Balancing Act

On Saturday, we visited Villa Torlonia.  It has a rich history, but I was mostly intrigued because this was Mussolini’s pad from 1925 – 1943.  He rented it from the Torlonia family for one lire per year.

10.7_balancing_two cool dudes

This was the backup plan.  I originally concocted grandiose plans of taking various forms of public transportation down to the Colosseum.  But after I constructed a plan, I realized it sounded miserable and scrapped it for a walkable destination.

So, you want to see Mussolini’s house?  BAM.


You want to see the back of the house?  BAM.

10.7_balancing_back house

The villa, which is basically a park, had a lot more to offer.  For example, the Casina delle Civette (House of Owls) is a random building that served as a “respite from the main property.”

10.7_balancing_owl house

10.7_balancing_owl house closer

It’s folly-rific.  Called house of owls because of the random owl stained glass and other decorations.

See random owl

See random owl

We didn’t go inside the House of Owls.  Or Mussolini’s house.  I wanted to, but someone had other plans.

Who me?

Who me?

Basically, tickets cost money and would have covered both houses.  We probably could have managed to tour one without meltdown, but I didn’t want to pay for both houses and then only make it through one.  If we pushed, we could have done both, but would have ended up with cranky, hungry people at the end.  (Not just the toddler.)

And Henry was having such a lovely time with the palm trees.  After he initially didn’t want to go into the palm grove because it was “too dark,” he found some giant palm fronds and conscripted his father into service.

10.7_balancing_palm frond

So this is the dilemma.  This is always the dilemma.  On the one hand, we saw something new and were having a lovely day at the park.  On the other hand, it would have been nice to see more.  We were already there.  The tours might have been fine.  Or they might have turned an otherwise fun outing into a disaster.

The question is always when to push.  When to go for it.  And when to just enjoy a nice day.

This time we opted to relax.  Which worked for me.  At least that day.  I just need to remind myself to go for it sometimes.  When it makes sense.  When we really want to.  It will always be easier to do less.  But sometimes we need to do more.

Family ruins selfie

Family ruins selfie

They have how many what now?

Strides have been made on the Italian learning front.  Longer strides for James.  He did a week-long, three hours/day Italian survival class.  I would have too, but you know, kids.  I’m pretty impressed with him.  He was in the more advanced group and their teacher, a 4’10” fantastic dresser from Naples, does everything in Italian.  He’s been holding his own and then some.  Apparently after he was a little tired one day, his classmates told him to get his act together for the next day.  Because who else who hassle the teacher about all the grammar rules that don’t make sense?

On the home front, we had our first meeting with our Italian tutor this week.  The plan is for her to come once a week at 2000, then watch the already sleeping kids so we can date night.  I really want conversation practice.  I need someone to force me out from behind my books and duolingo lessons and make me say something–anything–in Italian.  Our first session was pretty light on this, but I have hope for the future.

And I definitely enjoyed the date night part of the evening.  James and I hopped in a cab and walked all around downtown.  And maybe ate a little gelato.  I was enjoying it too much to take pictures, but we went from the Pantheon, through Campo de’ Fiori, and over to the Campidoglio.  It was beautiful.  Hard to describe, but it really looked like a movie set.  Gleaming cobblestones, beautiful people bursting out of sidewalk cafes and restaurants.

Ooo . . . look . . . a blurry picture of me with a cat

Ooo . . . look . . . a blurry picture of me with a cat

But back to the Italian.  Our tutor emphasized that you must pause between double consonants.  This means “oggi” (today) is really og-gi.  She noted that lack of the pause will change the meaning of a word.  It reminds me of SNL’s Nuni and Noonie sketches.

James also discovered this during his class.  During an interview your neighbor and share exercise, James told the group that his partner has 36 anni (years).  The teacher immediately stopped him to explain anni.  I’m having trouble picturing how this was done in Italian, but she said “it’s not good” and there was some hand gesturing.  Turns out, anni is the plural of anus.  If you want years, you really need to say ahn-nee.

I cracked up pretty hard.  And then I thought, “Holy tootknockers, do you know the number of people that I’ve told that my son has two anuses???”


Paleo Fail-io

Once upon a time, James and I read It Starts with Food and did a Whole30.  Basically you cut out all gluten, added sugar, dairy, booze, legumes, and corn for 30 days, and then gradually reintroduce foods to your healed body to see how it does.  Even though it was strict, I found it worked better for me than trying to be reasonable.  I am definitely an abstainer and not a moderator.  At the end of the program, we had both lost about 5% of our body weight.  We did feel great.  James and I couldn’t shut up about it and annoyingly preached the Whole30 gospel for quite some time.  I think almost everyone in my family has done one.

