Yup, that’s about right

So the other day we had a really good weekend.  A nice mix of seeing friends, trying something new, and quality family time.  Then we had another.  And another.

I thought about how much the kids are enjoying school, and how I don’t freak out every single time I’m behind the wheel of the car.

I did the math, and it came together.  It’s been about six months.

So yeah.  That seems about right.

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Why am I so stressed about the school bus?

So as I mentioned before, KL is more of a driving town than Rome.  Maybe not if you were visiting and staying in the middle of downtown.  But for me, the combo of heavy traffic, bad sidewalks, and rainstorms is putting driving front and center.

When I first realized I couldn’t walk the kids to school, I freaked out.  HARD.  This was not part of “the plan.”

Then I started to practice driving.  It’s nerve wracking.  Other side of the road.  Cars EVERYWHERE.  Motorcycles zooming between cars on both sides of you.  Tight parking spots.  All around not my cup of tea.

It turns out that there is a pay bus that could take the kids to school.  Which feels silly because the school is right across the street.  (The giant, mega huge street.  Ugh.)  But it exists.  It isn’t crazy cheap, but it’s reasonable.  We could afford it.

So why am I not jumping at this bus option??  We inquired and found out the general pickup and drop off times.  I hadn’t wanted to add too much time to the kids’ day, but it turns out, it really wouldn’t be that much.  Morning pick up would be about the same as when they leave now.  Afternoon sounds like it would be 15ish minutes later.  So not nothing, but not crazy.

For the listers among us, allow me to present my pros and cons.

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When you realize you don’t want a vacation from your life

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I’ve been out of sorts lately.  Our schedule is in flux.  Henry has stopped school for the year (more on that decision here), but he’d be on summer break right now anyway.

We’ve been hitting the pool and any other water-related outing we can think of.  I feel like I’m constantly in a wet bathing suit.  I’m not complaining.  It’s just different.

We’ve been trying to beat the heat.  I consider it a success if gelato consumption is no more than once a day.  And it hasn’t been every day.  It just feels like it sometimes.

We are seeing friends, but a lot of people are on the road.  Kids are out of school.  It’s just different.

Turns out, I’m having some problems with it.

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What we decided on school for the fall

Contemplating their futures no doubt

Contemplating their educational futures no doubt

So remember how I was obsessing about what to do with Henry for school next year?

We picked Option #4.  Henry’s last day of school was this past Friday.  The plan is for me to have the boys to myself for our last year.  Here’s why this made sense for us and why I’m excited about it.

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Education probably isn’t that important anyway, right?

Education probably isnt that important anyway, right

I’ve had school on the brain lately.  See, we’ve been school shopping.  By which I do not mean lovingly selecting office supplies (I heart office supplies mucho), but trying on some school situations for size.

This is what we’ve been considering for the 2016-2017 school year for Henry’s fourth year of life.

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Too much gelato

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Once upon a time when I was a kid–probably between ages six and eight–I remember having a full-on freak out at bed time.  I was sitting there, gasping for air, keening like a wounded animal.  All because I was suddenly gripped with a paralyzing and suffocating fear about dying.

I couldn’t shake it.  My dad was called in to cope.  Either because my mom tried and wasn’t getting through or she decided this was more my dad’s wheelhouse or because she had lots of other little kids to put to bed; I don’t remember.  I do remember sitting with my dad by the fireplace, listening to him talk.

I don’t remember what he said.  I really wish I did.  All I know is that I eventually calmed down enough to go to sleep that night and many other nights in the future.

I’ve had many years to wonder about and think what I would tell my own children, when they wake up gasping in the night some day.  When they realize that everyone on this Earth and everyone they love and even their own little bodies will not be here forever.

I hope I don’t completely muddle it.  I’ll try to talk about God and heaven and things, but I certainly don’t have it all figured out.  In many ways, I’m not so far from that young girl who was scared to close her eyes at night.

