Thursday, September 29, 2011

a story about socks and a little bit about grapes


I hate wearing socks. I like my feet to be naked. I like them to be able to breathe. I dread the day the weather changes and it becomes cold to the point where I am forced to bundle my feet. Give me flip-flops, and I am a happy camper.

Graham, on the other hand, hates not wearing socks. We tried flip-flops a couple of times this summer, but he just didn't like them. He always prefers his Converse sneakers with socks. Rarely does he let his toes see fresh air. I don't get it, but I deal with it. At night, when he has to remove his socks to bathe or just get some clean ones on, it is a struggle. I have to prepare him and remove them very slowly, otherwise, he might have a meltdown. Then, we spend a good amount of time deliberating over which socks he will wear next. It's a delicate process, but, like I said, I can deal with it.

Over the weekend, we went on a little tour to a winery in the mountains where we had the chance to smash grapes with our feet just like they did way back when for making wine. All the other kids had a blast stomping around in the mush, but Graham chose not to participate. He did not want to take off his socks and shoes. We didn't press the matter. Instead, we jumped in and let him take pictures of us. It all worked out. No tears. Everyone was happy.

On Monday, he had his big, 4-year-old checkup at the doctor (I know, we're a little late). Everything was going smoothly. The doctor was very kind and seemed genuinely interested in what Graham had to say. We chit-chatted and he asked questions about Graham's development, and we laughed about some of his quirks, and all was well. Then, the doctor stood up and asked Tony to remove Graham's shoes. Graham was fine with the shoe removal, which is pretty normal. The socks are the kicker. Suddenly, without warning, the doctor stripped Graham's foot of its sock, and Graham lost it. He started crying and saying, "No, no, no!" The doctor threw his hands in the air and apologized profusely and said he'd never seen a case like this before. We explained the delicate sock process to him, which, again, he had never heard of. Graham cried and cried, but he did let the doctor take a quick look at his toes. I didn't understand why the doctor needed to see his toes until he asked him to remove his shorts. Um, did you know that they do a full physical exam on 4-year-olds? I was not aware and could definitely have used some warning. After the sock incident, Graham refused to take off any other clothes, so the doctor had to mark his chart "Unexamined due to the wishes of the patient."

We had spent so much time preparing Graham for his shots (which resulted in a few tears, but otherwise went just fine), that we neglected to prepare him and ourselves for the rest of the exam. Next time, we'll spend more time making sure he knows that he's going to have to let the doctor see his feet. I think I'll start preparing him for it now so he has a year to be ready for it.

p.s. I have lots of pictures to share with you, but with this crazy internet connection, it would take me a year to load them... Please hang in there and I'll keep ignoring the problem and hoping that it will just go away...

Monday, September 26, 2011

just ignore it

Our internet connection is really, really sluggish right now. I have no idea what the problem is. All I know is that I am not able to put pictures onto this blog and share them with you fine people, which annoys me a little. Growing up with a pestering older brother taught me at a young age that the best thing to do when somebody (or something) is annoying you to the point where you want to scream and pull your hair out is to ignore him (or it) and hope like crazy that he/it will leave you alone. Sometimes, this would work with my older brother. Other times, I had to break his toes to get him away from me (explanation: he used to pinch me really hard with his disgusting toes). I'm hoping I don't have to do any damage to our internet device in order for it to stop bothering me.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

to diiiiiiie for

I went to a cooking class the other day. Like everything else in this crazy town, it had no resemblance to how I would expect it to look or operate. In a cooking class, I would expect for there to be a teacher standing in front of the class demonstrating how to make a certain dish, and then for each student to have her own working station where she attempted to make said dish. It's a good thing that I've learned to observe my expectations and then to throw them out the window before doing something new in Naples. I've learned to approach each situation with an open mind and a giant willingness to go with the flow.

Now, enter "Cooking with Vera." I walked into a converted garage that sort of looked like a kitchen. It had a stove and a long table complete with place-settings for eating, not cooking. There was also a table with an old food processor and a small electric mixer. I noticed the piles of vegetables and could smell some chicken roasting in the oven. Vera was running around adding spices to dishes boiling on the pot and eventually greeted the class. She told us what was on the menu, and that's when I realized she had already cooked half of the food and we were just there to help whip up some appetizers and chop some vegetables.

