Blue Feet

September 30, 2009

Two three year old girls and one piece of blue chalk. There is something so wonderful (and wonderfully messy) about seeing what children will do when given the time and space to just be/play.

It always makes me happy when I discover my children immersed in these moments of play, discovery, and pure enjoyment. And I just can't seem to stop myself from trying to capture some of it. A few weeks ago some of my photos were highlighted on a fabulous Spanish website. I was honored and pleasantly surprised to discover that they chose photos of mine that were specifically related to play. If you enter the site and it is in Spanish, click on the English button in the top right corner. Take some time to explore Kireei. It really is a fun site.

Unwrapping Our Life

September 27, 2009

It's been a rough week. Still dealing with tooth pain (can't be fixed until next week), surrounded by boxes, damage from the move (didn't realize hard back books could be broken in half), dead car battery, lots of rain, and to top it all of the kids and I came down with the flu! And yet things are slowly coming together and we are starting to re-create a home. I hate the chaos and mess that comes with moving. I hate the moments of panic when I realize we have once again brought way too much stuff. I hate the exhaustion. But here's the flip side. I like the challenge of making everything work. I like re-inventing spaces. Mixing things up because I have to be creative with the space. Daring to try new color combinations and liking it. While also keeping some of the same familiar things in the same familiar configuration. And I love unwrapping. Carefully peeling back that white paper to discover a handmade bowl that is one of my favorite wedding gifts. Unwrapping artwork from friends and family that can make me smile or tear up in an instant. Opening up the box of photo albums. The suprising discovery of a starfish that made it in one piece. The joy of lining our shelves with our favorite books. The pillow and quilt that my mom made for me so long ago. Treasures from our travels. Our bikes. It is so good to be surrounded by our favorite things. Because of our frequent moves and because we live so far from our families and our roots these belongings have even more meaning to me. They are bits and pieces of our past. Bits and pieces of our friends and families. Bit and pieces of us. So as much as I long at times to live even more simply. I also feel really lucky to have these bits and pieces. Just need to keep unwrapping and finding spots for them.


September 20, 2009

We just returned from a whirlwind trip to Rome (isn't it amazing that we can go to Rome for the weekend?!!). It was a weekend of extreme highs and lows.

The Good:
-Beautiful weather

-Apartment in a great location one block from Piazza Navona
-Watching Noah and Adam join in an afternoon soccer game
-Celebrating Rosh Hashana in Rome
-The Pantheon, The Colosseum, The Trevi Fountain
-Being able to walk every where or use public transportation

-The food
-Being surrounded by so much history
-Finally starting to be able to get around with our very elementary Italian
The Bad:
-Missing our flight because we forgot to bring the kids' passports wi
th us to the airport. Adam had to drive home and get them. Not a good start.
-PMS does not make a good traveling companion.

-Noah hurt his foot halfway through the weekend so he and Camille had an on-going battle for the stroller or Daddy's shoulders
-I cracked and swallowed my back molar today (our last day) so we spent most of the day trying to figure out how to get back on an earlier flight only to discover it wasn't possible and spent four hours waiting around the airport for our originally scheduled fligh
-Dealing with dental pain and two cranky children is not fun. My yoga and Bradley training came in very handy today.

-We had a moment of panic when we thought we had taken the train to the wrong airport (note for the future and for anyone else planning a trip to Rome: the airport has two names Leonardo DaVinci and Fiumicino)
The Funny:
-Camille somehow inhaled a piece of spaghetti during one of our meals. Not sure how that happened. She complained a bit about some pain in her nose, but nothing was detected until several hours later when she "blessed you" (her word for sneezing). We were all shocked and a bit horrified to watch a long piece of spaghetti come flying out of her nostril.
-We visited more toy stores this weekend than most people every visit in their entire lifetimes. Seriously, there seemed to be one on every corner.
-We didn't see any stray cats in Rome. All of the childrens' books we have been reading about Rome mention stray cats.
-While going through security today at the airport, one of the guards starting tickling Noah. Noah couldn't figure it out. He thought it was one of us until the guard started giggling himself. Can you imagine security personnel in the States even cracking a smile much less tickling and teasing a six year old boy?
-A sure sign that we are now living in Italy: on our return flight this evening the video clips that were shown during the flight were all runway shows highlighting the Italian fashions for this fall.
-As we pulled into our driveway this evening, there was a collective sigh and feeling of happiness that we were finally back "home". Funny how one weekend in Rome can suddenly make us feel so at home in Sicily. Always good to travel and always good to return home.

Headed to bed now because the movers are coming tomorrow with all of our belongings and I have an early morning appointment with the dentist.


