Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Virtual Coffee {21}

Hello friends, welcome to coffee!

Today’s coffee is being served on a beach in Sardinia!
Well, the truth is it’s being served on a beach in Sardinia mostly in my imagination cause this place… not so big on service. But who’s complaining, I’m on vacation aren’t I?!

I have plenty of time to write a post complaining about the crappy resort, much like I already complained about flying CAA (Cheap Ass Air) but today I’m going to be positive and only mention the things we like, like this:

This is the beach near our resort. Each room has an assigned umbrella and two chairs, which makes our lives much more relaxed as we’re not worried about rushing down to the beach early to get the “good seats”. We’ve got a grand total of two umbrellas and four chairs as we have two rooms, so we have loads of space to play in and throw sand at each other without bothering our neighbors, this too makes for a much more relaxing time (and, in case you were wondering, by “we” in this sentence I actually mean the kids, as the Husband and I try not to throw sand at each other, unless he does something really stupid, of course!).

We’re not right at the water’s edge, we’re actually in the very last row (of five, so not bad) but we’ve discovered this arrangement is pretty good as it makes for easy running behind the dunes for emergency pee situations (ahem, not that that’s ever happened, of course).

I have the brunt of the water play duties as it’s been pretty windy (you can tell by the state of my hair), and the husband has a pretty bad cough which we’re still trying to figure out (don’t know yet if it’s permanent damage to his lungs due to the radiation therapy, but that’s fodder for another post, as we’re keeping a positive spin on this one) so I’m basically spending A LOT of time in the water with one or the other little fish (the oldest of which came up to me yesterday, pointed at me and said “mama, pruny!” – thanks kiddo!)

Yesterday though the wind let up a little and the husband braved the open sea:

It was his first dip in  over two years, he was very happy, though a little freaked out and paranoid. Today he didn’t jump in, but I guess he just needs to gain confidence in his immune system with baby steps. So we balance our mornings at the beach with more husband friendly activities in the afternoon, like ice cream eating:

And horseback riding:

And car driving:

And animal watching:

This is a miniature horse mare with her colt 

Yes, that’s a peacock in the playground. I thought that was a little weird, but they just freely roam the resort. The ostriches, horses and donkeys on the other hand are penned up. Which is lucky, because I, for one, would not like to run into an ostrich on my evening stroll, those things are huge!

Another really relaxing thing about this place is the fact that it’s really family oriented, seriously family oriented:

Those are all strollers parked at the entrance of the restaurant, the go all the way around. That’s A LOT of kids! I for one am not a great child lover, I mean, I like my own kids, I’ve just never gotten all misty eyed at the sight of other people’s kids, so I thought it would be torture being in such a child-friendly place. The truth is though, that in a place where everybody has small children, nobody gives a shit if your kid is throwing the mother of all tantrums or smearing food all over her tray and herself, they’re all too busy looking at their own offspring doing pretty much the same thing. So I don’t have to spend my time with all the “don’t scream”, “don’t play with your food”, “don’t bang on your plate” and can actually look around and (inwardly) pat myself on the back for how well mannered my kids are. No stress, plus great for my ego!

Though if we were really having coffee I’d confess that apart from the above-mentioned perks it hasn’t been the most relaxing vacation we’ve ever had, mostly due to the fact that it’s the husband’s first time away from the “comfort zone” of the hospital since we started this whole leukemia saga, but, a little worry aside, we’re very happy to actually be able to take a vacation as a family. More pictures coming soon, we are now off to visit Cagliari, a nice little city near us.

Thanks for stopping for coffee, although, now that I think of it, I probably should have served Daiquiri’s with these pictures!

And, as usual, don’t forget to visit our hostess Amy!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Up, up and away! (Would you like to buy a watch?)

I’ve been meaning to write all week, I have loads of stuff to post, instead I’ve been packing. I packed for three days straight. And, no, I’m not moving anywhere. On Tuesday I packed an insane amount of stuff to take down to the beach house. I packed all day. Then on Wednesday I went down to the beach house to take a huge carload of stuff and once unloaded, I realized I had taken practically nothing at all. How does this happen? I mean, the car was full, to the brim, and yet the house is still empty. I didn’t even manage to take the vacuum cleaner down there cause it wouldn’t fit in the car, cause of all the stuff. And yet I didn’t even manage to make a dent in outfitting the apartment, all that work was like a drop in the ocean. I’m flummoxed.