Vera simply started tasking people. "I need someone to chop these tomatoes." "Can someone please bring me a plate?" "I need someone to put the pasta into the boiling water."  She was like an executive chef and we were her little worker bees. Everyone just scrambled around trying to make herself useful. Every once in awhile, Vera would shout out some Neapolitan cooking advice, like, "Neapolitans never make a dish containing both garlic and onions. They use one or the other. If it has onions, it can't have garlic. This is because of their strong flavors." We all soaked up the advice and asked her as many questions as we could squeeze in about the food we were cooking.

After scrambling around and asking questions for an hour or so, Vera told us all to sit down and "mangia" ("eat"). So, we did. We ate a lot, because she had already prepared three types of meat for us to taste. With each thing she would serve, she would explain to us (very quickly) how she made the dish and then exclaim, "Trust me. You'll love it. It is to diiiiiie for!" In the meantime, she was also teaching us how to make a traditional Caprese cake, which we devoured for dessert. Yum.

In the end, I felt as though I had just attended a restaurant where the chef wanted to show off her amazing cooking abilities. I definitely left the class full and happy with several platefuls of leftovers. However, the verdict is still out on whether or not I actually learned how to cook anything...


Just another wonderfully, somewhat odd experience to add to the list of things that didn't go quite how I thought they would in Naples.

Thank you, Vera! Your chicken was simply to diiie for!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


For the past two months, living just outside the city of Naples has been miserable. It has been hot, hazy, humid, hot, and hot. To top off all the heat, the farmers around us have been burning their fields like crazy. The smoky smell has literally caused me to throw up more than once. Because, I know you didn't forget that I have also been pregnant for the past two months. Pregnant and tired and nauseous and sick. I have spent countless hours simply lying on my bed while staring at the ceiling with a fan blowing directly into my face attempting to cool off and feel better.

Finally, finally, finally, finally, I woke up this morning after listening to the rain pound the windows and roof all night, to a gloriously crisp, cool, clear morning. I skipped around the house proclaiming, "Halleluia," and singing "Oh what a Beautiful Morning!" I sprang the shutters open, sent up a prayer of thanksgiving, and breathed in the sweet, cool air. As I jogged around the lake, I was beaming with a smile and hopping up and down like a kid on Christmas morning. Today, I feel like a 105 degree fever has just broken. I feel like a million bucks. I feel totally and completely in love with this place.

And so, today, I am celebrating living in the "suburbs" of Naples by telling you one of the reasons I truly enjoy living here. The reason has nothing to do with the weather, by the way, but the weather is what is causing me to want to express it.

One of the things I love about being here is that there is always something interesting to go do or see.

On Saturday, we took a drive to a side of the city I have never actually been before. It is the side where you would come if you visited on a tour bus. It's the "nicer" side. Sometimes, people forget that they are in Europe when they're in Naples until they visit this side of the city.

We hit up the famous Gambrinus Cafe, where I would not recommend buying gelato. It was so gross and melted so fast that we had to redeem our gelato experience by getting some more from a place down the street.

 After that, we just strolled around and took in the sites for awhile.


As we strolled, Tony said, "I wonder what we'll miss most about this place when we eventually have to leave it."

Even though I was hot, sticky, and annoyed with my melted gelato and my son who is getting better and better at vocalizing his levels of discomfort, I found myself glancing at Vesuvius and replying, honestly, "Everything."

Monday, September 19, 2011

green garden

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I would like to introduce you to the newest member at the "Istituto Paritario Green Garden!"



I am now the mother of a kid in a private school.

In Italy.

I'm just going to go let that soak in for awhile as I sip on some Fanta.