September 16, 2009

This weekend marks the start of the Jewish New Year and with that comes time for reflection and making ammends. It's been a topic of much discussion around here recently. During his second week of school, Noah came home reporting he got in trouble for being disrespectful to the teacher. After a long discussion with Adam, Noah sat down and wrote this letter to his teacher:He wrote the note himself, but I am not sure he would have done it without some initial encouragement from Adam. This whole apology thing is hard. It's a hard concept to teach and it's even harder to actually do, especially with sincerity. When I read this post on Motherlode it really struck a chord with me. A true apology goes way beyond the parental prompt I hear myself saying way too often: "say you're sorry". I plan on taking time over the next few days to apologize to my children. It's not that I don't apologize during the rest of the year when I do something that causes them pain. I do. But during this time of year, I also dig a little deeper and try to take an even more honest look at myself and my relationship with my children and others in my life. It's not a comfortable or enjoyable thing to do, but I think it is important for me and for them. Any thoughts on teaching kids (and adults) to apologize?

Eggs and So Much More

September 15, 2009

The day after my post about searching for an Italian preschool I did what I should have done at the start of my search. I finally went to visit the Sicilian family that Karen, Kari, and Coleen told me about before we even arrived in Sicily. As we drove down the country lane to their house we were transported to an Italian oasis of fig, olive, and orange trees and warmly welcomed with hugs and kisses by a pair of Sicilian grandparents. It quickly became apparent that this would be the place for Camille. One of the first things out of Bina's mouth was that she believes children should spend most of their time outside learning from the natural world....they take walks in the surrounding countryside, they feed the family's pet tortoise, they feed the chickens, they pick fruit from the many trees around the yard (fig, pear, orange, peach), they pick flowers, they run, they play, and they are happy. They also learn Italian because Bina and Antonio do not speak any English. Camille (and two little friends) will spend two days a week with them. I will be spending part of that time taking Italian classes (I found a private teacher in the closest town). And did I mention Camille comes home with fresh eggs?

Except for this

September 10, 2009

So here's a little addendum to my glowing post earlier this morning about loving country life...except for: the infestation of bugs in my house. I grew up in the country. I don't have any fears of bugs (despite my history of being bitten by a brown recluse spider and an allergy to bees). I actually think bugs are interesting and usually love joining the kids in their bug explorations. Mosquitoes, fleas, and fire ants are the exception to this. Never been a fan of those creatures. But I am now faced with a daily influx of bugs that are driving me bonkers: bees, ants (lots of differents types of black ants) and flies. We can not seem to keep them out of the house. We have screens and screen doors. I have been sprinkling baby powder near all entrances (someone told me that would work). It all came to a head this morning when I had my first morning alone in the house since moving here. I unrolled my yoga mat, turned on the music, and started to get back into the flow that I love so much. My eyes were closed and I was starting to relax. Until the first fly landed on me. And from there my blissful yoga session turned into a violent one. I tried to ignore the flies. I tried to meditate and go within. I tried to convince myself that I should be able to continue without becoming distracted. But I couldn't. I swatted. I cursed. My movements became jerky and angry. And I ended my time on the mat resolved to battle the bugs. I hate to use toxic stuff but I am at the point of having to do it. Wish I was a more evolved and tolerant. Just doesn't seem right to contemplate ways to destroy other living creatures while doing yoga, but I am not there yet. Anyone have tips on keeping ants, bees, and flies outside?

Daily Pastoral View

We usually hear their bells before we see them. Every morning and evening the shepard guides them through the fields (or sometimes the road which makes for some amusing traffic jams). Have I mentioned how much I love living in the country again? It has kind of taken me by surprise, but I do.

Mt. Etna

September 9, 2009

Ever since our arrival in Sicily, we have all been entranced by the looming volcano in our back yard. On Sunday we ventured up to do some closer exploration. As we wound our way up a small road, the clouds seemed to grow closer, and we noticed a significant drop in the temperature. Camille wasn't feeling well so Adam and I took turns hiking around with Noah. We are all anxious to plan another trip to Mount Etna, but we may wait a little while. I got an e-mail last night reporting an increase in earthquakes over the weekend which indicates there might be an eruption soon. Glad I didn't know that while we were hiking around (but I do look a little worried in the photo Noah took of me, don't I?). Stay tuned. We'll let you know if we see any lava!

