Monday, August 30, 2010

Tomatoes and how we inadvertently traumatize our children

My whole house smells like tomato sauce. Literally. It’s like we live in a pizzeria. Why, you ask? Well, these are the joys of having a vegetable garden. Our tomatoes are starting to ripen, this is both a wonderful and a terrifying prospect. Wonderful because when I’m late getting dinner on the table and The Boy’s hungry I just send him outside to pick a couple of tomatoes and he can eat them still warm from the sun, and believe me there is nothing more delicious. Terrifying because I’ve got 8 tomato plants (3 “cuore di bue” – haven’t found a translation for it, it’s typically Italian; 3 San Marzano and 2 Cherry tomatoes) and though the fruits have just recently really started ripening, the plants are FULL of green tomatoes, and this means that I’m going to be eating, cooking and preserving tomatoes till kingdom come. Thank goodness they’re delish so it’s worth all the work!

My vegetable garden
Cuore di bue (Ox heart) tomato, this one was huge!
On another completely unrelated note we are unfortunately now starting  to see the effects of The Husband’s illness on  The Boy. He is going through what looks like a massive attack of separation anxiety. Every time we leave the house he cries, he wants to go with the one that’s leaving or he wants to stay home but doesn’t want you to leave, it’s very frustrating for us cause we can’t go anywhere without a scene and very sad for him cause he’s not relaxed. So we have to find a way to deal with it. I realize that it’s perfectly normal, his dad disappeared from one day to the next and no adequate explanation was provided, so from his point of view when we leave there is the chance that we may not come back.
Before The Boy could talk properly he would sometimes try to get the pictures he liked out of books, like he could pick up the ball in the book with his fingers, and the fact that he couldn’t and that I couldn’t help him would frustrate him to no end. When The Husband was in the hospital sometimes we would have video conferences so The Boy could see him and they could have a “real” conversation, one night at dinner, The Husband was talking to him while he ate and all of a sudden The Boy throws down his fork and starts having the mother of all freak outs because he wants his Daddy to come out of the computer and be near him. I had no idea what to do, but seeing him like that broke my heart. After that little episode we banned video conferences for a while. The point is that in hindsight I realize that we could have and possibly should have handled the whole thing better, given The Boy more information, tried to protect him less from the facts and prepared him better for the reality. Of course, in hindsight it’s easy to see your mistakes, but when you’re actually living them you’re caught up by the craziness of it all and can’t think clearly. So now we are reaping what we sowed, unfortunately. I just hope that we haven’t traumatized him permanently…

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Last Saturday we went to the saddest funeral I had ever been too, bar none, and that includes my own father’s funeral. Funerals are always sad, of course, and though I completely agree with the creole idea of celebrating life once you leave the cemetery, the reality is that the prevailing feelings at a funeral are those of loss, and grief and helplessness.  In this case, the prevailing feeling was probably also disbelief. The Husband’s cousin E was my age, 35, she had a 7 month old baby boy, a loving husband of just a few short years, a doting brother and parents who loved her more than anything. She was born and raised in the same small town as The Husband. To say the church was packed would be an understatement of massive proportions. All the seats were taken, and all the remaining space was standing room only. And everybody was distraught. I had only briefly met her once, and it was still heart wrenching. Her passing was completely unexpected, she had a brain tumor, her symptoms started less than a month ago, and she died a few days after the diagnosis. Enough said. As I was sitting in the church I looked at her parents and thought of their grief and I started praying for protection for my kids, please God don’t let this happen to them…. And then I thought, it’s not like E's mother didn’t have the exact same feelings as me, she must have thought and prayed the same way for her kids a hundred times, in fact all mothers pray that their kids grow old, happy and healthy and loved. So, really, what’s the point? Well, I know it sounds trite and unbelievably simplistic but I realized the following: we can really only count on the present moment, so we HAVE TO enjoy it and savor it, and be thankful for it, we don’t know what the future holds so we can’t put anything important off for later, be it a kiss, a hug, a trip, a conversation… so when The Boy asks me to play ball when I’m cooking dinner, I now decide it’s ok to eat ten minutes later and go play ball.
And then I looked at her husband, he was neither crying nor talking, he may not even really have been there. And I thought of all the plans they had, the hopes and dreams for their future, for their child and how now he has to navigate through it all alone. Alone with his baby. Having kids is hard enough as it is when there are two parents to carry the burden, and he has no one who is as invested as him to discuss things with, to share the good and the bad and the great.
It is unimaginably sad. The saddest part is that, as anyone who has lost someone knows, you never stop missing the person you lost. Grief does get easier to handle, it slowly passes and gives way to sadness and hopefully down the line to nostalgia. But still, for the rest of their lives, her husband, and brother and parents are going to think of her and wish she was there, and they will always be sad for the loss. And her son will always pine for the mother he never knew. And that is heartbreaking.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Here we go again

