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Six-Word Summaries

Much work to do. Grateful. Busy.

Sick child at home getting sicker.

Laundry wrangled into submission. House not.

I haven't dusted in awhile

Mountain of email threatening to erupt.

Haven’t showered yet this morning afternoon.

Facebook? Blogs? What’s social networking again?

Inspiration knocking, waiting, giving up, leaving.

Care to share your six words?



Sweep Me Away

Something about today whispered spring cleaning. Never mind that winter just finished unpacking its bags or that the air is the approximate temperature of a slushie; my instincts demanded I open all the windows and invite the sunshine in to dust with me. (I wanted to write “sweep with me,” but that’s a double entendre in Italian, and now I’m worried that learning a second language has guaranteed my mind a permanent spot in the gutter. Italian vocabulary tends to be very… passionate.)  My energy levels are regrettably dependent on the weather, and I tend to slog through January with all the motivation of a boiled cabbage. Thank goodness the sun came out today; otherwise, our house guest tonight would have ended up sleeping on a pile of unsorted Christmas decorations.

Despite cohabitating for a whole 11 ½ days, 2011 and I haven’t really gotten acquainted yet. I know it uses a different brand of shampoo than 2010 did and takes less sugar in its coffee, but I haven’t figured out what makes it tick, how its hobbies and personality traits intersect, whether or not it is likely to be a good housemate in the end. I’m waiting until after my trip to get back into running and to pick up where I left off on Ye Olde Novel, so I guess that’s when I’ll schedule my heart-to-heart with the new year. We’ll likely survive until then. It puts its own socks in the laundry, and I don’t pry when it stumbles in at 3 a.m.; good enough for now.

So. How are you? Have you made any great discoveries yet this year? Do you have any new projects or goals that spark your enthusiasm? Any survival tactics for less sunny days—you know, in case I don’t manage to finish spot-cleaning behind the oven today? Any double entendres worth sharing?


The Answer Starts With D

Hey kids, it’s time for a pop quiz!

Death of a mokka

This milk frother is sitting on our balcony because:

A) In impressive disregard for the natural laws of quilted fabrics, it got so hot on the stove as to burn a hole through the pot-holder, and it was moved outside in my fear it would burn the kitchen down as well.

B) In my bleary pre-10:00-a.m. haze, I forgot both to add the milk and to remove the plastic frothing mechanism before putting it on the stove, and it was moved outside so as not to kill my family with the toxic fumes.

C) It was not the first but the second disastrously failed cappuccino attempt of the morning (don’t ask about the espresso machine), and it was moved outside so the sight of it would stop making me cry into my orange juice.

D) All of the above.

Some mornings are just better left alone.


Auld Lang Syne With Frosting

Dear, neglected little blog,

It’s been so long I’m not even sure where to start. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve thought of you often—while baking and decorating and wrapping, while celebrating holiday traditions with our Italian family, while toasting to the new year under a dizzy display of fireworks, even while huddling feverish under a mound of blankets unsure what month it was anymore. I had promised myself that this would be the December I found time to blog regularly, but whoops, look at that, it’s January already, and what?!

Not only is it January, but 2011 is already hurtling full speed at my head. There are some quick decisions to be made and goals (note: not resolutions) to be focused in on before my brain power scatters in fright over this mighty new year, and I’m already behind on so many things that 2012 is starting to get worried. This is no way to celebrate the untapped potential of 365 fresh-faced days, I know. I also know that stressing over a vague accumulation of responsibility is neither going to help me get well nor whittle down my to-do list… but that’s what I do. I stress. Then I write about it. Then I share it with you, and then I get back to living like a reasonably sane individual.

New years always seem to find me this way, on the restless side of recovery, bewildered, angsty, unsteady. I guess it’s sort of my post-holiday tradition. Some people make resolutions; I fumble around for my bearings. It’s not a bad practice, truth be told—sifting through perspectives and reclaiming priorities. I should probably make more of a habit of it rather than waiting for it to knock me off balance the moment the fireworks fade, but I just get busy, and weeks scurry by, and when I finally pause at the page again, I don’t recognize its landscape.