Thursday and Friday I spent packing for our trip to Sardinia. As the beach apartment is still uninhabitable this summer, due to the lack of doors and windows, we decided to book a little last minute vacation to one of the most beautiful beach areas in Italy. Unfortunately, rather than learn from my fellow bloggers’ mistakes I decided to fly Cheap Ass Air (I refer you now to Mrs Fancy’s posts on the subject, this one here in particular, I’m blatantly stealing this moniker from her). It seemed convenient enough, CAA (cheap ass air) was flying straight from the small airport near our town, we only had an twenty minute drive to get there, much better than the usual hour and a half minimum to the next biggest airport, which still isn’t a real international airport (that’s almost three hours away), so we thought it was the best solution ever.

Let me just say, and please learn from my mistakes (though I know you’ll ignore me, much like I ignored Fancy) flying Cheap Ass Air is never the best solution, ever, and rarely is it the cheapest. In any case, armed with my previously acquired Fancy knowledge, I tried to dot all my i’s and cross all my t’s when reserving the ticket, I got extra baggage allowance, paid extra to bring my carseat, tried and failed to buy the Girl a seat even though she’s under two but apparently it’s impossible on CAA (although Fancy begs to differ), basically I did everything short of a propitiatory rain dance to ensure a smooth flying experience for my family.

Apart from the fact that we left from the only airport in the world to not have even the memory of a luggage cart anywhere on it’s premises (and though I haven’t actually flown from every airport in the world I have gone through airports that were nothing more than a hut alongside a landing strip and I’ve always found a luggage cart, but nary a one to be found here), I’d like to list a few highlights from the eventful, albeit short, thankfully, flight:

- apparently CAA is CA all around, there are advertisements everywhere you look. On the overhead luggage compartments (which incidentally we were strongly discouraged to use by the inflight personnel that kept repeating to please put our luggage underneath the seat in front of us first) there were all manner of ads, the most prolific one encouraged me to “Discover Lanzarote”, there is no place I’d rather discover less now, so not very effective advertising, in my opinion, but that’s neither here nor there.
Then again ads on the subway (metro, underground, tube, or whatever else you’d like to call it) are common enough, of course, but a subway ticket is a couple of euros at most so it’s acceptable, I would think, to try and cover the cost of running that service with a few ads, but in this case though Cheap Ass Air may be cheap (allegedly) it’s not that cheap.

- They never just shut the hell up. They are constantly on the speaker system telling you about some great deal or other you just can’t miss. Really, they just need to shut up. And when they’re not telling you to buy something or fly somewhere they put music on. I realize I’m no spring chicken, so I’m not hip or cool but really, what happened to just napping in flight to the soothing white noise provided by the plane's engines?

- They charge 3 euros for a cup of instant coffee. Now, I was travelling with both kids, one of which was on my lap because despite my attempting repeatedly to throw money at them they simply would not sell me a ticket for her, and a husband who was not on top form for the trip so I wasn’t about to risk drinking a cup of coffee (which I actually really needed, if only as a respite from the hell of travelling with two kids under four and a sick husband) but 3 euros, seriously??

- The flight attendants were actually something much more akin to those nut jobs that work on the likes of the shopping channel. They tried to entice us with the following items: smokeless cigarettes (really), perfume (not duty free of course, so why the hell would I buy perfume on an airplane?), t-shirts and (wait for it…) a watch, a Geox watch available in a variety of colors, oh and the three euro cup of instant coffee. All this on a slightly over an hour-long flight.

But the highlight of the trip, in my opinion, was provided by a fellow passenger; you see, halfway through the flight the guy sitting across the aisle from us calls the flight attendant to complain that he wasn’t getting any reception on his phone. He wasn’t getting reception on his phone. I laughed for like half an hour once the husband shared this little gem with me, it was a nervous laugh due to the possibility of all of us plummeting to a premature and violent death due to this guy’s stupidity, but still he lifted my mood for a minute so his good deed for the day is done.

