Saturday, April 28, 2012

rock your gypsy soul

In Italy, it is not common to see a woman breastfeeding. In fact, it is not all that common to see babies under 6 months of age out and about. If you do see one, it is always nestled into the utmost fashionable stroller pushed by a mom with perfect hair and lipstick and boots. I don't know how these women do it. I've been told that this lack of breastfeeding mammas has something to do with Italian women not wanting to make a bad impression. I've also been told that many families choose to use bottles and formula-feed, because it looks more sophisticated and less poor. Breastfeeding and baby-wearing are what gypsies do. And being called a gypsy is rather derogatory around these parts. It is something they make fun of. In fact, we even saw some little girls dressed like gypsies for Carnivale (Fat Tuesday. All the kids wear costumes) in Naples this year.

"Ho fame" means, "I'm hungry." The girl in the background is wearing a baby doll in a sling...

On our first day in Florence (one of the more sophisticated towns in Italy) with my mom, we had to drive ourselves as close to the historical center as we could get (which, by the way, was a hoot since we were almost out of gas and all the stations were closed on Sunday and Tony wouldn't listen to the GPS, so we were driving down streets that were illegal for us to be on and my mom was having mini panic attacks in the back seat) and then carry all our belongings across the cobblestones to the apartment where we were staying. When we arrived at the apartment door, we had to wait for the owner to let us in. We were sweaty and exhausted and tired and frustrated. And, Alaina was starving. All I could do was sit on the tiny apartment stoop and feed her (from my breast) while we waited. I looked around at my snotty-nosed son, my baby carrier, stroller, and suitcases, and realized what my situation must look like to all the passers-by.

I just tipped my head and smiled to all the onlookers and said, "Um, you can call me Gypsy Queen."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

happy hour

They have this interesting thing here in Italy called "riposo," which means "rest." I'm sure you've heard of the Spanish version called "siesta." It's a time in the early afternoon where everything just stops. Shops and the streets are empty. People are at home eating lunch and resting. Cafes are usually open, but rarely do you find anyone ordering drinks. Some towns even feel like ghost towns during this time. It sometimes feels plain eerie.

Suddenly, around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, shop doors begin opening, the streets fill with customers, kids are playing out kicking soccer balls, and cafes start hoppin'. People are ordering espresso, gelato, or cocktails and sitting outside to drink them. Everyone appears to be enjoying life. It is my favorite time of day in Italy.

While my mom was here, we called this time "happy hour" and made sure we stopped whatever we were doing each day to have a treat around 4 or 5 pm. The treat was usually delicious cappuccino. Even if we were at home, we'd whip up some homemade cappuccinos or pots of tea. We'd sit and relax and talk and enjoy the afternoon. It was good for our bones, our brains, and our souls. It would leave us feeling rejuvenated and ready to conquer whatever the evening had in store. You ought to try it sometime. Especially if your mom's around to enjoy it with you.

Now that I'm done, I'm not sure why I felt so compelled to share that with you. Maybe I just want to remember it for myself. Or, maybe I just miss my mom...

I've still got a couple of stories to share with you from when she was here. Bear with me as I find time to write them.........

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

if I only had a brain

In addition to the previous diaper incident story, let me tell you something else. It has recently come to my attention that today is Tuesday the 24th of April. Not Tuesday the 23rd of April, which is what I thought all day yesterday. I knew I had a doctor appointment (my 6 week postpartum follow-up) on the 23rd. I knew the 23rd was on a Tuesday. Until last night when I realized the 23rd was Monday and I missed my appointment. I'm too embarrassed/exhausted to call the clinic.

What's happening to me?

And another thing. 007 is not, in fact, in Algeria. That's next month. He's somewhere in Africa right now, though, but if I told you where, I'd have to kill you.

Not really.

I'm so confused.

I think I'll take this opportunity to go rest my weary brain. Assuming, of course, that there's still one in my head.

Monday, April 23, 2012


During the past month, I've been accomplishing tasks in my head only to find out later they were not accomplished in reality. Things like putting on deodorant or folding laundry or making sure Graham brushed his teeth. I'm telling myself it's a postpartum thing.

Prior to departing our apartment in Lucca for our first adventure on the town, I packed several diapers in Alaina's bag after I finished feeding her.