We do try to do more paleo cooking, but we’ve definitely fallen off the wagon.  Italy has not helped that.  Gelato!  Cheese!  Pizza!  Wine!  I can’t figure out what to make for lunch so Henry and I frequently have yogurt.

I feel less healthy in other ways, but this has to do more with stay-at-homing than with being-in-Italying.  I don’t walk as much.  Not because I’m driving, but because we don’t venture out as far.  There is a playground steps from our door.  The grocery store is only two blocks away.  I used to walk to public transportation, walk around the building, walk for lunch.  I’m trying to say yes to more dance parties and head out for longer walks.

Our schedule makes big walks hard though.  I love our schedule.  But with Mac’s morning nap, we are never really more than an hour away from someone’s nap or meal.  Also, Henry will tolerate some stroller time, but he also likes to walk.  If he’s walking, we cover less ground.  And it is easy to release the kraken, but will he go back in the stroller?

But the other day, I decided to grab hold and seize it.  We would head back to Villa Borghese and explore some other area of the park.  We live 10 minutes from Rome’s Central Park.  We owe it to ourselves to enjoy everything it has to offer, darnit!

This was probably too ambitious.  First off, we all have colds right now.  Second, instead of a low-to-mid 80s kind of day, it was more of an upper 80s kind of day.  But it was too late.  I had loaded up more than 50 lbs (not an exaggeration) of children and gear, and we were off.

By the time we got to a previously unvisited portion, I was sniffly, hot, and tired.  And it was time to go back for lunch and Mac was not pleased.  And Henry definitely did not want to go back in the stroller.

But we got to see a few new things before we turned back.  While Henry was chasing pigeons or other such, I noticed this guy in a tree.  He was so exotic looking that I thought he must have been someone’s escaped pet.  But I saw three of them in the tree.  Turns out my first instinct may not have been too far off.

9.16_green bird

We also saw this little guy.  He stayed remarkably patient with the toddler who wanted to embrace him.


And then after bargaining, bribery, and threats got everyone (read  Henry) loaded back in the stroller, I’m pretty sure I saw two people having sex in the park.  Sorry–no pics!  They were a little far off, and I didn’t want to stare.  So there’s Rome for ya.  Start off talking about paleo, end up with sex in the public park.

Places my sons’ junk has been

I used to joke that I should start a tumblr with “places my son’s junk has been.”  Not with actual pictures of junk.  That would be all kinds of messed up.  But just the locations.  Stateside, I had a policy that if your (chain, family-oriented) restaurant did not have a changing table, we’d do a change in the restaurant.  On a bench if possible.  Always on a changing pad.  I’m looking at you Bojangles and Waffle House.  But Henry got to enjoy plenty of other al fresco changing venues.  Parks, rest areas, the National Mall.

I guess my tumblr would now be “places my sons’ junk has been.”  The trend is definitely continuing in Rome.  We’ve been hearing from people, guidebooks, the internets, etc. that Rome is not the most kid-friendly.  This doesn’t just mean a lack of sights for kids.  I’ve mentioned before that the double stroller is a challenge.  Whenever we get around to attempting public transit, that will be a challenge.  And I haven’t been able to find a restroom for me most places, much less a changing table.  (Just realized we will have to be WAY more strategic whenever Operation Potty Train commences.  Although I did see a kid drop trou at the Villa Borghese playground.  #OPTIONS.)

So this week’s “places my sons’ junk has been” is brought to you by Piazza della Repubblica.  Last weekend we went on another epic walkabout around the city.  Unlike last time, we ditched the double stroller at home.  I loaded Mac into the Lillebaby.  Thankfully, James is still able to wrangle Henry in the Deuter hiking pack.  And Henry did an impressive amount of walking.  Which would you choose: carrying a 16 lb child all the time or a 30 lb child half the time?  I’m stuck with the smaller one because I couldn’t even wear Henry in the Deuter 10 lbs ago.

Adventure ho!

Adventure ho!

It was glorious!  We could walk anywhere!!  Up church steps, in between cars, around tourists!  The city was our oyster; we were limited only by our aching backs.  The weather was also gorgeous.  I think around 70 degrees when we set out and creeping up during the day.

Although I was eager to get to proper sightseeing, I was also eager to have my first cappuccino in Italy.  Only took three weeks.  We stopped at a Bar, where I made James order.  I still do a double take on the signs sometimes, but Bars are the casual places with pastries and sandwiches that are open early.  Loved the cappuccino.  Henry loved the pastries even more.

They sprinkled chocolate on top!

They sprinkled chocolate on top!