Anyway, we’ve made it to our destination, I’ve unpacked, we’ve eaten, the kids are bathed and sleeping and tomorrow we’ll start exploring, though let me just say this, first impression: not great.

I won’t expound on that any further cause I’m hoping my negative outlook is due to a bit of traveller fatigue, but let’s just say that my next post will likely be about why one should never disregard the negative reviews on Tripadvisor, even if they are few and far between. As the Boy said when he saw his room “can we go home now?”. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Virtual Coffee {20}

Hello dear friends, and welcome to coffee!

If we were really having coffee today, I would show you these carrots I bought at the “new” organic store (I’m using quotes because it’s been open over a year already, but is still considered new around here, it’ll stop being new in about ten years or so, that’s when people here consider a business to be “established”).

For some reason dirty, earthy carrots always seem healthier to me now, like they were just picked this morning… Although when I first moved here and saw this I was shocked that they didn’t wash them before presenting them to the public, it’s a wonder how we change over time, isn’t it?!

I would tell you that I’m beyond thrilled that all our furniture for the beach house arrived last Friday and while the husband spent the day supervising the very capable ikea personnel assembling said furniture I spent the day on beach recon. I know, tough job and all that.

Of course there’s the minor glitch that we have no windows and doors, and (of course) that not all the furniture actually got assembled but we’ve decided to just be happy for the good and completely ignore the annoying.
In any case, we’re going down to the beach with the kids tomorrow, to show them the house and take them for their first dip in the sea this year (yeah, I know, what have we been doing all summer?!) and to start taking some stuff down there. I had never realized how much crap one needs in a new house, I’ve got a list, it gets longer everyday… sheets, towels, pots, pans, plates, cutlery, glasses, toilet paper, cleaning products, vacuum cleaner… seriously it never ends. I don’t think we’ll be done lugging stuff down there for a good long while, but I’m soooo not complaining!

I’d also tell you that we managed to organize a little week vacation and are going to Sardinia next Saturday, we’ll be back just in time for preschool to start. I realize that most of you are already firmly back in the school routine, but hopefully you’ll enjoy a little vicarious vacation through me in the next couple of weeks.

I just realized this post is all over the place what with the carrots and all so I figured one more tangent couldn’t hurt… Here’s a picture of my kids that totally captures their personalities: Sassy and Sweet, guess who's who!

So now tell me, how’s the summer winding down for you? Are you excited for the beginning of the school year?

And then go and visit our hostess Amy! Toodles.


Monday, August 22, 2011

Being a grownup

Yesterday I had an epiphany of sorts. 
It was a boiling hot day, seriously, we’ve had a pretty mild summer up to now, but last week decided to make us pay for all the breezy, gorgeous, nip in the air, gotta get a long sleeve t-shirt days we’ve been having, and we had no plans, it was too hot for the formulating of plans.

So I drag out the kiddy pool, strip the kids, who love nothing more than feeling a breeze in their nether regions apparently, and let them have at it with the garden hose. As I supervised in my new and very comfortable lounger on the patio, under the fan on high, trying not to dissolve in a puddle of my own sweat, I started thinking how fun all the splashing and running away from the hose wielding sibling and jumping back in the pool looked. 

And yet I sat there, wishing for an air-conditioner that we don’t have because it’s never really hot enough here to warrant one, looking wistfully at the cool mist from the sprayer attachment on the hose. The Husband and I blithely continued typing on our computers, wiping our foreheads, and sipping water like our lives depended on it.

Finally, a nagging thought started forming in my slow and addled brain… gosh, the water looks refreshing, why can’t I go play in it too? No, really, why can’t I?? And so, struck by sudden inspiration I high-tailed it upstairs got in a bathing suit and quite literally jumped into the pool, screeching like a little girl. The kids thought it was the most exciting thing to ever happen to them, hosing down mama with abandon, and everybody was cooler, happier and more relaxed.