Thursday morning, we’re still tired from our little day trip, but we’ve decided to go spend the weekend in France so we’re going. The Husband starts the day at the hospital for the usual tests, plus a bone marrow test, and to get the go ahead from his doctors. I start the day by packing, and packing, and packing…. with no end in sight. Since The Husband had a treatment at the hospital at 2pm our plan was to leave at 2.30, so the kids could take their afternoon naps in the car. Ha, ha, ha.
This was our morning: The Husband gets up at seven and goes to the hospital. The kids and I get up at eight and are comatose until 9 anyway so we may as well have slept in. I start organizing stuff. The Husband comes home takes The Boy to daycare and comes back after having stopped at Auchan to buy a luggage rack to mount on the car roof cause there’s no way everything will fit in the car. Amidst much swearing the luggage rack gets mounted and The Husband heads back to Auchan to buy the luggage holder thingy (what is it called??) that goes on the luggage rack. After getting out clothes and other crap for myself and the two kids, piling them on the bed and promptly getting rid of half the stuff cause it won’t fit in the car anyway, I head to Toy Center to get a small travel stroller for The Boy that I had finally accumulated enough points to get for free. The Husband comes home and mounts the luggage thingy. I come home royally pissed because you have to pre-order the free strollers and it takes a month to get it, so I just wasted half an hour.
At this point it’s 2pm (how did that happen??) and The Husband heads back to the hospital, swearing up a storm cause he’s late, and only had a sandwich for lunch. We’ve already fought four times and cancelled the trip twice. The Boy somehow makes it home, but no one remembers how he got there… one of us must have picked him up. At this point I’m running around like a completely psycho dervish cause it’s late, the kids are tired and I have to pack for three people and load the car, and how the f@#k does this luggage thingy work, I can’t get anything in there. Then The Nanny gives me The Girl so she can go pack her stuff, and I promptly loose The Boy. Heart Attack. He was playing in the car, I’m still packing (how is that even possible??!!) I go check on him in the car and he’s gone. So I call, and call, and call…no answer. I freak out. I run upstairs, not there, I run back downstairs, not there, I run back upstairs…. All the while screaming his name. At some point The Nanny comes running and is looking for him too. And I run outside (how would he have gotten out, the gate was locked) and finally we find him… in the car… this whole scene must have taken at most 2 minutes. It felt like two hours, in slow motion. Obviously, I burst into tears… so did The Girl who was in my arms the whole time, experiencing  my meltdown in surround sound. The Boy looked at me like I was a complete moron. So I went back to packing. Finally after what felt like an eon I’m done packing. I load up the car. And I realize two things: I forgot to pack all the electronics, like we could leave for four days with no computers, phone chargers, sky card, internet key etc…. and The Husband hasn’t packed a damn thing. So I start packing again. The Husband comes home and yells at me. I tell him he can go to hell, I’m leaving with the kids and he can stay home. And FINALLY at four (almost two hours late) we’re in the car driving to the beach, all five of us, plus enough crap to survive the apocalypse.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Roadside dining and other news

