A little optimism this way comes…

There seems to be a lot going on extended family wise lately.  Birthdays, pregnancies, drama… All families have drama, I know, but my tolerance for it is getting shorter and shorter as the years go by. I’ve probably simply just had my fill of it, between the Girl’s birth, the Husband’s illness, the in-laws’ health and financial insanity, the nanny leaving us, we’ve had drama up the wazoo. And now, well, now, I just try to live my life as drama free as possible, if only other people’s drama would quit encroaching on my oasis of level-headed beatitude (or so I wish it were).

My Grandma turned one hundred and four years old yesterday. 104. Every birthday that goes by is more amazing than the last. Obviously, we went down to Sao Paulo (Brazil) for the celebration.

For the first time ever the Husband managed to join us. We were supposed to be there two weeks, one of which would have been at the beach but of course the Husband’s entirely too short umbilical cord with the office started tugging at him and we had to change our plans and only stay one week (office drama). It was fantastic, though, to spend a week in the sweltering heat of the Brazilian summer coming from the dead of the most annoying winter we’ve had here. We haven’t had much snow (other than, typically, on the day before we left for and the day we returned from Brazil) but everyone’s been crazy sick, for months, just one thing after the other. I was sick literally from January 1st until halfway through the trip, so a little over a month, with everything under the sun, from laryngitis to bronchitis to sinusitis with and without the sniffles, fever, etc,etc, and the kids right along with me. The only healthy member of the family, shockingly and happily, was the husband. God only knows how that happened.

Suffice it to say, I was thoroughly enjoying being healthy and in flip-flops, I had absolutely no desire to come back to the crappy weather we’ve been having in Italy, I even briefly considered mutinously (and passive-aggressively) “losing” our passports.

So back to my Grandma or Vovo as we call her in Portuguese, her birthday went by without a hitch, she had a great week, she was very lucid and communicative. We don’t really understand her much when she speaks, which is tied to her age, but she’s perfectly capable of making herself understood. She spent a fair amount of time sitting in the living room watching the kids playing and going through the picture albums I take her every year, she had fun at her party and had her fill of champagne. What more can we ask for?

And now we’re back, hoping that “The Money Pit”, i.e. the stupid stable we’re still renovating, will soon be finished (and by soon I mean before retirement), settling back into our routine of school, skiing, and surviving the winter blues. The days are finally getting longer, if not warmer, there’s still some sunlight when we leave the house at 5.30 for soccer, which makes a gigantic difference, as you really feel like you’re finally on the better side of winter (the one closest to the end).

I have a weird excitement this year of good things to come, I can almost smell spring, I can almost see the end of the money pit sucking away at all our money, I can see better health, better weather, better moods just beyond my fingertips, but so close, so close, I just need to stretch a little bit more.

I guess that’s the best part of our trip to Brazil, all it takes is a few days with family, with nice weather, with good food, with love and just like that a little optimism this way comes…

 

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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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.

Melancholy

This year Father’s Day took me completely by surprise. In Italy it’s in March (on the 19th, Saint Joseph Day), and I’ve been off the internet so wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on in the US. When I realized it was Father’s Day, I decided to post a picture of my Dad and I, one of the last pictures we took together, before he passed away in Rio de Janeiro on February 5th 2006. We were at a lovely fish restaurant where he loved to go in Rio, and The Husband was goofing around, taking “artistic” pictures of his unwitting models. It’s been seven years since my Father died. It seems like forever and it still feels like yesterday. I can’t look at pictures of him, and especially of he and I, without getting a lump in my throat. Will the feeling of loss ever go away? And how is it possible that each year that passes I love him more, not less, as the memories of his annoying behaviors, of the occasional hurtful word, of the arguments, fade away and only the good, the fun, the amusing, the kind, the generous, and the love remain.

I so want my children to hear anecdotes about him, to know, at the very least, his stories since they can’t know him in person, and yet, I can never seem to be able to talk about him. It’s almost like I can’t remember anything about him, save the feelings he invoked, until I see his pictures and then I’m bombarded with memories in a barrage that is too difficult to process much less to share.