But this was supposed to be a letter, not a therapy session. So, dear blog, here’s some of what you’ve missed over the last two weeks:

  • Two small giggly girls rocking around the Christmas tree to their favorite tunes, headbanging in Santa hats, and reenacting every possible mention of reindeer.
  • Wrapping paper, ribbons, and sparkly pens taking over our living room with scissors in small hands as the four of us shared the fun of dressing gifts up in their holiday finest.
  • A friend and I running across the cobblestone streets of downtown in our high heels in an umbrella-snapping rainstorm, determined to make it to a concert on time and laughing harder and harder the less presentable we looked.
  • Christmas Eve morning spent introducing a houseful of Italians to the wondrous thing we call brunch (they couldn’t bring themselves to drink coffee with it, but it was a delicious success nonetheless).
  • Some mangled slabs of gingerbread, gobs of frosting, and four solid tons of mismatched candy turning into one of the most hilarious and happy family activities we’ve ever attempted.
  • Legos, board games, Wii (ours), Kinect (not ours), and more Legos—time spent together rediscovering the lost art of play (though I have yet to rediscover the lost art of maneuvering video game controls in a competent fashion).
  • Fireworks bursting on all sides of our balcony, too many to count, a dazzling 360° salute to a year of new mercies.

I’ve missed you, dear blog, and I’m sure any lingering hard feelings can be smoothed over with this artisan dessert:

Gingerbread masterpiece

(May or may not contain several pieces of licorice that Sophie tasted, spit out upon realizing she hates licorice, and stuck to the roof before we clued in about her building method.
Also, Management is not responsible for any diabetic comas suffered as a result of looking at this photo.)

You’re welcome,


A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ September 2010

September 1st – Listening to our new little reader entertain her sister with a Seuss classic.

Natalie trying out her new reading skillz on her sister

September 2nd – Getting treated to an exclusive performance of The Best Circus Show EVER!!! with the world-famous ringmasters (and tightrope walkers and clowns and trapeze artists and magicians and unicyclists) Natalie and Sophie.

September 3rd – Watching the follow-up to the circus show: The Best Puppet Show EVER!!! (It was.)

September 4th – Finally checking out the local library that looks like a pink spaceship—to the girls’ delight—and bringing home a stack of storytimes.

September 5th – Appreciating how this week’s preacher included the Sunday-schoolless kids in the sermon and kept it short and relevant… as opposed to last week’s long droning discourse about Tamar and Judah. (The mind, it boggles.)

September 6th – Getting a fresh burst of excitement about this fall when Sophie exclaimed, “Natalie and I are about to go to school, and Mommy’s going to write and write and write! And make lunch!”

September 7th – Trying very, very hard not to giggle at the dinner table as the girls seriously discussed the perils of pooping.

September 8th – The usually horrible Festa dell’Unità playing Stevie Wonder through our open windows just when I needed a dose of happy.

September 9th – Watching a marathon of the girls’ baby videos with them, no matter how desperately it makes me want to cry.

September 10th – Introducing the girls to the magic of Totoro.

September 11th – Ending a full day of shopping with… more shopping, and speculating about all the fun memories the girls will make in their new fall clothes.

September 12th – Turning a failed picnic into an afternoon of games and relaxed conversation with one of our favorite families.

September 13th – Sending two thrilled little girls straight into the arms of their favorite teacher at school.

First day of school! 2

September 14th – Meeting the words I’ve been trying to find for years as they tumbled out of my fingers onto the page; mornings like this are why I write.

September 15th – Seeing evidence of my sweet girls’ care for our family and each other in action.

September 16th – Enjoying roasted tomato soup with a supersized helping of friendship.

September 17th – Snuggling up for a movie night with my favorite husband.

September 18th – Taking Natalie out for a mom-daughter shopping date and chatting up a storm.

September 19th – Indulging my inner heathen and taking a much-needed day to relax and watch the clouds blow by.

Vivid - 4

September 20th – Squelching my fear of failure and utter hatred for running to complete nearly three kilometers with my longsuffering Dan.

September 21st – Easing back into teaching English and remembering how much I really do enjoy it.

September 22nd – Accepting a last-minute playdate invitation and getting to know the warm and bubbly woman who is Natalie’s future mother-in-law.

September 23rd – Kissing my girls goodbye and watching them gallop hand-in-hand to their classroom, giggling all the way.

September 24th – Discovering an entire group of friends who share my background and are working together to forge a future full ofhope.

September 25th – Baking illegal chocolate cake with plenty of sticky-fingered help.

September 26th – Cracking up with the rest of the church band after an increasingly awkward list of song selections, including the same one called twice in a row.

September 27th – Being treated to the most delicious pretend picnic of all time by my dear Sophie who came home sick from school.

