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.

The – the things I’ve learned – Monday Listicle

AH Monday, how I love thee so!

Ok, not really, but at least we have the Listicle to get the week started right! This week Stasha’s assignment is to list ten things we learned in 2012. If only my memory weren’t so shoddy… oh, wait… I have a blog! Every single thing of note (as well as the utterly mundane) has been recorded for posterity on the internet. Thank god! Otherwise I never would have realized that every month in the past year has brought some valuable (and, again, some not so valuable) lessons. Here they are, along with, if you’re interested and have an awful lot of free time on your hands today, links to the posts explaining them. (If you don’t have an awful lot of free time on your hands… (how shocking!) I totally understand.)

12 things I learned in 2012.

1. January – in January I learned that shooting guns is fun!

2. In February I learned that some people really do treat their pets as if they were kids and that disturbs me profoundly.

3. In March I learned that comments from readers are more valuable than I could ever have imagined.

4. In April I learned that men simply can’t pee within the confines of the toilet.

5. In May I learned that I don’t react well to the idea of anything permanent. Like buying a house. But then I got over it and now I have a house.

6. In June I learned that my kids can survive without me for a few days. I’m not sure whether this makes me happy or sad, but it certainly make me freer.

7. In July I learned that the very things I’d most like to change about myself are the things I can’t control.

8. In August I learned that people who work in Consulates are mean. And they hate me. Also, they’re mean.

9. In September I learned that everyone likes a good wedding picture (or even an entire series).

10. In October I learned that I absolutely, positively, don’t want to be pregnant (right now).

11. In November I learned that time doesn’t make loss any easier, it just makes it less painful.

12. And quite likely in December I will have yet again failed to learn that it’s not a good idea to go out on December 24th to get a few last minute gifts. But alas, we don’t always learn from past mistakes, do we?!

By the way… I got sucked back into the black hole for bloggers that is twitter, so please be nice and follow me. If only for my self-esteem… and yes, I will soon (soonish) set up the easy and practical sidebar button for just this here purpose, for now click on the link or search for thebonnybard or follow the smoke signals… please and thank you.

Some things you simply don’t want to forget.

The past few days have just flown by, I know, cliché but it’s my life theme, no time, no time, no time! The kids are getting so big, so big! (And yes, I’m getting so old, so old…) So I’m going to start doing something I had decided not to do on this blog: write monthly or weekly (or possibly daily) about my children. About how wonderfully wonderful they are, about all the things that tickle me and make me laugh and piss me off to high heaven.  Things I didn’t want to write about, not because I don’t think they belong on a blog, because they do, they absolutely do, I love bloggers that post letters to their kids, they make me happy. But me, well, I have a language problem, because you see half the cute (and infuriating) things my kids do are things they say and how do I do that when 99% of my readers are English-speaking and my kids do funny things in Italian and Portuguese and yes, sometimes, rarely, in English. I’m not showing off, I swear, this isn’t a – aren’t my children gifted and special because they speak three languages – post (they don’t actually even speak one language fully yet, though, you know). I know first-hand how easy it is and well, natural it is, to learn a language when from the day you come out into the world you’ve got people speaking to you in different languages. So really my kids aren’t all that special. (Even though they are, they so are).

But suddenly it’s more important for me to record, to indelibly imprint on what has somehow become the official archive, repository, library or what have you, of human… well, everything,  all the things I really, really don’t want to forget than it is to write posts that actually make sense to everybody out there. So, forgive me, in advance, but I’m sure you understand, the things they do, the everyday things, the magical, recordable things, must be preserved and my once impeccable penmanship has gone the way of the cassette player, I’ve given in to the fact that I’ll never write, legibly or illegibly, with pen on paper quite as fast as I can type with finger on keyboard. So there you have it, my childrens’ journals, elegant black journals, lie unopened under many inches of dust with only a few entries to their name.