What does make sense to me is talking about having too much ice cream, or gelato, if we are still in an Italian frame of mind.  I’ll try to explain that having all the gelato you want, all the time, every day sounds like it would be wonderful.  For awhile, it probably would be wonderful.  But then, eventually, you’d start to crave something else.  Maybe brownies.  Or potato chips.  Possibly you may even start to want some apples or broccoli.  I know it sounds hard to believe, but you really would get sick of gelato.  That’s why gelato is a special treat food.  That’s why we savor it.  Because we know it won’t go on forever or always be there.

Meaning that your life is like gelato.  If it went on forever and always, it wouldn’t be special.  You wouldn’t feel a push to do things or try things because there would always be more time.

But it is finite.  It is special.  You only have so much of it.  You have to act now.  You have to try all the things and meet the people and sing the songs or do whatever you want to do.  It is special because it is scarce.  And precious.

I’m not sure that this is the best analogy.  Or that it even makes sense, particularly to a six year old.  I’ll have to work on it.

But this does somewhat describe my thoughts on my time at home.  When we first got here, I reveled in all of our free time.  The days stretched out and we could do anything.  Or nothing.  Whatever we wanted.  After feeling hyper-scheduled, this abundance of time was just what I needed.

Until it wasn’t.  Too much gelato.  The freedom started to feel stifling.  More clock watching instead of enjoyment.

This is one of the reasons I’m enjoying Henry’s part-time adventures at school.  It isn’t a true break for me because I’m still hanging out with wants-to-walk-everywhere-but-can’t Mac, but it provides some structure to our days.

The little bit of structure helps make the rest of our unscheduled time that much sweeter.  I may continue to tinker with the gelato balance in our days, but, for now, it definitely helps.

3 Weird Things about Italian Day Care

As I mentioned here, our routine has changed recently.  Henry is doing a few hours a week at asilo nido AKA Italian day care for ages 0-3.  (Nido means nest.)  After age 3, kids go to public scuola materna.  A friend here is doing the process for her child.  It involves multiple passwords and secret handshakes and sounds more difficult than college applications.  Luckily, Henry’s asilo covers up to 5 years so we shouldn’t have to change in a few months.

Why did we decide to do this?  Two main reasons.  Number one is for the interaction with other kids.  Henry does get to see friends at least one or two times a week and he has his brother, but we wanted to up the ante.  Henry has been practically tackling other kids at the playground because he wants playmates.  OK, message received.

Second, we wanted to give him a shot at some Italian.  I was previously skeptical, but that kid really is a little sponge.  He’s not getting much of an opportunity to advance his foreign language skills around me.  This way he will at least have a fighting chance.  (Some of his teachers speak English; we didn’t throw him completely in the deep end.)

Although this was not a primary reason, we did want to give me a breather as well.  The jury is still out on whether this is really a break.  Getting out of the house in time for school can be a pain.  Henry is only doing two hours at a time.  Granted, this is two hours more than before, but it isn’t a ton of time away.  And I still have Mac.  But getting out of the house is growing easier, and I’m able to do some things with Mac that I haven’t attempted with both kids.  The idea is that eventually Mac will do a few hours at day care as well, and then I will have no idea what to do with myself.  (“FREEDOM,” William Wallace styles.)

We certainly did not decide to do this for the free helping of illness we’ve all enjoyed.  Once Henry started, I think we were all sick for about a month.  Thankfully, that has evened out (furiously knocking on wood), but I’m holding my breath until the next outbreak.

Henry has been going for about two months.  Sometimes I’m frustrated, but I think it is a positive development overall.  Henry has a new bestie named Isabella.  He has started looking forward to school.  Here are some things that have thrown me for a loop as we’ve been figuring this out.

1) You can park your baby

What Henry is doing is called baby parking.  I’m not translating.  That is what they call it.  Baby parking.  This means you just drop your kid and pay by the hour.

Crazy, right?  Technically, it isn’t as willy nilly as it seems.  They do ask for you to have a general schedule.  But still.  Hourly coverage when you need it.