Have a peaceful Monday, friends.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

fanta and photography

My latest pregnancy craving has been for a refreshing drink known as "Fanta." It's basically an orange soda, but it's nothing like the orange sodas you find in the states. It tastes like it's made from real orange juice, rather than from a strange orange syrup. It is especially delicious on a night out with girlfriends when everyone else is drinking margaritas. There is actually a Mexican restaurant in a town north of here. It wasn't bad, but we had to drive a long way to find it, because restaurants serving something other than Italian food are quite difficult to find over here. 

I am practicing using my camera in different settings. I like to try different things in low-light situations, but the camera has to be completely still, or else the picture is blurry, which is why I focused on my Fanta. So that I could just set my camera on the table for it to be still.

I don't know if Fanta is exclusively Italian. Maybe you can find it in the states. Does anybody know?

I think that's enough about Fanta for one day.

Go get yourself a refreshing drink for me.

Graham also practiced his photography skills while we walked about the city (where everyone else dresses in fancy dresses and heels) today. For my BFF, I am posting this picture to show that I did indeed wear my special shirt today to support the Sooners as they take on Florida State.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

decision made.... ish

I've decided that I am being a bit uptight about this whole preschool thing. I've realized that my expectations for my son to be a well-rounded genius who is going to save the world and end war by the time he's five are just a tad bit ridiculous. I need to lighten up and give this preschool down the road a chance, so that is exactly what I am going to do.

Today is his last day at the other daycare/preschool. Tomorrow, we will march ourselves over to the one near our house and sign him up to start there on Monday.

I'm going to need your support, though, because in order for me to actually accomplish this, I need to get rid of the fears that my son is just going to get hit and picked on by aggressive Neapolitan boys. They treat discipline very differently over here, especially with boys. They just say, "boys will be boys" and let them hit each other. I really don't want this to happen to Graham and for him to become violent and aggressive as a result, because we all know that he is sweet as pie, and I don't want that to change.

I mean, how is he supposed to learn how to end war and bring peace to the world if he learns it is alright to hit in preschool???

Monday, September 12, 2011

preschool, shmeeschool: a call to help an indecisive, overly-analytical mother

Picture this. You walk through a shabbily painted, bright red gate with the hand of your son in yours. Mary Poppins songs are being blared in Italian from a little boom box sitting next to a bubble producing machine, and kids are dancing around inside a tennis court turned playground closed in completely by what looks like a large fishing net. There are two bounce castles that look like they've been around the block more than a few times, and some plastic bowling pins are set up in one of the corners. Young, Italian women are dressed in Mini-Mouse costumes and welcoming you and your son to the party. They simply say, "Ciao," and tell your kid to go mingle with the others. The leader of the operation greets you with her died black hair, bright pink lipstick, chunky jewelry, and sparkling tee-shirt. She tells you this is how they like to do their first day of school at this facility, so the kids can just play and get to know each other. You suddenly remember that you are here because you wanted to check out the preschool that is right down the road from your house, not because you wanted to attend a child's birthday party. You want so badly to like the school, because the price is good, it is so easy to get to, and your son would really learn Italian if he went here, but you just can't at the moment, so you leave and tell the nice lady that you need to think about it.

Now, picture this: You drive a horrendous 15-20 minute drive where you fear for you life with each passing second. Then, you pull up to a nice home with flags from all nations represented on the front porch where you've been taking your son for the past few months. You say hello to the kind, down-to-earth, young women in charge of watching the children and hug your son as he bounds off into the playroom that is full of toys, games, educational tools, and art supplies. You become sad as you drive away, because you realize you love this preschool setting, but that it is literally triple the cost of the one just down the road from your house.

All of a sudden, it's Monday morning. Your kid neeeeeeeds to go to preschool so that you both don't go crazy. Where do you take him? You take him to the comfortable, expensive, homeschool-type setting preschool, because that is where he asks to go.

Then, you implore your friends and family to give you advice on where to take your kid to preschool.

That's you, people. You are my friends and family.