On Wednesday afternoons I take my kids to baby basketball (for three to five-year olds) they play together, the Boy started it in the spring and the instructor told me I could bring the Girl in September even though she’s not quite three yet. So they play together, but the first lesson, now several weeks ago, I was on pins and needles the entire time because the girl was so obviously little compared to the other kids. She made a massive effort, chasing after the ball, trying to follow the directions, and generally having a grand old time, I, on the other hand, was mentally fixated on the fact that she ran so obviously like a toddler, slightly knock-kneed, with her feet off at an angle and her entire body rocking from side to side. It was so damn adorable I hate myself for not taking video of it. Now, less than four weeks later she runs like a big girl, it took no time at all, she grew up in such an obvious way in no time it all it blows my mind. And I almost missed it, I almost didn’t even notice that she changed the way she runs. I read this post today, go read it because it’s good, but it made me think that we never really do notice the lasts, we only notice the firsts, but the lasts are just as important.

That day at basketball, was probably the last time she ran like a toddler and I noticed, and I’m so happy I did. So that’s why I’m going to make more of an effort to record what they do and you, dear reader, will just have to bear with me (or ignore me).

p.s. tonight we were talking about stink bugs, because we are surrounded by them, every year right before the first frosts, they set up camp outside and try their damnedest to come inside, where it’s nice and warm.  All day, I kill stink bugs. Tonight I had just about had it when a stupid bug made a beeline for my head (they love my hair for some reason) and so I yelled at the husband to come kill the stupid thing. The stupid bug is called Cimice in Italian and for half an hour after the fact the Girl walked around asking to see the cimida (rhymes with timid, shy, which it so is not!), where was the cimida, was it still in the toilet or did it go for a swim? She even took her brother to the bathroom to explore the toilet bowl in case it was still in there.

Did this little story make sense to anyone but me? Probably not, but I totally want to not forget it. So there.

(also, she says yayeio for aereo – airplane, I’m so going to miss this baby talk part of their lives, especially cause it’s sure to be followed, after only a brief respite, by the cursing is cool part of their lives).

The, the more things change the more they stay the same, Monday Listicle

Hello friends and happy Monday! It’s time for Stasha’s Listicle and this week it’s a really hard one: ten ways I am the same or different from my younger self, courtesy of Christine of Random Reflectionz. I’m not quite sure how to even approach this…

I don’t want to be too obvious, like I was thinner, younger, blonder (in every way)… eh, let’s go with the old standby of winging it and see where it takes us, which should be interesting as half the time I’m not even sure I can make it to ten with these listicles (and often don’t). So ten things ways I am the same and different from my younger self using the comparatives more and less.

When I was younger:

1. I was more arrogant, I thought I knew it all. Now I actually know it all, but in a completely non-arrogant way.

2.  I was less head-strong. In fact, I used to let everyone around me influence me. Now I don’t really care what everyone around me thinks. This is both good and bad because consequently:

3. I used to take more care of myself. When I was younger I wouldn’t leave the house unless my hair was done, and my nails manicured, and my skin as smooth as a baby’s behind. Now… well now I’ve got kids, so if my teeth are brushed I’m good to go.

4.  I used to be less discerning about men. Back then I had a crush on Luke Perry, who no one has ever seen again after 90210, now I have a crush on Matthew Perry who keeps doing awesome shows. (if you haven’t seen it, check out Go On).

5. I used to be more adventurous. The sky was the limit. Literally. In fact, the only thing I regret not doing when I was younger that I really, really, wanted to do is skydiving. There is no way in hell I’m going to do that now, because… well, I’ve got kids. Also, I’m now a scaredy cat.

6. I had less fun. Yes, this one is a little weird, but I used to have fun more often but less intensely because:

7. I was more self-conscious, and I embarrassed much, much more easily. Then again I hadn’t given birth in front of what felt like the entire hospital staff plus a few students.

8. I had less to lose. Which kind of explains the adventurousness. I guess the older we get, the more we appreciate the things we have and the more conscious we are of how easy it is to lose it all.