Fathers die before their daughters. It’s the circle of life. And certainly easier than the other way around, because we expect our parents to not be there at some point, and yet it’s still difficult. Seven years on, and I still want to pick up the phone and have a chat. Seven years, and I still get melancholy on his birthday, and on holidays, and especially on Father’s Day, as it is celebrated in the US.

I wonder if I’ll ever stop missing him, I want to, and yet I don’t. Missing him is a way to feel close to him, I guess. I went through the stages of grief, I remember them. But I don’t think this pain I feel occasionally, this melancholy, the sense of loss tugging at my heartstrings when I see one of the kids do something that’s just so him, I don’t think these feelings are ever really going to go away.

Up, up, and away!

I wrote this Tuesday May 28th, but only able to publish now…

It’s a funny thing leaving your kids and flying across an ocean. Last year, right about this time, I wrote a post, much like I’m doing right now, on an airplane over the Atlantic Ocean. Last time I was going to Brazil by myself to see my ailing grandmother (who has since blown out 103 candles on yet another birthday). The Husband and the Nanny were home with the kids, and though a bit nervous and guilt wracked at leaving the kids behind, one parent was home so I was pretty fine and ready to enjoy myself on the five-day trip. This time I’m flying to New York with the Husband, and I no longer have a Nanny. My kids are with their Nonni (paternal grandparents) and right before leaving for the airport I found myself handing my mother in law an envelope containing my will, a video for the kids, and instructions on their caregiving should they find themselves orphaned.

 

My parents travelled a lot when I was a kid. They travelled both with and without us, and they went all over the world. When they flew with us we all travelled together, when they flew without us they took separate planes. It was very matter of fact. They wrote their wills early on, they nominated a guardian for us, they took care of things. It must have been hard for them, but it was very normal for me. We knew about it, and it wasn’t weird.

 

So when the Husband asked me to go to NY with him for a few days, I immediately started thinking about the things I needed to do, not just the packing and the organizing, but the taking care of things. We’d been talking about it since The Boy was born, but I’m a world-class procrastinator and he’s Italian (that’ll become relevant in a minute) so it just never got done. When one travelled the other was home, and we know exactly what the other expects of us should anything happen. This time, though, we had no excuses.

 

Writing my will wasn’t hard. It was actually quite simple and straightforward. The hard part was thinking about what we’d want to happen to our kids. Have any of you had to think about this before?

Ideally, we would have liked young guardians so we went through all our siblings first… apart from the fact that we are total opposites on the religious, political, and quite possibly moral front, my brother is unmarried and still living the simple, single, lifestyle. Also, I’m not a huge fan of his girlfriend so his taste in what would presumably be my children’s mother figure did not bode in his favor. My other half-siblings are all in their fifties and their kids are all in their twenties and leaving home. I can’t imagine they’d want to have two preschoolers fall in their laps right when their getting ready to finally start enjoying some peace, quiet, and independence again. I don’t think I’d want my ability to travel at the drop of a hat and go out to dinner somewhere with tablecloths rudely taken away from me after twenty years of deprivation right at the finish line, would you?

The Husband’s siblings are more age appropriate but his sister is the one who wants to send us her teenage daughter to raise, so that doesn’t fill me with confidence, and his brother is… well… kind of an asshole.

And friends are always a tricky option when you have families as large as ours. So we were in a bit of a bind…

We finally settled on a joint, both physical and financial, guardianship of the two grandmothers. The kids have an awesome relationship with my MIL, and even though she’s older than my mom we think she’s a better option for when they are little, with the clause that they go live with my mom when they’re teenagers (unless they strongly object to this themselves).

 

Reading all this you’d think we were on death’s door. Of course we’re not, and we have a higher chance of kicking the bucket whilst driving than flying, but I guess it was as good a time as any to start thinking about it. But let me just say that it was absolutely, bar none, the hardest thing I’ve had to do. Ever.  Having to sit down and actually think about and imagine my children’s lives without me was enough to make me want to surgically reattach them to my body and never, ever let them free.

And it made me realize just exactly how precious, how absolutely, unquantifiably, important they are to me.