I can’t see how this would fly in most places because of required teacher to student ratios.  If you don’t know how many kids are showing, how do you know how many teachers need to show up?  I think the answer is either a relaxed or nonexistent ratio law here.  Henry’s asilo claims they have a 1 to 5 ratio.  I’m skeptical.  Obviously, I feel comfortable or I wouldn’t have Henry there, but I don’t think it is 1 to 5 every minute of the day.

This works out great for us.  I only pay for the hours I use.  I came into it thinking I would do 1-2 days a week.  They suggested 4-5 because they think a child thrives more with regularity.  We compromised on 3.  But if I don’t feel like taking him, I don’t.  Yesterday, it poured rain all morning.  I didn’t feel like walking around in the rain.  We didn’t go.  No cost to me.

I prepaid for a bunch of hours and they gave me a sort of punch card.  I mark down as the hours are used.  They claim they are also tracking, but I’d be surprised.  Again, I trust them with my kid, but I don’t think it is the most organized operation.

2)  $$$

Speaking of paying for hours, day care seems so CHEAP here.  The hourly rate is 9 euro.  8 euro if you prepay for 50 hours.  7 euro if you prepay for 100 hours.  You can guess what we did.

But the full-time rate also seems super cheap.  Looking at this day care and other local ones, full time care is in the $400 – 700/month ballpark.  That is 1/3 to 1/2 what we paid in DC.  And Henry’s day care has an organic chef on-site, something ours did NOT have back home.  So this could be considered pricey in other parts of the US, but it is a steal compared to DC prices.

3)  Stairs, the bane of my existence

After about a month, Henry’s asilo moved to a new location.  Everyone raved about the new place.  Bigger!  Better courtyard!  So much light!  And the building is lovely, but we went from a scenario where I could walk my stroller in and park it under a covered pavilion to STAIRS.  Not just a few stairs.  A lot of stairs.

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These are no-way-around these stairs.  You get buzzed in off the street, and there is a little landing.  Then you have 8 stairs to get down to get inside.  I end up cramming my stroller to the side of the landing beside some other strollers.  Unloading both kids.  Schlepping down the stairs.  Repeat in reverse for pickup.  It’s a huge pain.

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The stairs mystify me.  More than 90% of the patrons here walk and drop their kids by stroller.  How are people not up in arms?  A friend tells me that most places have stairs.  Just because of the older buildings.  All the day cares have it so no one complains.  They are just used to it and deal with it.  The vast majority of people I see also seem to be dropping only one kid.  I’m sure that helps.  Me with the spaghetti noodle arms though, I’m not making it up and down the stairs with a the double stroller.  I would like one ramp, please.

There are other differences from DC, like having to change Henry to inside shoes when we get there, but nothing earth-shattering.  The teachers seems positive, energetic, and excited about kids.  That’s probably the number one thing I look for.

Anything else you are curious about? 

Psst.  Want more differences?  Differences around the house here.  Differences on lifestyle here.  Differences on starting solids here

Another day in the life

Last year, I told you about a typical day around these parts.  Since then, Henry is doing a few hours a week at Italian day care which we are treating as preschool.  Here’s our new usual routine on a school day.  You know, until it all changes again in 2.2 seconds.

4:50 Mac is awake.  I give him a few minutes to settle down.  No luck.  I go to feed him.
6:56 James’s alarm goes off.  I pull the covers over my head.  Why am I so tired?  Is it really just Monday?
7:30 – 8:05 Shower, get dressed, makeup.  Say goodbye to James.
8:05 – 8:15 Wake up Mac to feed him.  Normally, I’d let him sleep, but we already run behind enough as is on school days.
8:15 – 8:25 Head into Henry’s room.  New diapers for the boys.  Get everyone dressed.
8:25 – 8:35 Into the kitchen for breakfast.  Normally we have eggs plus fruit, avocado, or sweet potato.  But we only have one egg left so it is oatmeal with apples and cinnamon.  I work on the oatmeal and fill watered down juice cups.
8:35 – 8:55 We eat.  For someone who loves all food, Mac is being pretty picky about the oatmeal.  Henry is showing off and taking big bites.  I talk about school and how much fun it will be to try to get Henry pumped up.
8:55 – 9:00 Clean that kitchen.
9:00 – 9:20 A dreaded part of my day: getting us out the door for school.  Thankfully, Henry is feeling cooperative today.  At 9:20, we have new diapers, coats, and are locked and loaded in the stroller.