9. I have more love. I love more intensely, yet less dramatically.

10. I have less time. This one is really true, yet really hard to swallow, and also the only one I’d really change (along with the effects of age on my metabolism, and gravity on my body). I used to have all the time in the world, summers were endless, fifty minute class periods were excruciatingly long, now the years fly by at a steadily increasing pace and I can accomplish unimaginable feats of organizational prowess in only fifty minutes. So sometimes I’d just like to stop time for a moment and be able to simply sit and think, remember, and record, the sensations of a specific moment, to savor it, and really enjoy it, live it, before it’s gone forever.

Culture shock and the third grade

I don’t remember my third grade teacher’s name, and I no longer have the year books from that particular school to go check. I did third grade twice, though not because I failed the year or something tragic like that (tragic because it would have resulted in my mother actually killing me and being sentenced to death – since we lived in Texas). I repeated the third grade because I started school a year (or possibly two, it was a British school so things were a little different) early, we moved to the US from Italy in January, right smack in the middle of the fourth grade, and when my mom enrolled me in school I would have been at the youngest by far in my class, so I repeated the third grade, where I was still the youngest in my class but only by a few months, and could concentrate on getting over the culture shock rather than the actual school work. Incidentally, one of my first memories of America was sitting in the principal’s office taking a test to see where I measured up academically and one of the questions was about American coins, how much a nickel, a dime and a quarter where or something like that, and I had just seen a sesame street episode that morning that explained the whole thing to me (thank you PBS). I was also thoroughly confused by lockers, we didn’t have them in my old school and when the principal asked me if I needed to use the restroom (other completely foreign word to me then) I looked down the hall and all I noticed was the long rows of little doors and couldn’t figure out how on earth Americans went to the bathroom.

Anyway, back to my third grade teacher, I had a really hard time that year because I was different. I had a weird (British) accent, my parents had enrolled me in a (of all the ridiculous things) Baptist private school – I didn’t even know what “Baptist” meant, a lot of things were strange to me – like pb&j sandwiches. I had never learned cursive, rarely used a ballpoint pen, or a pencil since we used a fountain pen for everything at my old school and I had learned division the European way.

One day I get to class, and every kid in the whole entire school was wearing cowboy/cowgirl outfits, this completely shocked me… it was Go Texan Day, and there I was, in my regular clothes. I was so upset I ran to the teacher and buried my face in her navy blue skirt and she hugged me. Teachers didn’t hug at the British school I went to in Italy. She then explained to me what was going on, put a cowboy hat on my head and a bandana around my neck and there I was, a cowgirl, though without the boots.

It’s not a big deal, stuff like this happens daily to kids, it’s how they learn, we went to the gym and square-danced and it was all better, but even though I don’t remember her name, I will never forget her face and how she hugged me. Teachers are important. Teachers make a difference.

Mama’s Losin’ It

This time I was sleeping and….

The witching hour. That’s when the baby would wake up every night. Every night for what felt like eons but was actually only a couple of years. The witching hour in this case was 5.30am. He’d wake, have milk and a diaper change and go back to sleep till 8. So lucky, people would say, you get to sleep till eight with a baby! I didn’t feel all that lucky, never sleeping more than five hours in a row, interrupted, night after night after night. But that day, I think, I got really lucky.

The baby cried and I woke up, I stumbled down the hall to his room in the dark. I heard a noise and thought it was the cat. Damn cat.

I fed the baby, and changed him, and made my sleepy way back to bed. At seven a.m. the housekeeper burst into my room: I think someone was in the house, she said. I don’t remember how, but in the next instant I was standing in front of the baby’s room, not yet having really processed the information just given. I had my hand on the door and couldn’t go in, my husband, behind me, stepped in front and went in. The baby was fine, sleeping peacefully in his crib, and I regained the ability to breathe. Someone had, indeed been in the house; they’d come in for the car. Stupid car. They searched the house for the keys, they came upstairs and went through the husband’s pockets. Thankfully he left his clothes outside our room, they most likely heard the baby crying and went downstairs. That was the noise I heard. They took the spare, opened the gate, and left with the car and a watch that was just lying around. The police told us they were probably specialized thieves, they had targeted that car, the husband’s car had signaled a flat a few days earlier and that apparently is another method they use to take cars, create a slow flat, or the appearance of one, wait for the car to pull over and then they jack it. That didn’t work so they came looking at home.

