I am not an avid Instagrammer. I wish I were, but my days get busy, and I forget to be noticeful, and even when I do snap a picture, nine times out of ten I put off posting it because writing on my phone still feels to me like eating with chopsticks once did. (My fingers are creatures of habit on par with aging hobbits.) Perhaps this is why I was so eager to participate in Hollywood Housewife’s One Day project this week, documenting my ordinary, unembellished Wednesday on Instagram. The concept grabbed me both because I love being able to look back at the daily life of our family in its various stages and because I imagine some of you are at least a smidgen curious about what passes for “normal” here in expat-entrepreneurland.
Wednesday morning, therefore, I woke up and started snapping photos (not necessarily in that order) aaaannnnddd… did not manage to Instagram a one. In fact, I didn’t even have a chance to follow friends’ #OneDayHH streams, so full did my day become. However, I still have the photos, and if you’ll forgive the fact that these are coming a few days late and without any fancy filters, I’d love to share what passes for an average Wednesday around here.
This good man of mine brings me a cappuccino just about every morning, which I then sip in bed while reading, journaling, watching videos that feed my soul, or otherwise centering myself for the day. It’s such a luxurious way to wake up that I always feel vaguely guilty over it, but I have found the courage to press on so far. This morning, I’m getting a late start due to being up irresponsibly late the night before, but Dan is taking care of the girls’ breakfast, and I have an uninterrupted half hour in front of me before I need to put on my mom hat. </famous last words>
Sophie, who only just returned to the swing of things after a bout of bronchitis, has just vomited all over the hallway. Dan takes cleanup duty while I take care of snuggles. My Bible remains unopened on the bed next to me with a throw-up bucket atop it. #glamor
[Please ignore the tie-dye sheets that we bought for $20 a million years ago because we thought they were funny… which they ARE, but in rather the same way that clowns and Jack Nicholson’s grin are funny. As in, the more you look at them, the more they make you want to run away screaming.]
Dan walks Natalie to school in the deep gray drizzle. The weather up until today has been sunny and so warm that we haven’t needed long sleeves. Today, however, the forecast predicts a 66ºF drop (!!), so we’re all bundled up a bit more than we necessarily need to be. I still haven’t learned the algorithm that Italian women use to decide what day to start wearing boots, but I decide that as for me and my house, we shall start today.
I head out to a pasticceria in the next neighborhood over to celebrate a friend’s birthday with the standard Italian bar breakfast: cappuccino and a croissant. I choose the cornetto alla marmellata, which is filled with apricot jelly. (The photo is blurry due to the fact that I am trying to pretend I’m innocently checking text messages and not, you know, foodstagraming.) There are five of us women and two newborns at the get-together, and we spend a lovely hour and a half sipping our drinks, passing around babies, and chatting about mom life. I am the first to leave.
By the time I leave the pasticceria, I no longer need my scarf. Stupid, beautiful weather. I swing by the new mall to pick up toothpaste and chocolate on my way home.
Interesting fact #1: Shopping malls here in Italy are based around grocery stores rather than department stores like in the States. This mall is actually unusual in that it has its own name rather than being called the name of the grocery store. (Can you imagine your local shopping mall being called Kroger? This was a weird concept for me to get used to when we moved.)
Interesting fact #2: You’re never going to find carts scattered around outside an Italian grocery store. They are always lined up nicely in their designated spots in the parking lot… and the reason for this is that people want their deposits back. Yep, you have to deposit a coin (50 cent, 1 euro, and 2 euro coins all work) to unlock your cart from its corral, and you only get the coin back by relocking the cart.
The logistics of it can be annoying—carts aren’t allowed in most mall stores, so you have to go back out to the parking lot to get one if you need to grocery shop, and you need to have a coin on you at all times—but I love being able to shop for jeans and dinner fixings in the same trip.
As usual when I go to a large grocery store, I linger for a few minutes in the “world flavors” aisle. Even if I’m not buying anything, it reassures to me to know that I could buy 200 grams of pink and white marshmallows if I needed to. (And for “only” €2.20!) I always end up tucking a bottle of French’s mustard into my cart even though we already have five or six stocked up at home because I want the store to know they’re in demand… and also because they cost way less than marshmallows.
Dan’s at home busy working in his über-nerdy office. This is our favorite of all work arrangements so far. He loves having the space and flexibility to run his biomechanics business, and I love having the freedom to leave a sick kiddo at home and duck out for the morning when the occasion arises.
Groceries have been put away, sweet, miserable Sophie has been attended to (she requested that we change her name to “Sophie Ruth Poor Bassett”), and Dan and I get lunch started. It’s the big meal of the day here, and we’re making a typical ragù with local sausages and home-dried oregano to spoon over polenta. We don’t usually cook together, but the tendinitis in my wrist is flaring up again, and it’s so nice to have Dan here to do all the chopping and whisking. Plus, I kind of like hanging out with him.