 

Doing all this also made me feel a little weird. In Italy people do not talk about death. At all. I remember when the Husband got sick, I casually told his mom that he needed to let me know what he wanted in case something went wrong and she completely freaked out on me, it was strange and pretty much incomprehensible to me, because my parents had always been absolutely straight forward and matter of fact about this stuff. When my dad died we all knew exactly what he wanted without even needing to read his will, this made things easy for us and avoided much pointless arguing. Of course this time was no different, I called my mom and told her about my will and what was in it, and all she said was to write the kids a letter to read when they got older (this being the digital age, I left them a video), my MIL, visibly tensed, got tears in her eyes, and told me to stop talking. This morning before we left she took me aside, showed me a secret drawer and said I should put “those things” I mentioned in there, and then shot off like a cat on fire.

 

It’s fine, we did what we had to do, and now I hope to enjoy the four days the Husband and I have in NY together. He’ll work some, I’ll shop loads, my mom is joining us there, the kids are having fun with their Nonni, whose action packed schedule for the week rivals anything the  Disney franchise could possibly come up with for coordinated family fun. And the small, innocuous looking, white, in case I’m gone, envelope sitting in the “secret drawer” has ensured my piece of mind.

 

Now tell me, have you done this? Thought about it?

It’s not that I want to go, it’s my wifely duty after all

These past two weeks have been pretty decent. The Husband was away for a few days two weekends ago for a trade fair, and again this week he was gone Monday and Tuesday giving speeches somewhere (I’m not very involved in his work life…), so I had plenty of relaxed bonding time with the kids. Is it weird, I wonder, that my life is so much easier when I’m alone with the children? I don’t mean long term, long term, I’m sure, would be a gigantic hassle, but just a few days here and there, if I’m the only adult around we can decide to have breakfast for dinner (something my Italian husband just doesn’t comprehend), or just snack in front of the tv, or spend the afternoon in bed reading books rather than being productive. Even the morning routines are more relaxed when he’s not around, of course, we’re always late, when it’s just me, mostly because I’m a much better procrastinator than my two preschoolers but occasionally a break from all the discipline and order is refreshing. As long, of course, as it doesn’t last too long, we need him to get us back on track, or our lives would be total chaos!

So anyway, he came back from the trade fair ten days ago and announced he needed to go to NYC and would I go with him. Our ten-year wedding anniversary is next month, so we had already decided to leave the kids at their Nonni’s house for a long weekend and go off somewhere alone. Initially, my reaction to going to NY was, absolutely not, remember what happened last time we were in the US?? But then rationality set back in and it’s not like his getting sick is related to our geographic position, right? Plus, I’m an awesome wife, I can sacrifice a few days of tedious routine, to accompany my husband to the city that never sleeps, where he has to work and I will have nothing to do but shop, eat out, and sleep in. With no kids. It’s my duty as a stay at home mom to set aside my engagements to stand by my husband. Right? Am I convincing you with this whole virtuous act??

Anyway. So we’re going next week. I’m taking the kids to Milan on Sunday, getting them settled with my MIL, who, incidentally, is over the moon at the idea of having her grandkids to herself for almost a week and The Husband is joining us there on Monday as our flight is on Tuesday (one of the major things that sucks about living where we live is that the closest big airport is in Milan, which makes travelling anywhere into a big two day production). And the cherry on top of this particular cake is that my Mom is joining us there for a couple of days. So to recap: the kids are spending a week in a place the thought of which gets them more excited than Disney Land, The Husband and I get to fly to New York in business class (company paying, and did I mention, no kids?), we get to stay in a nice hotel, I get to go shopping with no one breathing down my neck and asking me if I really need one more pair of shoes, in fact, I get to go shopping with my mom who likely will be all like, you really need another pair of shoes to go with that dress you just bought, and other than possibly a couple of work related dinner engagements we get to do all the stuff we didn’t get to do in Houston this past winter. I’m feeling pretty good about my life today. Of course, I have a whole host of insane worries that I’ll share with you soon enough. But for now, well, the sun is shining, the weather is finally a little warmer, and I refuse to think about the bad stuff, today is all about the blessings. Of which there are many.

p.s. this blog turned one year old this month, and my last post was the 100th post. So lots and lots of bloggy milestones!