Out of the blue on Wednesday we decided to take a little road trip and go visit Uncle F and Cousin R in Cap Martin, France. This little plan was hatched Tuesday evening, obviously The Husband and I weren’t thinking clearly… or rather, we were thinking like two adults with no children… which is definitely not the case. So Wednesday morning we get up and get ready to leave. Three hours later we’re all finally in the car, with not a little regret for the old days when we’d decide to go somewhere and in half an hour at most we were on our way.
This little trip was memorable for several reasons. First of all, it was The Girl’s first road trip, it was her first time out of the baby car seat and in a regular car seat (though still rear facing, which we’re not sure she really cares for), it was her first time out of the country, and consequently, her first time in France. On our way to France, we realized The Girl has no documents, though this realization was not enough to compel us to turn back (after all it took us three hours to get out of the damn house, we weren’t about to turn around and go home) we did experience a little trepidation in crossing the border with visions of being arrested for child smuggling. Thankfully, border controls are now a very rare exception. Note to self, go get her id done.
So anyway, at around 12.15 we were on the lookout for an Autogrill (typical Italian bar/restaurant/gas station/rest stop on the highway) so we could feed the kids (primary objective) and ourselves (if we had time) and at one of the little emergency stop areas along the road I see the following: a parked station wagon, between the car and the guard rail a couple is sitting at a little table, I really need to repeat that with emphasis, SITTING AT A TABLE, with two folding chairs and, I kid you not, a table cloth, surrounded by Tupperware, having lunch. They were having lunch, in the emergency lane of the highway. My mouth dropped open. As The Nanny said, they are a prime example of two people who HAVE TO have lunch at noon, wherever they may be. But what really gets me is they had one of those travel folding tables, the ones, I imagine, that contain the folding chairs so that when It’s closed it’s just a little formica square, and then when noon hits, you can brake into the emergency lane, unfold the table, pull out the legs, out pop two chairs, and voila’, roadside dining.
Now, most of you may not know this about me, but I love kits. I seriously love kits. And bags with compartments. If I buy a bag with compartments I compose my own kits. FOR EVERYTHING and anything. Let me explain. In my car, I have several emergency kits. The emergency diapering kit, kids have diarrhea, I finish the diapers in the diaper bag, no problem out comes the car emergency diapering kit. I have the change of clothes kit, with a change of clothes for the kids AND me. I have the medical emergency kit (which is a constant work in progress as I come up with yet another apocalyptic scenario to be prepared for), I have the “we’re stuck on the highway in a snow storm kit” containing among other things, water and crackers (this actually happened to a friend, who was stuck on the highway over night, literally ALL NIGHT). I could probably survive on just my car kits for about a week. So when I saw this middle aged couple fine dining on the highway, my first thought was, oh my gosh I need to buy a table and chairs and make a roadside dining kit. (And you thought I was normal!)
So we get to Cap Martin, with only minor meltdowns and a moderate amount of “are we there, can I get down, get down, get down, get downs”, and The Boy practically dives straight from his carseat into the pool. Needless to say, he had a blast. Obviously, our adult plans of a quick jaunt to the supermarket and a walk around Montecarlo were a pipe dream, our lives are now led by a two year old. So we spent the day in the pool and then we had dinner in Menton. After this fun filled, not at all tiring day, The Husband and I, in our infinite wisdom and good sense decide to return to Cap Martin for the weekend, and at this point why wait for Friday, there’ll be too much traffic, lets come back tomorrow. So what did this little day trip teach us? Well, when travelling with a toddler and a baby the only difference between a day trip and a long weekend is a couple of portable cribs and more diapers, so you might as well take the long weekend, cause a day trip is simply not worth it. So that’s what we did on Thursday. Are we crazy, you may ask. Possibly just a little addled from lack of sleep, would be the answer.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I love Sunday mornings

I love Sunday mornings. I don’t know what it is about Sundays… It’s not like we’re living a traditional lifestyle right now, neither The Husband nor I have a regular work week, so we don’t particularly dread Mondays nor do we spend all week looking forward to Fridays. We’ve got it pretty good every day now. But Sunday, well, it’s 10.30am and I’m still in my pjs with no guilt. We had pancakes for breakfast, technically I could make pancakes any day, but I only crave them on Sunday. But the absolutely best, most fantastic feeling in the world, is Sunday morning, with both kids in our bed crawling all over us and each other and we don’t really mind that it’s 8am and what the hell are we all doing awake at this hour? And they’re sooo happy to see each other, The Boy woke up first, and he spent half an hour asking when The Girl was going to be up, can we wake her up please, is she up yet… you get the picture, and then when she finally did wake up he ran in her room, squealing and they spent ten minutes hugging and smiling at each other. And that’s when you know, with absolute certainty, that having kids is the most wonderful thing in the world.
That’s really all I wanted to say, and a Happy Sunday to all!
(As I’m writing this, The Boy is walking around the house banging himself on the head with his lego box cover and yelling “boing, boing, bang!” over and over again… and my heart sings.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Blogs, bullies and babies

