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.

The bee’s knees

I’m not a huge fan of the summer. Surprising considering how much I complain of the seemingly endless winters and soggy springs here. But summer just rubs me the wrong way. I was probably traumatized by the insanity inducing heat and humidity of Houston summers, having to get up at dawn to go play tennis or horseback riding cause being outside whilst not immersed in a swimming pool of tepid water after eight a.m. could only result in heat stroke. Also, during the summer my schedule goes all to hell.

So, the minute June rolls around, and all the extra-curricular activities start petering off I move the kids to the beach apartment. I know, I bet you’re all feeling really sorry for me right now.

But the God honest truth is that the main reason I move down to the beach is that we just renovated last year and there’s blessed air conditioning in every room, unlike our house in town. (Also, the beach and sea).

So what’s the summer like at our house? Well, I’m alone with the kids, which is equal parts wonderful, exhausting, and infuriating, as the Husband works so he only comes down on weekends (and usually on Sunday nights when he leaves he’s all YAY, I get to go relax at the office tomorrow! Woohoo! – I’m not kidding), the apartment is smallish so the upkeep is easy, and I don’t have a lot of stuff in it, so it’s mentally very relaxing. We get up, spend the morning at the beach, eat lunch at the beach café or at home, the kids nap, then we go to the playground in the afternoon and walk around all the little shops, the baker, the butcher, the greengrocer (yes, an actual greengrocer), the fishmonger… for our evening meal, we go back out after dinner if there’s a show in the church square, and then we rinse and repeat. We do this until the end of July. I spend a lot of my time yelling. It turns out, that a three and a five-year old don’t have an awful lot of common sense, and this fact hits home especially hard when you’re with them 24/7. Who’d a thought. And yet…

Despite the fact that I’m a bit off during the summer, that the heat gets me down, and that I’m annoyed by my body image more than at any other time of the year, basically despite the fact that I’m somewhat of a sourpuss during the summer, I love all the time I spend with the kids. I’m their main source of entertainment, so I learn to be more patient, more fun, more flexible, I even manage to not adhere to our strict meal and nap times without going off the deep end (in case you haven’t noticed I’m a bit of a control freak). And the children learn to be more helpful, more articulate, their English miraculously improves, they’re better at cleaning up, at helping me do the menial daily chores that they usually aren’t privy to, and they love it. They don’t, much to my surprise, get bored just hanging out with me. Apparently, hanging out with me is the bee’s knees. Sure, I have to come up with new stuff to do every once in a while, and there are many kids for them to play with at the beach or at the playground, but they’re just as happy sitting on the couch watching tv with me. And that feels nice. During the school year, we’re usually too busy doing what one does all year, nobody really notices how quickly time slips away, but during the summer we get to all just be for a minute, together. I guess it’s not such an awful season after all. And, when the heat really gets me down, I try to remember that soon enough I’ll hit the finish line, and the next season is my absolute favorite, of fresh starts and of new beginnings, Fall. But for now, I’ll just try to enjoy the silly things they say and do, because, I suspect, soon enough they won’t want to hang out with me all summer.

linking up today with Mamakat for her prompt: 2) describe what summer is like at your house.

Mama’s Losin’ It


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.

My first love

This man was my first love, I still miss him every day. Happy Father’s Day.

January 2006, one of the last pictures we ever took together.

January 2006, one of the last pictures we ever took together.

two peas in a pod... (behind a glass...)

two peas in a pod… (behind a glass…)


Hee, hee, hee, chick-a-dee.

We’re back from our whirlwind trip to NYC. Everybody survived. The kids had a fabulous time with their Nonni and the Husband and I suffered no untoward catastrophes. Phew.