After perusing the town for several hours, we got hungry and found a place to eat. We entered the restaurant and suddenly there was a leak coming from the sling around Tony where Alaina was sleeping. A puddle formed on the floor and we were all confused. Tony ran off to somewhere with Alaina and I juggled the stroller into the tiny quarters. I figured he'd probably need the diaper bag, so I went in search of him and couldn't find him for several minutes. Totally confused, I began yelling his name. "Tony!" I opened the door to the kitchen, "Tony!" No answer. I was about to give up and follow the waitress to our table he when appeared out of nowhere. Still don't know where he was, but while he was gone, he determined that Alaina's pee had leaked out of her diaper, which was the cause of the puddle. Gross.

"No problem. I've got the bag right here."

We gathered on the floor in the ladies room and went at Alaina with good team effort. Blow out does not do justice in describing what she did to the diaper. It was annihilated.

"Wipes," Tony demanded, "I need wipes."

"More wipes, please!"

Once she was good and wiped down, I  reached for the diapers I had packed in the bag and they were gone. Not there. No diapers. And only a teeny-tiny onesie for extra clothes.

"What happened to the diapers I packed, Tony? Did you take them out?"

"No," he replied, "Are you sure you packed them?"

"Yes. I know I did. This is so weird. They should be in here."

Ever the logical one, Tony responded, "Well, there are no diapers in here, so you probably didn't pack them."

"Ahh. I could have sworn I did!"

"Well, Katherine, you probably didn't."

So, there we were on the floor of a small restaurant bathroom in Lucca with a naked baby and a sling soaked in pee. What were we going to do? We couldn't just wrap her in a blanket and get through dinner, because she could pee at any moment. We couldn't wrap her up and carry her to our apartment for the same reason. What did people do before diapers? We were stuck. That's when we laughed and confirmed that no matter how much we practice and try, we are not Super-Parents. I also decided that I need to start doing mind-puzzles or something to keep my brain sharp, because I know I put the diapers in that bag!

And then it happened. Tony transformed into Super Dad and remembered our hotel/apartment was only a few short blocks away. He threw on his cape and sped away, returning with diapers and clothes before Alaina had time to pee again so we could enjoy some fine Tuscan cuisine. My hero.

Super-Parents once again! 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

it's all part of the experience

Hours upon hours in the middle of the night were spent searching for the perfect apartment. One was found and booked and ready to go, and then Delta changed my mom's flight, so we had to reschedule our trip to Rome. The owner of the apartment we'd booked assured us that she had another one that would accommodate our family during our newly scheduled stay in Rome since the one we'd booked would not longer be available. We were out of time to keep searching, so we trusted her.

And here's what happened.

Uh huh. Had to sit on it sideways. The rest of the apartment was more of the same. My mom, Graham, Alaina, and I practically slept on top of each other. Double O 7 couldn't join us, because he had some important work to do in Algeria.

Fortunately, we had less than 48 hours to spend in Rome, so there was no time to spend relaxing in the room. Unfortunately, my mom was pretty sick. Okay, really sick. Like, could hardly breathe sick. Like, almost passed out at the Colosseum sick. But she pushed through. She did not back down.

With granola bars and espresso shoved in our mouths for breakfast, we rushed out of our apartment Friday morning with hopes of riding the buses to the Vatican Museum. When traveling with an infant, you must attempt to get to your next location before it is time for her to eat again, which can often be tricky when relying on public transit. Especially when public transit decides to go on strike, as was the case on this particular Friday morning. After a half an hour of waiting for a bus that was never coming, we begrudgingly walked down to St. John Lateran hoping to find a bus there. No luck. So, after feeding Alaina, begrudgingly, we phoned a taxi service advertised near the bus stops. Too flustered to remember my Italian language skills, I demanded a taxi in English, and the guy on the other end of the phone kindly replied, "Yes." So, we waited. As the rain pelted our umbrella, we sought shelter under an awning and redialed the taxi service and were put on hold until a man who could sort of speak English got on the phone.

"Why, because, why, how, because?" He asked.

"Umm, I need a taxi. I called and nobody came. No taxi."

"Why? How? Because? Why you call here?"

"I need a taxi."

"Why you call here? Because?"

"I'm under a restaurant awning and I need a taxi! Taxi, please!"

"Why? Because? How? Why you call?"


"No taxi. This fence repair."

"Oh. Sorry."

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, there appeared a bus. With people on it. In service. I guess not all buses were on strike? A little gap in the pounding rain allowed us to make our way to the bus stop and hop on it and hope for it to get us to the Vatican before Alaina needed to eat again. Traffic was terrible, due to the strike, of course, but we made it inside the Vatican Walls (after a terrible lunch, good gelato, and another incident of being stuck under an awning waiting for a storm to blow through).