September 28th – Having a little dance party with myself to this song while putting on my makeup.


Joy Ride

Sunlight is skimming across terra cotta rooftops and bell towers this morning, darting through each daisy petal on our balcony before swooping off to light the cypresses on distant hills. Our palms bathe their faces in it. Dozens of newborn strawberries blink and stretch in our little patch while fresh chilies glow like potted flames. The mint we cut down mere days ago is lush once again. Yesterday’s laundry line-dances to the church bells below our house while sparrows sing backup. This cannot be autumn.

But it is, of course. The girls’ tank tops have been packed away to make room for plaid skirts and jewel-tone hoodies, their flip-flops traded for boots. The watermelon bins at the grocery store are now filled with cabbages. Limoncello perfume for blackberry, scarves for sunblock, Jack Johnson for Sufjan Stevens, mojito nights for school mornings… the evidence is pretty compelling.

I refuse to give in, though, not while summer is still joy-riding through our open windows. There will be plenty of time for cinnamon cappuccinos and crisp, pumpkin-laced daydreams next month.



A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ August 2010

August 1st – Playing piano for church without the perspiring palms or misplayed notes that usually plague me.

August 2nd – Giving Natalie my pink pen and encouraging her to go to town on letters; this teaching process is making my English-nerdy heart so happy.

August 3rd – Compensating for the lack in stores by making bread and butter pickles from scratch (with coriander picked from our balcony, no less!).

August 4th – Spending a family evening at the park to breathe fresh air and recharge.

August 5th – Catching a mesmerizing sunrise mere seconds before the day turned overcast.

August 6th – Chilling with my brother-in-law over lunch, grateful for family who are also friends.

August 7th – Deciding on the spur of the moment to pack our lunch and go camping near Pitigliano.

August 8th – Spending the most delightfully lazy Sunday swimming in the pond, picking fruit, and relaxing as a family in the great outdoors.

August 9th – Indulging the compulsion to write despite a jillion-long to-do list.

August 10th – Appreciating and clinging to my dear husband all the more in light of a friend’s divorce.

August 11th – Cracking up over the girls’ lyrical interpretation of a light saber fight.

'Let's play Star Wars; I'll be Yoga'August 12th – Waking up to the first morning of Dan’s unexpected mini-vacation.

August 13th – Getting a free jazz dance performance by Natalie in front of the Duomo in Orvieto.

August 14th – Introducing our house guests to the magical, laughter-producing power of the Wii.

August 15th –Slurping up homemade Nutella malt milkshakes—with cherries and chocolate sprinkles, of course—in  four-part harmony.

Nutella malt milkshake

August 16th – Spending the last day of Dan’s work vacation doing nothing, glorious nothing.

August 17th – Finding a wiggly tooth in my five-year-old’s mouth and cheering together for the fantastic process of growing up.

August 18th – Watching my husband step up and offer unconditional love and support to friends in need.

August 19th – Hiding safely inside while Dan and his brother played a hilarious version of tennis with the bees infesting our balcony.

August 20th – Baking cherry chocolate cupcakes with Sophie, who kept smiling up with a chocolate-smeared face to exclaim, “We are the best bakers!”

August 21st – Giving some family TLC to our balcony garden; home improvement projects always make me happy.

August 22nd – Unexpectedly not having to play piano for church, performance pressure dissolved instantly.

August 23rd – Taking myself out to shop for clothes in  luxurious solitude.

August 24th – Enjoying our typical summer evening of freshly-baked baguette slathered in stracchino and a side of ripe, red watermelon, eaten together on our balcony while the sun melts out of sight.

August 25th – Journaling through some tangles in my brain and gaining perspective in the process.

August 26th – Scanning approximately 50,000 pages of the girls’ artwork from the last month, like taking a vacation  in their funny, colorful worlds.

August 27th – Rising above a heavy rejection letter to work on a story and finding I still have the capacity to enjoy writing after all.

August 28th – Taking a spontaneous trip with friends to Isola Polvese for a day of ferrying, picnicking, and playing on the beach.

Sophie opts not to get in the lake

August 29th – Watching and trying out circus acts with the girls at the children’s festival in the park below our house.

August 30th – Being blown away once again by the brilliant, saturated colors in the evening sky.

August 31st – Falling even more in love with my creative Miss Natalie upon reading her color chart.

Mommy [saying 'Masr'], Sophie, and me with colors


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