It was a short, but sweet, trip. We arrived on Tuesday, to a drizzly, cold Manhattan, and I was quite verbally and repeatedly upset to have forgotten my new raincoat at my in-laws’ house. The weather, of course, soon turned to hot, sunny, and muggy and I immediately regretted all my complaining about the cold. My mother basically just complained about the fact that New Yorkers are like Europeans, afraid of the a/c… because they don’t live in the subarctic indoor climes she’s used to in Texas. We had good food, discovered some great new restaurants, saw old friends and new babies, and did a healthy dose of shopping.

The Husband spent most of the time working (he had to justify the pricy tickets and hotel somehow, right?) and I spent most of the time walking, which I’ll get to in a minute, cause first I have to open a parenthesis (or start a tangent, as usual) on the Apple store on Fifth avenue. Totally cool. I loved that it was underground, I loved the glass cube, the glass elevator, the whole beam me up, Scotty, feel of it all, I also loved the fact that it’s open 24 hours because if my iPhone goes belly up at 4am I need to be able to get it fixed right away. Life or death (and dependence on technology) and all that.

image from

image from

image from

image from

Back to the walking, two things: one, I’m pretty sure that the reason why I’ve gained weight in the last few years was because I went from living in a city where I didn’t have a car and the unpredictability of public transportation coupled with my lack of funds for cabs, meant that I walked most everywhere I went. Meaning miles and miles, and hours and hours of walking each day. It makes a difference. I’ve become so sedentary that walking around NY for a full day (and I’m talking about the kind of walking you do whilst shopping, not whilst trying not to be late for appointments) was incredibly tiring. I’d get back to the hotel exhausted, my feet and legs hurting, like I’d been trekking in the mountains. Painfully pathetic. Woefully wimpy.

And two, I saw this yesterday:

image from

image from

It’s positively genius. I think all offices should have it. I’m trying to talk my husband into making me something similar, as they don’t sell the original here in Italy. I spend so many hours on the computer each day, doing things that don’t require a lot of concentration so I’m pretty sure I could couple it with some coordinated motor skill type of activity… like walking relatively slowly…. without too many adverse consequences.

I could walk and read emails, blogs, facebook… I could, in fact, spend all morning doing it with a clear conscience, because I’m also exercising… pure brilliance! And it’s not like I have to do the whole production of changing into workout clothes and shoes, warming up, sweating, stretching and then showering, because it’s not that kind of exercise, you’re just doing the stuff that you’d normally be doing sitting passively on your behind, only you’re walking, strolling even, for a couple of hours at a time. Anyway, read this post by Anne-Marie from Cheeseslave, she totally convinced me!

Also, I’ve started walking with some girlfriends by a river bed around here (apparently this post has a theme, though, I promise it’s unintentional, I thought it was going to be a fun post on NYC not a long ramble on walking, but these things are generally out of my control), and when I say walking, what I mean is that ridiculous looking huffing and puffing, arm pumping, speed walking where you’re literally going faster than people who are actually jogging.

It’s a beautiful place that I’ve managed to completely ignore in the seven years I’ve been here, just fields and wildflowers , big, round, smooth, white, river rocks and the sound of rushing water. One of these days I’ll go down there for a stroll with my camera.

Anyway, my point is, though I’ve been going to the gym three times a week for months now, walking (or running) on an actual road (dirt, gravel, or cement) and on a treadmill, are two completely different things. The former is much harder, for some reason, much more painful, I feel these walks for days afterwards, but they’re also much more satisfying, the cool breeze, the changing scenery, the hot sun, the bees a-buzzing… very pastoral and relaxing, like a Thomas Cole panting. It helps in ignoring the shin splints.

This post is all over the place, as usual, but I guess the point of all this is my new motto, which is: when in doubt, walk, (Much better than my old motto, when in doubt, eat chocolate!) now all I have to do is talk the husband into thinking we absolutely cannot survive one more measly day without the treadmill/desk contraption. Then all my problems, real or imaginary, will be solved – or so, at least, I’ll think for at least a couple of weeks.

p.s. the title for this post is completely random, I just wanted something that rhymed and that’s is the absolutely first thing to come to my head, and then I couldn’t shake it off for the rest of the day.