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

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.

Monday Listicles – The Spring 2013 Edition

I’ve written this before, Spring is a schizophrenic season, it can be gloriously warm, insects a-buzzing, flowers a-blooming, allergies abounding, and from one minute to the next the clouds roll in, the rain starts pouring, and all is dreary and bleak. I’m more of a Fall kind of girl, with the Fall I know where I’ve been and I know where I’m headed, in the Spring I get all confused.

So Stasha’s Listicle selection for this week inspired mixed feelings and mixed results, I’m not really sure where I’m at, so I’m giving her 10 things spring a slight spin:

10 things Spring, an ode to opposites.

1. Sunshine vs. Rain

2. Blooming Flowers vs. Allergy Attack

3. Longer Days vs. Stupid time change

4. Pre-Summer diet vs. Hoards of Easter Chocolate

5. Frilly dresses vs. Winter White Legs

6. Easter vs. Kids home from school (not sure which one is good and which is bad…)

7. Bicycling on Balmy Days vs. Fruitflies Flying up my nose whilst cycling in the sun.

8. Starting my Vegetable Garden! vs. Tending to my Vegetable Garden

9. Going out in just clothes vs. Going out in clothes plus a down jacket, hat, scarf, gloves (mismatched cause one is always lost), or just directly in a ski suit cause it’s that cold out, and once you’ve spent half an hour sweating while getting everyone dressed, one of the kids has to pee.

10. Playing Outside for Hours vs. ….

there is absolutely no vs. for this one!

Have a Happy Monday!

(p.s. just to prove how insane the weather is this morning at 8 it was 2°C (37.4°F) and rainy/snow slushing, at noon it got a bit warmer and started hailing, it is now 3pm and the sun is shining and it’s about 18°C (64°F). Now, I ask you, in these conditions, what is a girl to wear??)

Weekly recap

Tuesday was my grandmother’s one hundred and third birthday. 103. Amazing.

My grandmother was kind of a hardass, and not always in a good way. My mom gets mad at me cause I tell her she needs to be softer, more loving with my kids than her mother was with us, because when I was a kid my grandma was kind of a bitch. Disrespectful? Certainly. But true nonetheless. Despite all that I have some wonderful memories with my grandmother and I’m sad I didn’t make it to Brazil this year for her birthday.

On Tuesday I also went skiing for the first time ever. Practically. Well, we lived in Canada for a year, and that year I took some skiing lessons, but I was thirteen, it’s been, like, 24 years, so basically first time skiing ever. I went with my bestest, favorite girlfriends and while they skied at quasi professional level (most of them) I took a lesson with what I thought was supposed to be an average looking, middle-aged, ski instructor but was actually a young, very hot, ski instructor, who kept telling me not to look at my feet, to look at him, and I was like, well, do you want me to fall on my ass? Anyway, very distracting.  I’ll be seeing him again next week, I figure that if I can learn to ski with him around I will then be able to ski under any and all circumstances.

Wednesday I wanted to kill myself.

That’s how badly my legs hurt. Despite that, and against my better judgement, I went to the gym. My very hot, tan, blonde, blue-eyed, trainer (pattern, anyone?), who sent me to the very hot, tan, dark haired, brown-eyed, ski instructor, decided that since my legs were in crippling pain my upper body needed to be in crippling pain as well. So…

Thursday I had a three hour long coffee with the girls.

I literally could not get up from the chair, in fact, I could barely lift my coffee cup.

Oh, but wait, back to Wednesday, three separate but related facts. On Wednesday the kids have baby basketball in the afternoon. It’s Carnival time, Carnival is a big kid holiday here, they dress up, they have parties at school, they get sweets, and usually on the Sunday before Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday, last day of Carnival before Lent starts – condensed mini lesson on Catholicism, you’re welcome) there’s a parade, with floats and costumes. I have the worst memory of any mother anywhere, ever.

They were supposed to go to basketball in their costumes, for once in my life I got them to their lesson early, we ran into one of their friends, I realized they were supposed to be wearing costumes and clearly weren’t. I had a mini panic attack induced by extreme feelings of guilt and the memory of all the times I was the only kid not in costume cause my mom forgot. I left them with their friend’s dad, raced home, got two Spiderman costumes (cause the girl made it very clear that she was not playing basketball in a princess costume. Did I mention she’s three? I definitely will not survive the teenage years.), and raced back.

And when I say race, I actually mean hobble.

Anyway, they had their costumes and were happy, and I felt like slightly less of a horrible mother.

On Friday, I went to see the seven seater Prius.