How sad that sometimes we get stuck in our mental roles as parents and adults and forget how thrilling simply splashing in a puddle sized inflatable pool can be, and how quickly the long hours of a hot morning go by when you’re sitting under the cooling “rain” of a garden hose. How liberating to let go of our roles as disciplinarians, educators and comforters and dump a bucketful of cold water on our three year old, just because it’s funny.

We had such a good time that the whole experience was repeated after naptime. So, memo to me: sometimes it’s good to just let go a stop being such a grownup all the time, cause acting like a kid is fun, and we all need a little more of that in our lives, don’t we?

Friday, August 19, 2011

On/Off (the post in which I inadvertently insult God)

The other day I developed an entire thesis in my head and I’ve now decided to share it with you. Consider yourselves warned, no good will come of this, my mental leaps are far-fetched at best and sacrilegious at worst.

God may (or may not, I’m a borderline agnostic so you are entirely free to substitute God with Evolution in this text) have created us in his image, but he definitely decided to leave us imperfect. Sure, he did a good job with the intricate workings of our all too human bodies, they are perfectly functioning “living machines”, but in my opinion he could have added one more tiny little detail to bring us closer to perfection: an on/off switch.

I’m sure those of you who have children, or have ever been around other people’s children, are enthusiastically nodding in agreement. As far as our offspring are concerned the possibilities are endless:
-       The baby’s crying, he’s been fed, diapered, cuddled, he’s in no apparent pain, it actually looks like he’s just crying to annoy you – so you just switch the crying OFF.
-       You’re in the car, the kids are tired cause they haven’t napped, everybody’s whining and arguing and fighting, you can’t concentrate on the road, this is clearly a case in which the driver’s peace of mind prevails, and you switch everyone in the backseat OFF
-       You’ve had a full day, you’ve played with your kids, engaged with them, fed them, bathed them, it’s nine p.m. and you’re fucking tired and they won’t go to sleep… OFF

It could even benefit your marriage:
-       Your husband wants to have sex, you don’t cause Grey’s Anatomy is on, Dr. Sloan is hot, you’ve had sex in the last fortnight, do I need to say it? (Of course we could also read this scenario from the opposite perspective: you haven’t had sex in a fortnight, you can tivo the damn show….).

Your career:
-       your boss is yapping about something or other, he’s wasting your time, OFF so you can get some work done and get back to facebook already

I could go on and on but you get the drift…

But this is what started me down this thought path to begin with, I was in the car the other day, I was tired cause one kid or another had woken me up approximately fifty thousand times that night, and I was on a two hour drive to spend the day with family, whereas all I really wanted to do was lie in bed and watch TV for a week. Of course I tried to close my eyes and rest my brain for a few minutes on the drive but both of my very chipper offspring were singing (two completely different, and totally discordant songs) and the Husband was pointing out random things in the scenery: Look! A truck! A bird! A castle! A cow! A field! Another cow! And at the apex of chaos, noise and confusion I fervently wished to just be able to switch my brain OFF for the rest of the drive so I could be rested and happy (and, you know, decent company) to these poor people we were visiting who shouldn’t have to endure my bad mood.

So, all I’m saying here really is that attention to detail is very important and it looks to me like Evolution dropped the ball on this one. (Don’t want to directly insult God in writing, as want to avoid the lynching that that would ensue).

So now your turn, in what occasions would you have liked an ON/OFF switch?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Identity Crisis

I’ve mentioned before that I had a rather varied childhood. Parents from two different countries and cultures, born in Italy, moved to US when I was seven, went to a French school (in the US, started school in the British system in Italy – starting school in Texas with a heavily British accent was loads of fun, as you can imagine, I didn’t get picked on at all), moved back to Italy for University, but home was always Texas… until I got married.

Let me start off by saying that I count myself to be an extremely lucky, privileged person because I got to experience many different cultures firsthand. Our family friends in the US, the people I grew up with, my virtual aunts and uncles and cousins, are from all over the world. I remember when I watched “My big fat Greek wedding” I spent the entire movie going OMG, that’s so familiar, even though I’m nowhere near Greek and had never been to Greece until a few years ago, but many of my Mom’s girlfriends are Greek so, for example, we would often celebrate Easter at our house and (usually) a week later Greek Easter at one of her friend’s house. I went to a French International school for seven years, I had friends from Argentina, Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, Pakistan, Iran, France, the US, Algeria… I could go on and on, but you get my point. I lived and breathed so many cultures, each family had it’s own different quirks and customs that being slightly different was totally normal.