Mmmm...nutella croissant

Mmmm…nutella croissant

Our first stop was Santa Maria della Vittoria Church.  We went for Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Teresa, which was on my radar from Angels and Demons (on sale for kindle!)–classy, I know–but were really impressed with the church itself.  [Angels and Demons is now a movie?  From 2009?? How did I miss this?  This was pre-kids.  I have no excuse.]  It was on the smaller side, but every inch was covered with marble, paintings, mosaics, and other precious objects.  I’d love to go back for mass; you just know it would be an intimate affair.  Hopefully without Nic Cage-haired Tom Hanks crashing in to catch a maniac.

Outside of Santa Maria della Vittoria and Moses Fountain

Outside of Santa Maria della Vittoria and Moses Fountain

9.13_vittorio ceiling 9.13_vittorio

Bernini’s statue was very impressive.  The literature said he made the marble look like wax, which really is a good description.  So fluid.  So much movement.  I think I like Bernini even more than Michelangelo.  TV Show Idea:  Italian Sculptor Wars.  No?


The Church of Santa Susanna is across the street.  There has been construction so we ogled the outside but didn’t go in.  This is home of the American Catholic Church in Rome so I’m sure we’ll be back.  Santa Susanna’s exterior boasts “a highly influential early Baroque design” and some pretty amazing FAQs on its website.

1. What is the Pope’s email address?

Everyone wants to talk directly to the pope. Unfortunately the population of the world is now over 6 billion people and the Holy Father is not capable of speaking to each person privately.Though Pope Benedict had an email address, so far Pope Francis has not listed his.

Santa Susanna

Santa Susanna

We headed down to Piazza della Repubblica, close to Termini train station.

Junk exposure took place over my left shoulder

Junk exposure took place over my left shoulder

But before the titular diaper change, we went to the Baths of Diocletian.  The baths were built between 298 and 306They have many other uses now–Michelangelo designed a church inside–but you can still see the exterior and infrastructure.  At the tallest point, they are seven stories high.

According to Wikipedia, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History building was partially based on design elements from the Baths of Diocletian

According to Wikipedia, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History building was partially based on design elements from the Baths of Diocletian.  I can see it.

Typical state of affairs around here

Typical state of affairs around here

Google auto-awesomed this one.  I kind of love it.

Google auto-awesomed this one. I kind of love it.

9.13_baths inside 2

Lots of trompe l'oeil in here.  Can you tell the bit to the left is just painted on?

Lots of trompe l’oeil in here. Can you tell the bit to the left (green columns) is just painted on?

We got to enjoy a few minutes of an organ concert inside the church.  Henry was enthralled.

I counted more than 70 stops on this bad boy.

I counted more than 70 stops on this bad boy.

After the diaper change, we picked up takeout pizza from Alice (Ah-lee-che), a delicious pizza chain here.  We enjoyed it in the Villa Borghese Park to the sound of a dude playing the mandolin.

Alice selfie

Alice selfie

Both kids crashed before we could make it back for official nap time, but it was a pretty nice day.

Ball so hard

Ball so hard

James put together this map ex post facto of our route.  I think it was only around three miles, but it felt longer.  I blame the toddler stop and go.  It isn’t just “mas running,” but you have to frequently reline up at the starting line.

Will try to update this when I find a way to make it look better

Will try to update this when I find a way to make it look better.  Blogger fail.

Weekend Recap

Happy September, ya’ll!  The long weekend was much appreciated as we continue to settle in.


We went to the pool at the Ambassador’s residence.  You have to request a spot in advance and this was the last weekend it was available so I was glad to get in.

The pool was surprisingly cold considering it was about 90 degrees out.  I think this was, in part, because the pool was so deep.  The shallow end was around 5′ and it dropped off pretty quickly.  Pool is always more challenging now that it is man-to-man with no breaks, but Henry had a great time.  We really need to work on some kind of swim classes for him.  Because of the depth, I spent most of the time bobbing with Mac over on the steps.

The grounds were beautiful.  Looking forward to returning for parties.

Take out pizza for lunch that was pretty tasty.


In the morning we went on an epic walk.  Down to the top of the Spanish steps, to an overlook of Piazza del Popolo, and back through the Villa Borghese park.  Apparently it was only about three miles, but it felt much longer given the stroller and toddler detours.

Overlook – James says it is a famous one.  Probably has a name that I forgot.

Sunday evening we returned to Ristorante Rossini.  The experience was only so-so, mostly because of limited kid cooperation.  James had spaghetti amatriciana.  I had a salad with bresaola, after I majorly hosed the pronunciation of it.  We had a prosciutto and fig starter.  Henry is pretty obsessed with cured meats now.


It rained most of the day and was colder so we stayed indoors.  James did venture out for a trip to the grocery store where he was yelled at for trying to use a seat-less stroller as a grocery cart in the store.  We went on a walk in the evening, but cut it short because of more rain.  After the kids were asleep, we did watch a little of Veep Season 3.  Definitely enjoying it so far.  I keep waiting for it to get over-the-top cringy where I feel bad (think British Office), but not yet.