I have a Prius now, the old model, I love it but am ready to upgrade to something a little roomier. I’ve gotta say, I’m not thrilled. If I don’t find anything better, I’ll get that one, but it’s a little pricey, not enough bang for the buck. Although with the price of gas here it may be the smartest option out there.

We were also supposed to go down to the beach house, as the kids are on holiday until Wednesday, but we didn’t make it today… it’s like we’re constantly swimming upstream. But tomorrow we’re definitely going. Probably.

I’ll leave you with some pictures of our skiing expedition and my warmest wishes for a wonderful weekend (holy alliteration batman, look at that!):

J, Y, F

One of the girls, me, hot ski instructor.

 

girls

The Girls (two of them are holding me cause I was having balance problems due to having to look at hot ski instructor – that’s his name.)

lunch 1

A carb and sugary drinks laden, well deserved, lunch.

 

Very proud of myself (also, hot ski instructor)

Very proud of myself (also, hot ski instructor)

 

Just call me Grumpy

grumpy_pop

I’m in a phenomenally bad mood today. Likely, this is due to the fact that I’ve been stuck in this stupid hospital for almost a week now. You want to know what the biggest difference between a hospital in Italy and a hospital in Texas is? Everyone here is polite. And you have to be polite back. The entire day is punctuated with Hi, how are yous, you have a good day nows, cheery alrights and thank yous.

 

You’re constantly greeting people, and smiling at people, and no, no go on aheading at people. Yesterday, during the attending’s visit she was saying how the infection that the husband has is very severe, that it could lead to a rupture in the gut, which is why they’re keeping him under such strict control, that he does have a little GVHD but it’s just a level 1 out of 4, so not worrisome at all, and one of the fellows, I swear to God, clapped her hands excitedly and said Yaaaaay! Seriously, stop being so flippin’ cheery.

In Italy, everyone is much less polite. You don’t aknowledge people in the elevator, you pretend you’re in there alone. Despite the fact that most of the time you’re packed in like sardines. The doctors and the nurses don’t give a shit how you’re doing, unless you’re the patient and are answering specific questions. And no one, no one, would ever get excited about a diagnosis or prognosis or whatever. I used to hate that about Italy. Everybody’s so grumpy. But this morning I kind of get it, I’m tired, I’ve got cabin fever from being stuck in this room for so long, I’m running out of ways to entertain the husband, and I really, really, miss my kids, so I kind of resent having to expend even the minimal energy required to enquire about the nurse’s well being today. I don’t care. Just leave  me alone and let me sulk in peace.

Unfortunately, I grew up here, and apparently it is physically impossible for me to enter an elevator, or get in line, or walk into a waiting room, and refrain from asking everyone around me how they’re doing and talking about the weather. It’s a little like having Tourette’s, I imagine, but without the satisfaction of pissing off everyone around me.

It has finally stopped raining, the sun is out and instead of lifting my mood it’s actually made it worse cause now I really want to be outside! So just call me Grumpy today, and when I ask how everything’s going, keep your answers short and to the point, cause I don’t really want to know. Harrumph!

My gun or yours?

I love the US. I grew up there. It’s my home. I love Texas. It’s the best state in the union. (or so we think.) Up to a few years ago I would’ve given anything to be able to move back. And then I had kids, and though I would love nothing more than to have them grow up there, because there are many, many wonderful things about the United States of America, I simply cannot imagine taking them voluntarily to a place where 27 people in an elementary school can be randomly gunned down by an idiot. (And also, healthcare is unacceptable, but that’s another post).

I live in Italy, there are hunters here too, people have guns in Italy too, one in six families, in fact, keep a firearm in the home. But to get a gun you have to jump through a thousand and one hoops, you are not allowed to walk around with a gun, you are not allowed to carry a concealed weapon, you are not allowed to walk into a public space with a gun, and, you are certainly not allowed to shoot a gun. Yes, you read that right. No shooting. Unless you’re in a shooting range, or aiming at ducks. You’re not even allowed to shoot someone invading your home unless they’ve shot a gun at you (although I personally don’t agree with this exaggerated interpretation of proportional force). What all this means is that Italians don’t take the use of guns in the same excessively cavalier, I done gone and shot him dead, way that Americans do.