No Bugs Bunny, keeps me sane

Bed time routines are a bloody nightmare, am I right???

I am not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve never been one. The Husband, on the other hand, loses all cognitive ability after eight p.m. This was always a problem when we were younger and childless because he would clock out when I reached my energy peak, as you can imagine, this made many things difficult, not the least of which was sex. Over the years we’ve managed to find the middle ground on most things (the ones where both of us have to be active and present at least) and we’ve divided up the things that occur at our respective “best” times of day. Basically, I’m not expected to function rationally in the morning, so he takes over the child-readying operations while I’m in charge of anything that happens in the evening. It works out great for us. He gets up early, has a nice relaxed breakfast with his newspaper and no one talking and or needing anything from him, he makes everyone juice, he comes upstairs and wakes me and the kids, and takes care of all the wrangling, washing, brushing, and feeding that is necessary to get to preschoolers out of the house. While I only have to concentrate the two neurons that are actually active and awake in my brain on getting just myself washed, dressed, and fed in the absolute peace and quiet necessary to avoid my head exploding first thing in the morning.

Of course after dinner, I’m in charge of the reading of bedtime stories, brushing of teeth, and yelling like a deranged person to get the same two preschoolers into their damn beds and staying there. I’m also in charge of the repeated serving of water to quench the torturous thirst that presents itself whenever I try to leave the room. I imagine The Husband is sitting in bed, relaxed, and laughing at me the entire time.

Hands down, I think, bedtime is worst than the morning routine. I’ve done the morning routine, while barely functional, and it just doesn’t elicit the same levels of stress and murderous rage that the bedtime routine brings on. Every night, it’s one more book, they have to pee (again), they have to tell me something “super, super, important” right as I’m walking out the door, they lose their luvvies, they need me to tuck them in again and again, and they are so thirsty, so parched, that nothing less than at the very least three separate drinks of water will satisfy them. It takes half an hour to get them to settle down (after they’ve been washed and effectively put into bed for the first time), at the end of which I mostly just want to kill them. It’s very frustrating, mainly because without their constant interruptions and requests our bedtime routine is actually quite sweet. Once they’re in bed, I do a little bad dream banishing magic, I sing them a song, and then we say “good night, I love you miles and miles, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite”, except that the Girl for some reason didn’t get the bed bugs part, so she would say something unintelligible, which later turned out to be “no bugs bunny”. I have no idea why, I mean, she likes Bugs, Loony Tunes was her favorite show for a while there, and yet every night it’s “sleep tight, no bugs bunny”. So of course, all of us started saying it that way, because, honestly, who could resist, but I feel kind of bad for Bugs, banished from our bedtime routine, for no apparent reason.

So bedtime makes me crazy, except for that moment when two little voices yell “no bugs bunny, mama” at my retreating back as I hightail it out of their room for the fifteenth, and hopefully final, time.

Who put this hot potato in my lap??

This weekend the Husband took the kids to Milan to visit his family. The kiddos love spending time with their Nonni (grandparents) and I get a relaxing weekend at home… alone… pure bliss! Though, I do miss them lots (between cocktails and visits to the spa and hanging out with my friends with nary a child in sight…) Also, my Husband’s family gets to do whatever they want, feed them candy, take them on adventures, without my disapproving, party pooper presence. So it works out all around.

Friday night I had “the girls” over for dinner, mostly because I needed to practice my Margarita making skills – on a side note, it took me thirty minutes in front of the liquor aisle at the supermarket to locate the tequila, there were 25 different types of rum and more different grappas than I could count but only one, lonely, half-hidden, bottle of insanely expensive tequila, which I thought was pretty weird… Anyway… one of my girlfriends wanted to hone her cosmopolitan making skills as one of her 40 things to learn before 40 bucket list, so much alcohol was consumed. Surprisingly, everyone was eager to taste test our creations. We had a lovely meal, followed by drunken dancing, and then we sobered up with a hilarious movie before bidding each other good night at the ungodly hour of 2am. All this happened while wearing drawstring pants, not a stitch of make-up and with nary a high heel in sight, basically, the perfect evening!