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Temporarily waylaid after I snap a pic and Henry wants to take a picture of his brother.

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9:20 – 9:32 We walk to school.  These posts are good for me too because they force me to face reality that, yes, it does take longer than 5 minutes to get places.
9:32 – 9:40 Unload the kids, walk Henry into school, and remove his coat and shoes.  Henry is being Clingy McClingerson today.  His teacher, Valentina, has to actually peel him off me in the end.  No screams; he’s just being a little timid.
9:40 – 9:52 Mac and I are on the town!  After I reload him, we walk to a playground at Villa Ada.
9:52 – 10:27 I give Mac a chance to stretch his legs.  We do some time on the swings, but mostly I just help him pull up AKA his most favorite thing ever.  I also try to keep him from eating rocks, another favorite pursuit of his.
10:27 – 10:50 I recline Mac in the stroller and provide a pacifier to encourage napping.  We walk to the market, and sure enough, Mac closes his eyes right before we get there.
10:50 – 11:05 I visit my new bestie, AKA the egg lady.  Picture giant eggs with Auburn Tiger colored yolks.  Delish.  Once you go egg lady, you can’t go back, they say round these parts.  (20 eggs/6 euro)

Guess which one is the supermarket egg

Guess which one is the supermarket egg

We also visit our produce stall.  We picked this one because they have sweet potatoes, and now I’m working on becoming a regular.  After learning I’m from DC, Duder (I’ll get his name soon) introduces me to another customer who he says is from LA.  (Turns out to be San Francisco.)  But I love everything about this; I’m slowly starting to feel like a regular.

3.25_day 3

I was going to work up the courage to visit the fishmonger (almost all the fish are whole and will involve an interesting display of broken Italian and hand gestures on my part to make them manageable), but no fish on Mondays apparently.  This makes sense because fishermen are probably not out on Sundays.

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11:05 – 11:35 Mac is still asleep.  I decide to enjoy the sunny weather and just walk around for a bit.  I turn down a few new streets because why not.

3.25_day 4

11:35 – 11:42 Back to school for Henry.  The kids are running around in the play area outside.  This is awesome (1) because Henry looks longingly at all the toys outside every time I coax him inside so I’m glad he got to experience it and (2) he is ALREADY wearing his coat and shoes.  SCORE.
11:42 – 11:54 We walk back home.  It still takes longer than 5 minutes.
11:54 – 11:56 We circle the building because Henry wants to see our car.
11:56 – 12:06 Unloading, de-coating, re-diapering.
12:06 – 12:30 We play.  I keep expecting Henry to ask to watch TV, but he only asks for potato chips.  I can work with that.
12:30 – 1:00 Lunch time!  Henry has yogurt, clementines, and potato chips.  Mac and I have leftovers and clementines.  I try to ask Henry about his time at school.  After spending so much time together, it intrigues me that he now has stuff of his own.  Because he is an unreliable narrator, I don’t even know what some of this stuff is.  Maybe they played with legos or maybe they went to the moon.  Who knows?
1:00 – 1:15 Prep for nap.  Story time.  Henry down.
1:15 – 1:20 Feed Mac.  Mac down.
1:20 – 1:25 Start a load of laundry.  Make popcorn.  Pull some stock out of the freezer for dinner.
1:25 – 1:40 Browse the internets while munching on popcorn and the last of the truffle pecorino from our trip to Pienza that I still need to tell you guys about.
1:40 – 2:45 Get my blog on.  Some combination of writing, photo editing, and link linking.  And Publish!
 2:45 – 2:55 Look up some recipe ideas for dinner.  Glance at a few other websites.
 2:55 – 2:56  Henry is awake and screaming.  They shorted me!  I know it is only a few minutes, but it feels significant.  Henry cannot be persuaded to stop screaming.  Now Mac is also screaming.  Coincidence . . . I think not.
 2:56 – 3:05  Screaming.
 3:05 – 4:00  Everyone is rediapered and has ceased screaming.  We play in the living room.
 4:00 – 4:05 And I have reached capacity.  I offer Mac a top up.  (Mac never refuses a top up.)  I announce that we are heading to the park.
 4:05 – 4:20 Shoes, coats, check diapers.  Finally they are loaded in the stroller with snack packs for their munching pleasure.
 4:20 – 4:40 We walk to Villa Borghese.  On the way, we run into one of James’s coworkers.  His family is out of town, and I extend a dinner invitation.
 4:40 – 5:25 We play in the park.  Henry runs around like a maniac.  I try to persuade Mac NOT to eat the rocks.