Because guns here are scary, they’re seen as frightening, which frankly is the way it should be, because guns actually do shoot one dead. And sure, you can kill someone with a knife, or with a rope, or with your bare hands, in fact, but all these other ways of killing people take a certain degree of skill, whereas you barely need basic motor skills to kill someone with a gun. Guns are too damn easy to use, which is why they need to be regulated. I absolutely believe in the right to bear arms, but every right should be accompanied by obligations, by responsibilities and by limitations. Because it is absolutely unacceptable, in an evolved society, that small children be gunned down in the middle of the school day. We are not barbarians, we need to stop behaving that way. Guns have to be regulated, because we simply cannot count on every person toting a gun to be responsible, and the alternative is too horrifying to be left up to chance, we’ve had proof enough of that.

I’m guest posting over at my friend Bridget’s wonderful blog Twinisms later today, as she’s off enjoying a much deserved Hawaiian vacation. Please stop by and visit me there too!

Monday Listicles – Shut up, just shut that shit up already!

It’s Monday once again and time for listicling. Amazingly last week I managed to post more than just the listicle, despite all the busy vacationing that I’m doing, but I’ve got to admit that Stasha’s lists are my favorite posting “assignments” of the week.  This week she asked us to list 10 sounds that drive us bonkers, this was pretty easy for me tonight, as we had a really annoying dinner experience and I’m still rankled from it. The restaurant was hot, as in Dante’s inferno, as in I ordered a soda just so I could rub the cold can on my neck, face, and cleavage in what could have been a very seductive move had I not had sweat running down my temples, as in invest in some fucking fans already. I’m sure you get the picture. Plus the service was abysmal, the restaurant was crowded, and when I say crowded I don’t mean like American restaurants get crowded I mean the waiters kept jostling our chairs as they passed, I could have easily reached over and picked food from my neighbors plate, I could have actively participated in their conversation, and at one point the person closest to me was almost sitting in my lap. Italian – we have no sense of personal space – crowded. This is why I don’t spend time at the beach in Italy in August, because from here on out it can only get worse. The cities on the other hand are wonderfully empty, there’s hardly any traffic, parking is plentiful and unlike the days of yore when one couldn’t even buy milk in cities in August, all services are available and all the people who are still around and working are surprisingly polite and unstressed. Which is why I’m going home on Tuesday. Anywaaaay, I should probably get off this tangent and back to my list of:

10 sounds that make me want to stab someone, then choke them, then throw their limp lifeless body down a ravine

1. clocks ticking

2. hands, fingers, feet, tapping

3. teeth grinding

4. or air being sucked through teeth

5. snoring

6. heavy breathing that almost qualifies as snoring

7. cuticle or nail picking

8. nose sniffling

9. tongue clucking

10. oh, and did I mention clocks ticking

Also, any noise at all when I’m trying to sleep.

I’m not sure, but I may, possibly, be a little high-strung. Just a thought.

p.s. also, yappy dogs, yappy dogs yapping away, make me want to kill myself.

The end.

Because paying 50% taxes on our income is money well spent they say.

Can I just say that the fact that the inhabitants of the Italian peninsula have been here for well over two thousand years is a complete and utter aberration of all that is logical and just, and also, that the ancient Romans, if they were still around today would kick modern Italians on their completely irrational and frankly, lazy, asses.

Can you tell, by my opening paragraph, that I’ve been once again banging my head against that play-doh-like wall that is Italian bureaucracy?

We’re buying a house. The husband and I decided upon marrying that we would assume the “separation of assets” state because it suited our own particular needs. This basically means that everything that was ours prior to the marriage (not much) remains the sole asset of the original owner, if we inherit our inheritances are our own, and we can buy property with our own money in our own name without having to be co-signatories.

And yet, for reasons that defy our understanding, despite the fact that we’re buying the house together, in both our names, the notary overseeing the purchase needs a document that states that we have in fact decided on the separation regime. This shouldn’t be too hard, there’s an office that gives you these documents. The problem arises because, well, I can’t really explain why without being unnecessarily rude to Italians, so let’s just say that the bureaucracy here has the sole purpose of driving otherwise normal and calm people completely bat shit crazy.

The husband and I were married in Rome, when we were married we resided in Milan, we now reside in Cuneo. I can get this document in Rome, I can get it in Milan, however I cannot get it in Cuneo. How is that possible? If I could only get it in Rome it would be insane but it would be completely within the boundaries of what is considered normal in Italy in 2012 where we haven’t yet fully realized that this is, in fact, the age of computers and the internet, but if I can in fact get it in Milan, where I no longer live, but where apparently they can communicate the necessary information from Rome why can’t I get it here?

They can do a whole host of other documents online, but not these… why? WHY?

It is a miracle, that as a people, Italians have been around for as long as they have, it makes me want to challenge all of Darwin’s theories regarding evolution because if it really was a question of survival of the fittest they would have become extinct sometime right after the Renaissance.