I was lucky that day, because they chose to come searching at the witching hour. I’m a very light sleeper, had they come at any other time I would have heard them and woken up, I would have gone downstairs to kick the cat out for waking me and I would have run into the two guys searching for the keys instead. The police had an idea who they were, and they’re not known for being very nice. Efficient, yes, but not nice. I pretty much stopped complaining about the baby waking me every night after that. And we installed an alarm system.

Linking up with MamaKat’s pretty much world-famous writer’s workshop today, with the prompt “this time I was sleeping and…”

Mama’s Losin’ It

Temporary insanity due to extreme temperatures, or something along those lines.

Since starting this new blog I’ve been trying to flex my atrophied writing muscles by attempting to post at least thrice a week, which is apparently harder than it would seem, so I’m looking for inspiration out in the ether through some of my favorite bloggers’ weekly link-ups, and what better place to be on a Thursday than MamaKat’s pretty much world-famous writer’s workshop.

This week, one of the prompts was to “write about a time you stole something”, and a very old memory came to the surface…

When I was twelve my Dad decided to move us all up to Calgary (Canada) for about a year for work, as I was already an angsty preteen (i.e. massive pain in the ass) my parents decided to spare themselves the hell that would have been having me around for the move and shipped me off to spend the summer in Italy with my aunt. I had a grand time, I got to fly to Europe by myself, I even got to switch flights in Frankfurt, where, for some reason I wasn’t carted around by a flight attendant. In retrospect, I wonder what the hell my parents were thinking letting a twelve-year old traipse off to Europe on her own like that, but it was the eighties and everyone was more reckless.

But none of this is the point of this story.

I get back to Calgary after my summer on the Italian riviera, and the harshest of realities sets in. I’m away from my friends, it’s damn cold, the days start to get shorter and by the way my Mother loathes it there. And then it starts to snow. And snow, and snow, and… you get the point. Keep in mind that I grew up in Houston, Texas where cold is 65°F. I went to a tiny French school (tiny as in all of middle school fit into one classroom), so I resorted to making up an alternate Houston life for my new friends, in which I had a twin sister, who inexplicably was left behind to fend for herself in Texas, and a whole host of other inanities which I thought would make me seem more interesting in the circumstances. This entirely too long preamble to say that I wasn’t adjusting to the move very well.

Anyway, every day at lunch we were allowed to leave school and go to the nearby park, on the way we would stop at a small Korean convenience store for candy or ice cream or something. Again, not entirely sure why they let a group of thirteen year olds out of school unsupervised. And, I don’t know how it started, if on a dare or what, but every day we would steal stuff from the convenience store. A candy bar, a bag of chips, a soda… we would always buy something, but we stole more than we ever bought. We’d go outside and compare our loot and laugh at how unbelievably daring and cool we were. And the store owner knew. I still remember a look he gave me one day, I don’t know why he never said anything, but the simple memory of that look brings me shame to this day.

Soon after, we stopped going to that convenience store and maybe halfway into February when my Mother realized that the snow would just never stop falling and the days, it seemed, would never get longer, she threatened divorce and we moved back to Houston, to my old school and my old life.

I never, not once, stole anything again. I still wonder why I did it in the first place.

On a side note, Calgary is a lovely city, the weather is indeed abysmal but there are things that more than make up for it, but my Mom is Brazilian, she hadn’t even seen snow till well into her twenties, she simply isn’t built to live it subarctic climes.

Mama’s Losin’ It