Someone seemed to be filming a very Rebecca Black style video here today

Someone seemed to be filming a very Rebecca Black style video here today

 5:25 – 6:00 We walk home.  De-coat.  Rediaper.  De-shoe.
 6:00 – 6:36 James gets home.  We debrief, and I head in to cook dinner.  I abandon whatever my plan for the chicken stock was and make chili.
6:36 – 7:30 James’s coworker arrives.  We sit to enjoy the cheesy chili goodness.
7:30 – 8:00 Prep the kids for bed.  Toothbrushing.  Diapers.  PJs.  Storytime.  I go put Mac down while James finishes up with Henry.
8:00 – 8:25 While James cleans the kitchen, I dork around on my phone.  I eventually abandon facebook and go in and talk to James.
 8:25 – 8:45 I’m beat.  I get ready for bed.
8:45 – 10:06  In bed reading.  I’m currently reading Book 2 of the Outlander series.  I was warned this would be addictive and it is.  The first book felt a little bodice-rippy, but I think it was just where the characters were then.  The writing is good, the story hums along, and it makes me want to plan a trip to Scotland immediately.

So that’s our new school day routine.  Henry goes three days a week, except when he doesn’t.  Like if it is raining.  Or we just don’t feel like it.  More on school soon.

Two hours feels incredibly short, but I try to have some dolce vita moments with Mac while Henry is at school.  We go on walks.  We hit markets.  We explore.  We’ve even gone to get cappuccino with James.  Good times.

A series of unfortunate events OR that time I was pooped on by a peacock

My beautiful, feathered nemesis

My beautiful, feathered nemesis

Henry hasn’t made it to school all week.  Poor kid.  He still has that cough and cold, and he had a few days of fever earlier in the week.  We even went to the doctor, but there wasn’t anything to be done.  Just the usual fluids and rest.  While sitting there hacking with snot dripping off his face, Henry keeps looking up and saying “What happen to me?”  It is adorably heartbreaking.

At my request, James called school on Wednesday.  By “school” I mean “completely voluntary pay by the hour day care,” so they didn’t really need to know, but because the whole thing is so new, I didn’t want them to think we had just vanished.  They reminded James about the upcoming facilities move next week.  James said cool and Henry would try to make it on Friday.

Fast forward to today.  I fight to get everyone out the door.  We roll up to day care.  I’m greeted at the door by one of the English speakers.  She’s apologetic.  They packed up all the toys already.  It’s a busy day preparing for the move.  It’s not the best time.  You can leave him if you really need to . . .

I get it.  It’s fine.  I was proud that I said exactly what I wanted in that moment (rare for me) which was, “it’s no problem.  I wish you had told me, but it’s fine.”  (I also wish they had told me before I unloaded both kids from the stroller, but that’s another story.)