But now… well now I live in rural Italy, where being different is just different. And the thing is that the longer that I’m away from “home” and, absurdly, “home” to me is still Houston though I haven’t lived there full time in fifteen years the harder it is for me to define my own identity. I look and sound Italian, in fact, I am Italian, although I’m actually not, not really. I don’t have any of the shared childhood experiences that Italians have. I don’t recognize half the stuff they talk about, they don’t know half the stuff I talk about, there’s no common ground. My childhood has much more in common with American kids… but I’m not American (incidentally, I will never forgive my father for refusing to apply for citizenship, which we could have done, about a million times!).
I have a friend here who is me, in reverse, she’s American but grew up in Italy, her dad’s American her mom is foreign. She’s been here since she was seven. She is way more Italian than me, and I’m way more American than her, yet our passports say otherwise.
It got me thinking about how important, how much of an impact the way in which we spend our formative years is. Overall, I’ve lived more years of my life in Italy and yet my Italian friends often wonder how I could possibly be so foreign. This led me to believe that the greater part of our character, our opinions, our belief system is created when we’re young. As adults we can tweak, we can use our more mature rationale to improve ourselves, possibly to let go of some insecurities or to develop our strengths, but the core of who we are is a result of our childhood and young adulthood.

The other day I was talking to my new therapist, and I was telling him that I got some very negative reactions when the Husband got sick because I needed to talk about the possibility that he could die. I felt it was important, imperative even, for me to know what he would want should he die. When my Dad died my Mom knew exactly what he would have wanted and not having to decide anything, just having to follow directions was a huge burden off her shoulders. The husband knows me and agreed that it was necessary and had no problem discussing it with me. His family was appalled. My therapist commented that of course his family was appalled, I’d grown up in a culture where death is not danced around too much. It’s a fact of life. Of course, different people react to it in different ways, but there’s much less stigma about death in the US than there is in Italy. In Italy death is something one doesn’t mention, it’s a huge taboo, he said it probably has to do with the extent to which the Catholic Church permeates everyday life. I tend to agree. (He also informed me that in Italy there’s no such thing as a DNR order, this freaked me the hell out.)

Most of the time I walk around feeling foreign in my own country, the other half of the time I walk around feeling foreign in the US cause I haven’t lived there in so long. It’s exhausting. I remember when the whole Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle happened and the ensuing uproar in America, I was like, what the hell, y’all, it’s just a boob! – A very Italian reaction. So every once in a while I wonder, who or what am I?
When people ask me where I’m from it makes me want to jump off a bridge screeching because the answer’s so drawn out and complicated. And believe me, I’ve tried simple. For example, I get to talking with a new mom at the park and she inevitably asks where I’m from cause my accent in Italian is slightly different from here as I lived for many years in Milan. So I’m like, oh, I’m from Milan. Short, simple, sweet. But then the Boy will come up and ask me something or I yell at him to not push his sister off the slide, and I do it in English, cause I talk to my kids in English, reflexively. So the mom, raised eyebrow, says, wow your English is really good, so I have to answer oh, I grew up in the US and I swear to you, somehow, the conversation spirals from there into something way more convoluted than you’d want with a total stranger at the park. I can’t seem to avoid it.

I don’t know, maybe this whole mental mayhem I’m going through right now is just a consequence of having been gone from the US for far too long (three years (shudder) up until the husband got sick I had always gone at least twice a year). I used to always find a balance between my Italian, my American and my (albeit small) Brazilian side and now I just need to recharge my American batteries for a while. In fact, lately I find myself teary-eyed every time I hear that Michael Buble song “I want to go home”-

To this end I’ve finally decided I’m going to Houston in November! For a month! Maybe even six weeks! I’ll be there for Thanksgiving! Oh my god a real, honest to goodness American Thanksgiving, with my family, in America! In Houston! Where you can wear shorts at the end of November and there’s no snow to speak of!

And wow, I actually had to write the longest post ever written just to slip that in!