I walk to pick up Natalie from school, putting our morning’s recycling in the appropriate bins along the way. (The blue lid is for plastic, metal, and glass, the yellow lid is for paper, the green lid is for non-recyclable trash, and the smaller green bins are for compost.)
The girls’ school is about a six-minute walk from our house. I get there today with a minute to spare and chat with the other parents in the courtyard while we wait for the bell to ring. Teachers then bring the kids out one by one and personally hand them over to parents. (Fortunately it’s not a large school!)
We’re about to sit down for lunch when Sophie Ruth Poor Bassett has a very poor experience indeed and requires my immediate Vomit Containment & Removal expertise. Dan keeps our food from burning while I clean child and surroundings and get the first of several emergency laundry loads going.
We finally sit down to our family lunch. There is wine.
Dan still has a few minutes to spare before he needs to get back to work, so we relocate to the living room for Wii Time. (Rayman Legends is our current family favorite, even though we’re all mediocre to hopeless at video games.)
[Please enjoy the artistic placement of the throw-up bucket in this shot. Also, you may note that we are now decked out in hoodies and blankets. It seems the dire forecast might be on to something.]
False alarm on the cold front. This now counts as flip-flop weather. Good thing too, as I have a mountain of wet laundry to hang. (Like the majority of people in Italy, we have no dryer and instead line-dry everything. The only times of year when this is tricky for us are when it’s rainy outside but not cold enough to dry clothes by the radiators inside.) I perform the anti-rain dance and leave the laundry to bask in the sun on our back balcony.
While the girls do homework (or rather, while one of them does under sisterly supervision), I meet Dan in the kitchen for an afternoon espresso. Yes, it’s my third coffee of the day. No, I don’t even care. God bless the discoverers of caffeine.
After throwing up for the ninth time today (!!), Sophie’s briefly feeling more like herself. I ply her with chicken noodle soup while Natalie rainbow looms (is this now a verb? I vote yes) and Dan begins a business meeting in the other half of the house.
Typically, I spend part of my afternoon with the girls and part of it writing, but it’s clear that writing isn’t going to happen today. This is hard for me; writing is both my work and my recharge mechanism. However, I’m grateful that I’m able to be here for my sick little girl (not to mention the laundry), and I figure that a square of dark hazelnut chocolate totally counts as a consolation prize.
I serve the girls their dinner and read to them while they eat. We’re currently making our way through the Witch Baby and Me series, a completely delightful set of Scottish chapter books that we bought years ago in Edinburgh. If Dan had been reading with us, we would have continued Prince Caspian (which never ever ends despite the fact that we’ve been reading through it since August), but as it’s just us girls this evening, we’re indulging in silly spells and bagpipes and fart jokes. Och aye!
Dan is now done with his business meeting and takes over the girls’ bedtime routine. Due to their allergy-triggered asthma, both girls need their nasal passages cleared with the nebulizer each night before bed. We put on MythBusters or funny animal videos to make the routine less tedious.
In many ways, we’ve adapted to the Italian lifestyle, but we are still entirely American in our bedtime habits. Dan and I can see a direct correlation between the amount of sleep our girls get and their behavior the next day, so we’re okay being the un-fun parents who put their kids to bed by 8:30 on school nights. We usually let them read or journal for a while in bed to wind down before falling asleep, though, so this helps us all feel a little less Grinchy about the whole thing (especially as we listen to the neighborhood kids shrieking and running around outside the girls’ window). Hugs, kisses, tickles, prayers, goodnight.
Dan’s off to host an English conversation night at a local pub, and I settle down on the sofa with PJs, dinner, and Netflix. (Any of you recognize this show?) Pretty much the moment I hit the sofa cushions, I realize that my grand plans for productivity later this evening—namely, writing this post—are not gonna happen. I can feel the tiredness ricocheting through my circulatory system, pinging off my cells. The temperature’s finally dropping as promised, and I take that as an invitation to feel properly cozy—fuzzy socks, blankets, maybe a mug of tea later. I’m definitely going straight to bed after the episode finishes.
…and after catching up on some reading I’d meant to do earlier in the week. But after that, I’m definitely going straight to bed.
This isn’t quite the final One Day image I would have planned. For one thing, tie-dye. For another, the bed is still unmade and rumpled from Sophie’s nap in it earlier. Also, this doesn’t exactly count as a responsible bedtime for someone who a) is as tired as I am, b) wants to be getting up earlier in the mornings, and c) relies on a minimum of eight hours of sleep on good nights. It’s real life though—our real life, with its mess and charm and unpredictability and joy and irresponsible decisions and unstaged comforts. This is our ordinary, and if nothing else, I hope it helps you feel like your ordinary is worthy of being noticed too.
Fruits and veggies (we eat our lunch in courses)
Loads 2 through 5 of laundry
Vomit (you’re welcome)
Unwilling piano practice
Workout (because it didn’t happen)
Writing (because it didn’t happen either)