A small part of me was irked, but I quickly shook it off.  It was a truly gorgeous day.  Warm.  Sunny.  Not a cloud in the blue Mediterranean sky.  We were already dressed and out the door; we could do anything!  I quickly assessed my mom gear.  I had packed standard gear (diapers, wipes, Puffs) instead of heavy duty outing my gear (more snacks, sippy cups, etc.), but I thought we’d be fine for a trip to the zoo.

And so we zoo-ed.  Definitely more people there than usual.  On most weekdays, I count more people working at the zoo than visiting it.  But today we saw school groups and families.  I don’t know if it was the Friday or the warmer weather, but other people had the same idea.

We made it through our usual faves.  Monkeys.  Giraffe.  Skipped the farm animals today.  Plenty of peacock sightings.

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One of the things I love about Rome’s zoo is the roaming hordes of peacocks.  I guess more properly the roaming musters or ostentations of peacocks.  My zoo growing up had a one or two peacocks strutting around and it was always a hunt to try to spot them.  Here, there is no hunt.  You’ll turn a corner.  BAM.  Muster of peacock crossing your way.

Henry was strangely psyched about the ducks.  I think because he can get fairly close to them.  We headed that way.  It was a honking cacophony of wonder.  We heard swans trumpet.  We saw ducks rumble.

Then Mac was starting to get antsy.  I had my eye on the clock.  I swear I spend half my time thinking about where the next food is coming from.  This time, I decided to get a little “crazy.”  Usually we do our eating at home.  It’s not really a money thing.  It’s not even an Italian language thing.  I just get frustrated juggling the two kids for eating eating on the go.  Like real sitting down and eating.  Handing snacks in stroller is obviously a different story.  But this time, I thought we’d try something different.  I saw that the Oasis Cafe by the pond was open.  Why not extend the fun with some food?

After being swarmed by a school group while placing our order, we sat down with a panino, chips, and water.

What follows are the actual emails I sent to James about our degustation exploration.

Good news, Zoo snack bar is open. Bad news, being swarmed by peacocks.

That’s right.  Those beautiful creatures were now ALL up in our grill.  To the point that I was using my feet to try to get them to backup.  Not actually making contact with them, of course.  Just making sort of a shooing motion.  The ducks stayed put by the pond, but we also attracted a crowd of pigeons, crows, and seagulls.  We really weren’t trying to feed anyone.  I guess they know that kids are the best free lunch around.

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After some munching, I realized I had inadvertently sat down beside the smoking area.  When other patrons vacated the only truly sunny table, I decided we’d make a switch.  With holding Mac and pushing stroller and moving food, I needed to make a few trips.  I left the food unattended.  For just a few moments.  MISTAKE.  I turned by back and giant crow was trying to fly off with Henry’s half of the panino.  I charged and he abandoned his spoil, but he stayed creepily staring at us from a bush a few feet away for the rest of the meal.

When I was taking a sip of water, they came and snatched the bread out of Mac’s hand. We’re leaving now.

At this point, Mac was sitting IN MY LAP.  That brazen peacock hussy came right up and took bread FROM A BABY.  Peacock, have you no shame???   OK, peacocks.  Before this was all in good fun, but this just got real.  Don’t mess with my baby.  Luckily Mac was not hurt, and he seemed too shocked to be upset.  (Which was good because that was the last of the bread.)

While packing up a bird pooped on my head. It is directly on the back of my head, and I can’t see it.

YUP.  That happened.  I felt the wet splat.  I hoped, fleetingly, that it may have been a nut off a tree.  But no.  I knew.  I had been pooped on.  Lucky me.

I couldn’t spot the culprit.  At this point, I can neither confirm nor deny that I was pooped on by a peacock.  So let’s just say I was pooped on by a peacock.  It makes a much better story.

So I did the only thing you can in this situation.  I baby wiped the back of my head.  I put my hair up.  And I just laughed.  You can’t make this stuff up, folks.

On the walk home, where both kids fell asleep, because of course they did, I overheard someone tell someone else to have a good weekend.  So at least I learned something.  Buon fine settimana, ya’ll!  May your days be free of peacock poop.