Wow, the world of blogging is amazing. I hadn’t ever really paid attention to it before, then a good friend started a blog of her own (check it out: and it opened up a whole new world for me. Ammaaaaazing, seriously so many people have so much to say…. It’s daunting. And it leads me inevitably to wonder why. I mean, what is it that leads us to want to share everything about our lives, and to do it publicly? Is it a form of egomaniacal behavior? What leads us to believe that what we have to say is interesting? Do we do it for ourselves, as a sort of modern day diary, instead of putting pen to paper we type on a screen and save somewhere in cyberspace, but then why the need of an audience?? Or do we do it because we need validation, have we become so far removed from other human beings that this is just a way to connect? But what really gets to me, and you see this a lot on blogs that are very popular, that are read mostly by random people who don’t know the blogger, are the negative comments. Seriously, some people’s comments are just horrible, and we open ourselves and our lives (and possibly our families) to this sort of unfettered, uncontrolled criticism with no restraints. Why? Of course, as I'm now writing a blog myself (a public one as opposed to the very much private one that we have had for five years now) I should be able to answer these questions myself... And hopefully I will soon, for now, I'm experimenting!
And on to another subject, one of my biggest pet peeves.
Bullies. Two, three year old bullies. Unbelievable. These kids just get to me, on the one hand I want to just smack them, on the other hand I feel sorry for them. And their parents, don’t get me started (oh, right, I’ve already started…). Ok. I realize I may be going overboard just a tad, but really, I honestly don’t understand how a parent can watch their two or three year old consistently rip toys out of other kids’ hands, or smack or push their way to the toys they want or jump on, push or otherwise act aggressively towards other 2 – 3 year olds (or even younger kids) and not say a damn thing other than “oh, junior is so exuberant, hee, hee, he really knows how to get what he wants”. This just makes me want to whack the parents upside the head with something heavy and blunt. Not kidding. Really, lady, your kid is not exuberant, he’s got bad manners and the result is that nobody will like him in the end and it’ll be your own damn fault. I recently had a mother tell me she was happy her kid was “exuberant” because she knew he was going to be able to defend himself in all situations. I understand her relief, on the one hand, cause I have a shy kid, who always looks amazed when another kid acts too rowdy and I never really know what to tell him. I don’t want to teach him to hit back, cause I don’t think that’s how one should resolve conflicts, plus I try to teach him NOT to hit, and really can you successfully teach a toddler to distinguish between being aggressive and defending from aggression? So, I’m teaching him to defend himself (specifically his head and face) from things being thrown or getting hit and I tell him to get me, or his dad or another adult if it happens, but then when he does all these things and the kid’s parents don’t react, and by react I mean they don’t attempt to discipline the kid, or yell at him or anything, he gets this look, like, well, THAT was useless.
So I posted about this on fb, and the unanimous reaction was that I should discipline the kid myself if his mom won’t, especially if they’re playing at my house, by explaining that you shouldn’t hit, or putting them in time out cause hitting is against house rules. But here’s the rub, in my experience these kids’ parents are the ones that get angry if someone dares say anything to junior, who, after all, is just “exuberant”. But, as The Husband says, what are we supposed to do, just let our kid get hit and keep quiet about it??
Up till now I’ve basically avoided the problem, if I see that a friend of The Boy’s is too “exuberant” (and by exuberant I still mean massive pain in the ass with no manners) we simply stop inviting them over. But then I started thinking, what I’m really teaching The Boy is to shy away from conflict and avoid it rather than facing it. So basically my conclusion is this: if a kid is aggressive I think it’s the parent’s fault for not addressing the reason for the behavior and not taking care of it, or at least watching the kid like a damn hawk so that they can intercept them BEFORE they hit or throw stuff. On my end, it’s my responsibility to teach my kid that it’s ok to respect himself and good manners be damned, if our guest can’t behave properly, I’m going to start intervening, if the parents don’t like it they can take themselves off into the sunset to ringing applause from The Boy and I.
I’m getting off my soapbox now.
Also, as you will see from the pictures, The Boy got a tent. Oh, are we going camping, you may ask? Are you kidding me, do you not know me? So why does he have a tent? Well, let’s just say that it was not a mother approved purchase, and I won’t add anything else. But he loves it, so I guess boys just understand boys better! So now, if anyone’s looking for The Boy you know where to find him.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brief Recap

So I haven’t written in a few days, yeah, yeah, I’m sorry… what’ve I been doing, you ask? You mean instead of keeping you abreast of all the fascinating and exhilarating things going on in our fabulously interesting lives? Well, let me tell you. We had a pretty packed weekend. Our friends from Milan, B and V and their son M came to visit. We hadn’t seen them in 7 years, we counted. In fact, we hadn’t so much as spoken in at least five years. In fact, when The Husband and V decided to get together this weekend and told us to find a B&B for him, his son and B we weren’t even sure whether B was the one we knew or some total stranger with the same name. I guess the premise sounds fun enough though, huh?! The weekend went surprisingly well (surprising because in five years people can change, but thankfully we all got along great like when we were all young, childless and carefree), the kids played, the adults talked (some) and everyone ate plenty. The Husband was in good health and spirits, so he barbecued – that says it all!
Saturday evening our friends the Reds family joined us for dinner, and then we all met again at the Terme for lunch on Sunday. Of course, The Husband used up all his energy reserves over the weekend so he spent Tuesday in bed, sleeping and recuperating all day. So that’s that.
On another note, I realized the other day that we decided the date of The Girl’s baptism (September 11, invites forthcoming), talked to the priest and then forgot to organize anything else. So the other day I went into full fledged panic mode as I realized that in August no one really works here, even when they’re actually open for business, that September was right around the corner and we haven’t invited anyone as of yet, much less thought about refreshments etc. And this is my biggest nightmare, a party with no guests, and no chow. Poor Girl!! So, I got a-organizing as they say.
In fact, I’m going to cut this post short as I have to go order the invitations online NOW!
Next, I’ll be writing a post on one of my biggest pet peeves: bullies, bad manners and those who foster them (i.e. the parents) so stay tuned!