This is the second child and Husband free weekend I’ve had this year, and I’ve got to say that every couple of months or so it really is a lifesaver (or, less dramatically, sanity saver).

 

The Husband came home Sunday night and asked me to consider having his 16 year-old niece come to live with us. I know, kind of an intense subject matter for a Sunday night post relaxing weekend.

His niece, is a really sweet, slightly troubled, girl. We had actually considered this two years ago when she started high school, but decided we couldn’t accept the responsibility of a fourteen year old (the Husband had just had the second transplant and the Girl was one and a half). And now the situation presents itself once again, and I’m unsure what to do.

Our niece, let’s call her R for simplicity’s sake, has just been suspended from school for two weeks, she’s probably going to fail the year, she got recently put in a body cast for a pretty severe scoliosis that nobody noticed, and is generally left mostly to her own devices. I’m not making any judgments on her parents and their parenting, they had an ugly divorce, and other varied and sundry family drama, and since I’ve never gone through that and don’t have teenagers I can’t say one way or the other where the blame lies (if blame can even be assigned in a situation as this one). What I do know, is that we could give her a stable family environment. What I don’t know is whether I’m capable of handling a teenager, cause if it’s your own teenager you’ve raised her year by year yourself and you sort of ease into it, we would be leaping from preschoolers to at teenager with no intermediate preparation whatsoever.

I wouldn’t want to screw up the situation more than it already is, but on the other hand, we love her and want to help her, and maybe being in a new environment, having to make new friends, away from all the drama that inevitably falls on her doorstep every day, could be beneficial.

Right now we’re trying to think of all the possible scenarios, and we’re trying to figure out if we’re up to it and how it would affect her, us, and our children, then we’re going to sit down and talk to her parents (separately, but hopefully also together) and to her. In the meantime, I wonder, does anyone have any advice?

You say potato, I say…well… mind your own damn business!

It turns out that, according to some, I’m a bit of an army general whereas according to others, I’m a bit of a pansy ass. It baffles the mind.

My in-laws were here for a few days at Easter and they kept remarking on how “good” the children were and how they do things that “other children don’t have to do” and I’m such a “good mother”, the subtext of which was clearly how the children are poor, over-burdened, little soldiers, and I’m a slave driver. (And when I say subtext I mean my father-in-law literally saying the words under his breath). All this because my kids help “set the table” (I put that in quotes because while the five-year old kind of knows where the utensils and stuff go on the table the three-year old dumps everything in the middle and just spreads stuff around randomly), and unset the table (what’s the opposite of “set the table”? we used to jokingly say dress and undress the table when we were kids, which regularly prompted my brother’s catch phrase “but mom we haven’t been properly introduced” to which much hilarity ensued… or not, anyway…),  and vacuum under the table with the dust-buster, and clear up their toys, and change their own clothes, and generally try to help out around the house. All stuff we did when growing up (despite the fact that my mom generally had between one and three maids in the house at any given time). I don’t feel like a slave driver, it’s just stuff they should learn how to do (also, if they don’t do it, I have to). I realize I’m the opposite of the typical Italian mother, who still irons her kids clothes when their twenty-five and in graduate school and living away from home, but I think that if though they may not consider these things normal they should at the very least be proud of their grandkids for being able and willing to do this stuff. Whereas, I’m sure, there are conversations going on in Milan between my MIL and her friends that go somewhere along the lines of “can you believe she makes her children set the table? What kind of lazy ass mother is she?!” Ah, the joys of cultural differences.

Speaking of cultural differences, on the other side of the Atlantic, in the sweltering heat of Houston, my Mother thinks I have forgotten the meaning of the word discipline, because my kids want my attention right now even when I’m speaking to another adult, because they jump on the couch, because I, *gasp*, allow them to take all the living room throw pillows and blankets, dump them on the floor, and then keep score to see who can jump farther from the couch to the pillow pile. My children whine and complain when I send them to brush their teeth, they dare protest when it’s time for bed, they have (occasionally) thrown a tantrum in a public place… Her favorite refrain is “your children’s behavior is a reflection of you as a mother, you have to take pride in them”, like I should only be proud of them when they’re well-behaved, or rather, I should take pride in myself when they’re well-behaved. Or something along those lines.

