obnoxious (I’m allowed, I’m from there). This chip, which manifests itself mainly on many maudlin and/or pissed of rants as to how utterly unfairly life treats her, along with very grave, justified-or-not, abandonment issues have led her to a lifelong search of “spiritual improvement” or “personal betterment” and other sundry related paths. So, what this means, for our purposes, is that if you enter into any sort of serious discussion with her about life, and the meaning thereof, death, and it’s ramifications, life changes and such, you do so at your own peril because, you see, she is always right, as she has “done a lot of work on herself” and you, clearly, have not. Unless you’re just like her, in which case good for you (!) and I suggest you stop reading right this instant cause you can only get more offended as you go on.

Unfortunately for me, though, I forget these things, in the general business of living my life in a manner as far removed as possible from unnecessary mental masturbatory, pseudo-psychological, life exploratory type of behavior. In any case, I was being distracted as I am wont to do, and read one of her statuses that went something along the lines of Do you really know who you are? I’m not sure I know who I am any longer… is that good… or bad? Or something very similar to this. To which I responded something along the lines of dude, lay off the wine before the existential mind fuck… (just more, you know, politely).

And, wow do I wish I had laid off the wine before commenting! I was kidding, maybe she and all her friends didn’t get it… then I apologized, but she was on a roll, so I re-apologized and stated I hadn’t meant to intrude on a serious conversation and boy were her friends on a roll! So I shut up and ignored the rest of the very serious, very self-righteous, discussion.

But honestly, all I really wanted to say was god, guys, relax, live and let live, peace and love and all that. I mean really, maybe lay back on the wine, have some fun and stop being so freaking serious, because life, it is hard enough, painful enough, and just plain unpredictable enough that we shouldn’t be getting so involved in and up in arms about the stuff we write on facebook of all places.

Mostly though, what this little episode did for me was remind me that a certain measure of laid backedness, of that chillin’ feelin’ is very important in life, as is a proper grasp of irony, and humor – misguided though it may be. It also reminded me that my Dad always used to say that the women in his family had no sense of humor… that may have been generalizing just a smidge, but in this case, I kinda see his point so… sorry Dad for all the times I over-reacted, I’m glad I’ve mostly chillaxed enough now not to care whether everyone’s opinion is exactly on board with mine.

An elephant in an apartment is going too far

I haven’t posted anything in a month, seriously A MONTH! How did that happen? How did the end of July sneak up on me? Maybe it’s because summer days tend to kind of run into each other. Also, we’re so busy with all the going to the beach, and playing in the sand, and eating ice cream, time just kind of flies by. (I know, poor me…)

Summer often feels like unchartered territory. A friend of mine asked on facebook what “good mothers” feed their children every day for three months at lunch, and that got me thinking how summertime is yet another thing that serves to mess with insecure mothers’ lives. My friend isn’t the main cook in her house, her husband is, but he’s at work during the day so lunchtime is in her hands now and she hates cooking… and lunchtime is never a problem during the school year for Italian moms because all kids eat in the cafeteria, and cafeteria food in Italy is a long shot from what it is in the US. But now that the kids are home she feels the pressure of presenting her children with a meal they are willing to eat every day that is just as nutritious as the fare offered in school, not an easy feat.

My problem isn’t so much the feeding as the entertaining. I don’t know what to do with them all day for three months. I tend to always try to settle into a routine, cause that’s how I function, but I can tell that after a couple of weeks of the same, or very similar, days, day in and day out, my kids get bored and I have to shake it up. Shaking it up is hard for me. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be one of those pinterest mothers with the summer bucket lists that actually get done (and also get presented on pinterest with great graphics and interesting fonts) but I’ve never been able to so much as come up with a bucket list, much less put one in action. And yet I sit here thinking the summer is almost half over, (schools start mid September here) and it’s the only time of year where my kids are a hundred percent mine, and I am a hundred percent theirs. I don’t go to the gym, I don’t run errands without them, I don’t have coffee mornings with the girls, and they don’t have all the activities that require me carting them around all day. It’s just the three of us, all day, day in and day out.

We’re leaving the beach on Thursday to go home (finally, I know, right? How could I possibly be complaining about being at the beach?), the Husband is beyond thrilled as he’s tired of seeing us only on the weekends, and I have to come up with stuff to do for another six weeks. Oy Vey!

Anyone have any suggestions? Simple stuff, stuff that doesn’t require four different outfit changes, stuff that even the laziest of mothers can do in the sweltering heat. ( basically nothing from pinterest). The possibilities are endless…

Also, and this is completely unrelated, I have got the world’s noisiest upstairs neighbors in the beach apartment. They assemble Ikea furniture in the middle of the night (believe me, I’ve assembled enough Ikea furniture myself that I recognize the sounds), they come home at four a.m. and walk around in heels for half an hour, and these are just to of a whole host of other random and incessant noises. Tonight, for example, it really sounds like they went out and got themselves a pet elephant.