Lasagna Gardening

September 8, 2009

We are living on-base which feels like a return to dorm life: lots of identical spaces, the joys and challenges of very close quarters, minus keg parties, and the addition of children, lots of children. We still don't have our belongings so we are living a fairly spartan existence. I actually enjoy this stage of moving. Always makes me think I can actually attain that elusive goal of voluntary simplicity, yet I know that once our stuff arrives I will quickly return to our familiar pattern of clutter and de-clutter.

So for now I am happily putting all of my e
nergy into transforming our little yard into our own space. I spent the first week walking the neighborhood taking note of what seems to be growing well and spreading the word that I would welcome any donations of plants and/or cuttings. During the second week I started collecting large rocks (from the surrounding countryside and from neighbors who were moving out). I used the rocks to lay out one large bed in the front of our house. And then I did something that shocked the neighbors and the housing manager. I plastered the new bed with large sheets of cardboard. I then watered the cardboard for a few days in a row. In the third week, I added a layer of horse manure followed by a layer of grass cuttings, and topped it with a layer of compost and topsoil. And now I am slowly gathering plants to add to that bed. The neighbors seem relieved that the bed is starting to look a little more normal (no longer just a pile of cardboard and manure!). Once I have most of the bed planted I will add a layer of newspaper and finish it off with some mulch.It's a method of gardening which seems very appropriate for our new life in Italy: lasagna gardening. The newspaper and cardboard are great (free and non-toxic) weed barriers. They will also break down and help to make that heavy clay more garden-friendly. Same for the manure, compost, and grass clippings. I'll try to post some more pics as things progress. Here are a couple from the early stages. Noah loved shoveling all of the manure, but none of us were crazy about the flies that made the trip home with us!

September List

September 3, 2009

Summer Retreat: a visual farewell to summer.

Pandora: A brilliant concept. We had some initial issues trying to access the site after our move overseas but recently discovered a way to make it work. Love this.

Recycled Houses
: Inspiring, creative, resourceful, and reminds me of my parents' home. Such a contrast to all of the suburban cookie cutter boxes.

Telling Tails
: Tim O'Brien's essay about fatherhood, childhood, telling stories, and making them work.

Lucky Girl
: I was immediatedly drawn to this book because of its connection to Taiwanese adoption, but I quickly realized it was more than just an adoption memoir. This is a story of cultures, coming age, family, identity, and trying to make sense of it all. Captivating, honest, and makes me wish I could have dinner with her. I especially enjoyed the circular nature of her story as she ends with her own early steps into motherhood and moving to South America where she is faced with the challenge of parenting in a third culture. And some additional food for thought in this recent Boston Globe article.

Bang! Bang! You're Dead
: A very interesting read.

Rome with Kids
: Getting ready for our first visit to Rome. Any favorite spots? Recommendations?

Market Report

September 2, 2009

Fresh from today's visit to the market: Peaches, Nectarines, Pachino Cherry Tomatoes,Cucumber, Borlotti Beans, Garlic,Green Onions, Olives, Bread,and Parmesan Cheese.
We used just about everything for dinner tonight. All so fresh and so delicious. Camille shelled all of the beans by herself. I boiled them and then sauteed them with olive oil, green onions, garlic, and a few pieces of carrots (he gave me the recipe when I was buying them). So much more enjoyable to cook when using such beautiful and fresh produce and when I have such a great little helper. I love being able to eat locally and seasonally like this.

School Report

Lots of acclimating going on this week. We are each experiencing some culture shock via schools this week. Noah is gradually adjusting to the sensory overload of being in a large elementary school (on-base, American school). He was scared during his first recess experience: "all of a sudden there was a whistle blowing, kids started screaming and running and I didn't know what to do". He gets to ride a bus to school every day. Not your typical American yellow school. It's a large Italian tour bus. He is working on making friends, figuring out the hot lunch system, and coming home each day pretty wiped out. It's a very big change from his small and wonderful Jewish kindergarten/preschool experience, but he is adjusting.

Camille and I have been visiting Italian preschools this week in search of a good place for her. But it has proved to be a very different experience than I dreamed up in my head. Since Italy is the birthplace of the Montessori and the Reggio Emilia schools, I had imagined finding a peaceful, creative, nurturing oasis where Camille would be surrounded by Italian teachers and friends. I haven't been able to find that yet. We have pretty limited options in this rural/small town setting. The schools that I have visited so far felt chaotic, noisy, and crowded (1 teacher for 20 three/four year olds). One thing that is very appealing are the lunches...the schools go to the markets each morning to get fresh produce and serve the children a multi-course lunch. Grappling with re-adjusting my expectations and trying to understand cultural differences while also finding a good fit for Camille. We will continue to explore a couple of other options but perhaps will end up doing our own thing at home.

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