I try to walk the middle of the road… I do that a lot, lately. We had plenty of help around the house, but my mom made sure we learned how to do everything for ourselves, we learned to cook, and clean the house, and do laundry, and iron, and sew buttons… but our house wasn’t a lot of fun, there was a lot of tip-toeing around and not bothering the adults. Whereas my in-laws, as well as most Italians, like to complain (or pride themselves on) how many sacrifices they make for their children, how they’re still at home when they’re thirty-five, how no one wants to get married, because, let’s be honest, why should they? They live rent free in their parents house, with a free maid (their mother) and all the freedom in the world. How today’s youth is so entitled… but who made them that way?

And how on earth did I become the bad guy in this in the eyes of two completely opposing camps?? Walking the middle ground is hard, neither camp is happy, and I get a lot of crap from both of them. But I’m sticking to my guns, because I strongly believe in discipline, but I also very much believe in fun, and the two aren’t mutually exclusive. My kids need to learn how to do practical things, it’s part of my job to teach them, they need to be well-mannered, and learn patience (gradually), they need to be respectful, and independent, and responsible, but they also need to have fun and make messes, and do stupid things, because how else will they learn? I didn’t have a bad childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but I also didn’t have a lot of fun, or rather, there was always a limit to the fun we could have, we couldn’t make too much noise, too much mess, and when we did scoldings and guilt would ensue. There was lots of guilt and a fair amount of fear and I don’t think fear equals respect. I want my kids to respect me, to know when and where there are limits but also when and where it’s ok to cut loose, and I absolutely, positively, don’t want them to fear me or my reactions. So to some I am too strict, and to others I am too lenient, I just hope I manage to straddle the “just right” position at least half the time.
Do you have family members judging/questioning your parenting, and if so, how do you deal??

Joining Shell today for Pour your heart out.

Almost there

The last week before Christmas, the last day before the end of the world… Honestly, I kept asking myself all day, would I be doing this if the world were really ending tomorrow? The answer, of course, was always no. No, I wouldn’t have met with the other class mothers to sort out Christmas pageant problems over coffee this morning. No, I wouldn’t have gone to the gym. And definitely, no I wouldn’t have spent most of the morning packing for my trip to Houston. I wouldn’t have had white rice and vegetables for lunch, I wouldn’t have spent three hours at the hairdressers getting my hair de-frizzed so my mom doesn’t spend the next 19 days telling me how unkempt I look, and I would not have spent the past hour fighting with the British Airways website trying to get on their frequent flyer program.

What would I have done instead? I have no clue. I can’t imagine what sort of activities are appropriate if one’s existence were to be knowingly and expectedly wiped out. I definitely would have wanted to spend that time with my kids, eating Nutella, and watching cartoons. But I also would have wanted to spend that time alone with the Husband, enjoying… ahem… each other’s company. Or with my family, or my friends… But mostly I realized that if I were to cease to exist, or rather, when I cease to exist, cause there’s really no getting around that, is there? I would want to do it suddenly, unknowingly, as I go by my daily business, because, at the end of the day, I can’t imagine planning a perfect day. There would be too many “last things” I’d want to do, and that day would become never-ending, and all those last things would lose their significance, their “specialness”. I can’t imagine any one last thing that would make my total obliteration meaningful.

So I go about my business, sorting clothes into suitcases, trying to plan for everything as usual, I go about my day, my very mundane tasks, methodically, purposefully, because that is all I can do. Tomorrow the kids have their Christmas Pageant and I can’t forget the appropriate outfits, I have to distribute the last raffle tickets, I have to pack my carry-ons and unearth my passports from the mountain of unfiled crap all over my desk. I have to get two last-minute gifts and I have to go to the bank to get my engagement ring, without which I simply won’t travel but which can’t stay in the house cause we’ve been have a flurry of petty thefts in our neighborhood. I absolutely, positively, have to make it to the post office to send off a very important package. I have to get all teary-eyed and sniffley when my kids, an angel and a friar respectively, get onstage tomorrow afternoon. And then I have to quietly freak out about our trip on Saturday.

So you see, I don’t have time for the world to end. Not tomorrow.