Have ya'll ever been to the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel? If you have, you know it's a chore in and of itself to get inside the doors of the chapel. It's not a pleasant or spiritual experience. You sort of feel like you feel like cattle. At least that was my experience last time I was there. This time, we got lucky. One of the cowboys took pity on us with our big stroller and tiny baby and allowed us to sit up on the altar all by ourselves. When I took my grandparents to the Sistine Chapel, I almost hated it, because I felt so rushed and uncomfortable. I said to myself, "I would love to come here with tons of time to just sit and marvel at the thing. It would be a dream come true." On Friday, I got my wish. We got to sit there, uninterrupted or bumped or pushed or trampled, all by ourselves, and just stare in awe at Michelangelo's work.

That's when we decided it was all worth the trip. And so was St. Peter's. And the Trevi fountain. And the delicious restaurant I found using my mad map-reading skills. It was a perfect last evening in Italy for my mom.

What better way to wrap it all up than to take her on her very first subway ride? I heard a rumor that the trains were starting back up at 8 pm, so we made our way underground at the Spanish Steps. Millions of people decided taking the train on a Friday evening was a good idea, so we crowded in and waited for the train with our big stroller (remember this story about the stroller?).  I had Alaina in the Bjorn, so my mom was pushing Graham in the BOB. When the train arrived, we ended up in the back of the line, so we pushed our way through until the BOB was on the train, but my mom was stuck behind it on the outside of the train. She tried pushing through, but the doors closed on her, smashing her poor, sick, body, and scaring the shit out of her and me. I screamed and pushed the button a hundred times as the man next to me pulled her in. My screaming scared Alaina, so she started screaming as if she were the one who almost died in the doors of the train. When she gets mad, she gets really mad, so she screamed and screamed on the crowded train. The whole time. Never stopping for a second.

And there I stood on the train with my sick, shocked, injured mother, my happy-go-lucky 4.5 year old who loves to ride trains, and my inconsolable newborn. I was sweating, trying not to make eye contact with the other train-riders who were gushing over my children, thinking of how I drug my family across Rome in a day, of the bad apartment, rain and hail storms, public transit strike, and near death experience we'd had, and couldn't help but look at my disheveled mom and laugh as I conjured up this scene in my head.  

It wasn't the first, and nor will it be the last time I've said about the ins and outs of traveling: "It's all part of the experience, honey."

Friday, April 13, 2012

one month

Alaina officially hit the one month mark today, and boy, what a month it has been for her! 

Since March 13, 2012, Alaina has left the womb, slept a lot, found her voice, developed a bit of a temper, studied at two separate Italian cooking classes, drank a few hundred gallons of milk, met her grandma, discovered the joys of the baby bjorn, 


attempted to hold her head up, experimented with smiling, climbed two towers in Lucca, 


been carried on "lovers lane" in Cinque Terre,  


seen the leaning tower of Pisa, 


gotten stuck in the rain near the Palazzo Vecchio, 


and shopped in the San Lorenzo market in Florence. 


I'd say that so far she's pretty good at living life to the fullest. 

Can't wait to see what next month has in store.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

fear not

Fear not, my friends. I have not quit blogging. Just enjoying some time with my mamma and my kids. I've got loads to write about, so stay tuned.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

what to do?

Most of you are pros at this, I know, so I don't need to explain to you how strange this whole motherhood thing can be. 

Like, right now, for instance. I am at a loss. Both of my kids are sleeping (still can't get used to having more than one). Graham, because he is sick. Alaina, because she is new at living. Either one could wake at any moment and need me. Tony is at the store. I am all alone. It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The day before my mother arrives. What do I do with my time? 

Nap? Too excited to sleep. 
Clean? Don't want to make too much noise and wake the sleeping babes. 
Exercise? I can't stand stopping in the middle of a workout, so I don't want to begin and get disrupted when one of them wakes.
Shower? (sniffing armpits) Nah, maybe tomorrow.
Drink? Hmm, perhaps. 
Talk to someone? Nobody is online.
Laundry? Uuuuugghhhhhh.
Stare out the window? Ah, that was nice.
Blog? Yep, I guess that's what I'm doing. 
Am I turning into a mommy blogger? Was I one already? No. Well, maybe. No. Hmm.

Is this really where I am in life?Are these really my options on a Sunday afternoon in Italy?
I guess so. 
I think I'll go have that drink.  

Oh, and guess what? 

I'm pregnant again.

April Fools. 

Haha. Not even possible!