What should I do? Things are just so incredibly different here when it comes to school. I know the one down the street is not always a party and that they do actually teach the children a thing or two, and that Graham would most definitely like it and survive there. Plus, once the baby comes, it will be much, much easier to get him there. Buuuut, the other preschool/daycare where I took him during the winter when I had Italian class is just incredible. There is a small number of kids and they all play nicely together. The teachers and the director are kind and warm and loving, and Graham is exposed to many languages. Unfortunately, it is difficult to get to and it costs too much. I can afford to take him there one or two days a week, but he needs more. He has so much energy and he is so eager to learn. I like to teach him at home, but he'll sometimes go days without seeing other kids, which is not good for either of us!

What should I do??

Please leave any and all advice in the "comments" section below.

I really can't wait to hear what you have to say on the matter! I know you're just dyyying to help me and guide me, right?


Saturday, September 10, 2011

never say never

There was definitely a time in my life when I would have said, "I will never sit and watch an entire  documentary about some teeny-bopper pop icon with my 4-year-old kid. Never. I won't even let him watch it, for crying out loud!"

But, alas, that is exactly what I found myself doing the other day. Because, thanks to my good pal who sent an incredibly loving and heartfelt and much appreciated care package, we are now proud (did I just say proud?) owners of, yep, you guessed it, "Justin Bieber Never Say Never."

image source

And you know what else I never thought I'd find myself doing? Critiquing said documentary with my husband. That's right. I have opinions about it. Like, they really should have showed Mr. Bieber working and practicing and studying to get to where he is today. Instead, they made it look like a crazy phenomenon and showed him messing around and playing with his friends most of the time. Not real, people. If the movie is meant to inspire children to follow their dreams, I think they need to see that a little sweat is involved with becoming so popular and talented. Yes, I admit it. I think the kid's got some talent.

The best part of the movie? When Snoop Dogg advises Bieber to grow some pigtails, put some beads on them, and let the girls pull on them. It's Snoop's only appearance in the show. It's hilarious. You should watch it.

Or don't.

Either way's fine.

Anyway, the point is that it's not always as glamorous around here as you might imagine. Sometimes, it gets a little desperate and you just gotta do what you gotta do.

Having a son has most definitely taught me to keep an open mind and to absolutely never ever say never about anything. Ever.

image source
I trust that you won't judge me too much about all the JBness on this blog and that we can still be friends.

Am I wrong?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

close to home

Hello, hello. I hope ya'll had a nice, long weekend. Mine felt especially long on account of all this sickness I am experiencing due to the person growing inside my body. I had to send Tony and Graham away on Saturday so I could just sleep. I couldn't tell you exactly where they went. All I know is that Graham got to drive a red car. That's the only information I could get from him. It's all he'll talk about.

On Sunday, we ventured over to Vietri, a town I grow more and more fond of each time I'm there. Normally, I absolutely hate shopping, but get me in a town full of ceramics, and suddenly I love it. I especially love that everything closes at 1pm, so you have no choice but to stop shopping and head down to the beach.

Yesterday, we tried our luck with crazy Naples and had quite a delightful afternoon in a huge park called Capodimonte. It was once land used for the royal hunting grounds, so there is a palace in it.  We got to wander around this palace practically alone for hours. The art collection is outstanding, and we could just sit and look at each picture for as long as we wanted, because there were not people pushing us out of the way. Graham got to act like a horse and be a little crazy, because there was nobody there for him to bother. It was most certainly one of the hidden gems in Naples that I sometimes here about. If this collection were in Florence or Rome, you would have to constantly fight crowds of tourists to see it. It made us glad we decided to stay close to home over the long weekend and enjoy what the Campania region has to offer.

So, I guess that's it.

Whew. There. I did it. I blogged.

I am going to take a nap, now.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

ah, parenting

I'm sure you've noticed that I don't have much energy for writing these days. This baby is taking it all out of me.

So, I'm going to cop out once again with a video and let Graham explain why today was a bit, well, emotional for both of his parents...

Don't you think Graham just looks so grown up? Seeing your kids (because technically, we have more than one, now) grow has got to be one of the most thrilling and confusing things a person can experience. It brings excitement and joy and gratitude that they are healthy and thriving, along with nostalgia and sadness that time passes too quickly, causing you to want more time with them.

It just tears at my heartstrings.

Thanks for listening.

Have a great day.