Speaking of Ikea, last week I went to get some cabinets for my laundry room here (more like laundry cubby, but anyways…), I had a few boxes, unloaded them and carted the to the apartment building. As I was loading them in the elevator one of my neighbors arrives, a sprightly gentleman in his late fifties, early sixties. He tries to bypass my boxes (half of which were already loaded in the elevator) so I politely ask him if he wanted to go ahead of me, (me, the lone woman, sweating and grunting, trying to maneuver boxes of furniture into an elevator) and he nimbly jumps over the boxes saying “I’m only going to the second floor” and takes off in the elevator with half my boxes. Two days later and I’m still getting over the shock. Seriously, how rude can one possibly be? At the very least he could’ve taken the stairs. I mean really, two floors!

I believe I’m starting to get sick of the beach, hating thy neighbors is probably the first sign I need to stop with all the “vacationing” (only mothers will understand the quotation marks) and get home!!

Seagulls, idleness, and the meaning of life

It’s the end of our first full week at the beach. The Husband was supposed to be joining us today for a week vacation, but he’s developed a temperature and is home sleeping it off. The kids and I have settled into a routine, we go to the beach in the morning, we have lunch, they nap, we go to the playground in the afternoon, then dinner, some tv or a show in the town square, and bedtime. It’s simple and quite sweet. I thought I’d be ready to strangle them by now, but I’m not, I’m actually getting used to spending all this time with them.

Of course all this leisure time has its consequences, mostly in that I have lots of time to think and observe the world around me and be amazed by all the things I normally don’t notice. For example, I always knew, but had never really realized how terrified of the weather Italians are. For example, kids here always wear undershirts, all year, so they “don’t get a chill”, despite widespread modern conveniences like, for example, indoor heating. Italians bundle up, they’re always wearing a couple more layers of clothing than I or my children are, in fact, my mother in law constantly tells me I’m irresponsible as she follows me around with a hat. I thought this behavior was mostly autumn, winter, and spring related, in reality it’s just ingrained in the culture. As I sit on the beach surrounded by children with their mothers, fathers, or grandparents all I hear around me are repeated admonishments not to go in the water, it’s too cold, get out of the water and warm up in the sun, stay out of the sun, it’s too hot, not to roll around in the sand, it’s too abrasive, not to get their hair wet (it’s too wet?), it’s annoying, and headache inducing.

Granted, the weather this year has not been fab. It’s colder than normal for the end of June, and the rain and chilly wind are plentiful, but we’re not in Siberia nor are we swimming in the English Channel (the British do this, and they seem to be in excellent health). I spend my days wishing I could just tell everyone around me to chill out a minute, relax, and enjoy the fact that it’s summer, and hey, we’re at the beach. A few days ago it was cloudy, this town is tiny and I didn’t really know what to do, so we went to the beach anyway thinking that if it was too cold to go swimming we could at least built a sandcastle. The beach was pretty empty. After a while it started raining, the beach emptied completely. I was under the relative dryness of the beach umbrella and my kids stripped into just their suits and started running like two crazies on the beach and in the surf. They reminded me of two dogs chasing each other on the sand running in the water, running away from the waves faces held high and tongues out to catch the rain. Of course they were frozen by the time an hour had past, the rain intensified, and they calmed down enough to actually leave, but they had probably never had so much fun at the beach. I mean, seriously, when else would I just let them run around half naked in the rain? We were the only ones on the entire beach, I’m sure grandmothers were looking out their windows at us and tsk, tsking at my irresponsibility.

Another thing I’ve just recently realized, is how completely and utterly weird being at the beach actually is. Think about it, everyone around you is someone you could run into on the street, in the grocery store, your doctor, your dentist, the delivery guy, the electrician, the teacher, the business man, people you see, you say good morning to in line for coffee, people we talk to, cross, run into, all day, every day, of our daily lives, but they are all, for all intents and purposes, naked.

Seriously, is it not weird?

You have a conversation with the mom standing watch next to you, but she’s in a bikini, which is not all that different from a bra and panties. And so are you. All year we hide our imperfections, camouflage our bellies, or our saddle bags, or our droopy behinds, or our flabby arms…. And then summer rolls around and we’re all there walking around, chasing our kids, playing catch on the beach, essentially naked. How is this normal? I ran into one of the check out girls at the grocery store the other day, she was laying there talking to a friend, she’s skinny but has really bad cellulite on her thighs, her stomach isn’t as flat as it seems in her clothes and I’m pretty sure she’s had a boob job. I’m not judging her, she’s flawed like all the rest of us, but don’t you think, suddenly, I have way too much information on the check out girl I see several times a week at the grocery store?

This is what being at the beach does to me, makes me think strange things, makes me notice stuff that I’m usually too busy and self involved to notice, completely useless things. For example, I’ve also noticed how insanely loud seagulls are. Have you ever stopped to think about it? Seagulls. They’re always cawing at each other (do seagulls caw, or is that just crows?). And there are so many of them, like cuter, whiter, sea vultures, just flying in circles overhead, cawing, and pooping on bewildered passers by, landing on light posts and looking down on us all tilted head and evil eyed. I’m not sure I’m a big fan of seagulls, though they’ve never done anything to me directly.  Although, quite possibly, all this attention to seagulls and their behavioral patterns is a clear indication that I’ve got way too much time on my hands.

So summer is officially here, it’s started, whether the weather agrees with me or not, so for now, for the next few weeks, I’ll be pondering completely useless things, as I stroll half naked on the beach, and who knows maybe I’ll alight on some hidden truth on life, or the universe, or human behavior, something meaningful to take back with me or at the very least to keep me occupied in this season of idleness.