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31Jan

A Daily Dose of Beauty ~ January 2010

January 1st – Just after midnight, giving the girls a glow stick each and watching their faces light up in neon green and pink smiles.

The girls welcoming New Year's with glow sticks

January 2nd – Grabbing a single pair of jeans off the sale rack and trying them on just as a formality because I already knew they were The Ones.

January 3rd – Going to see “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” in a nearly empty theater and sharing the magic of 3D glasses as a family. (Natalie: “Mommy, did you see that cat that came too close to me?” Sophie: “Sophie has glasses on! Mommy has glasses on! Daddy has glasses on! Natalie has glasses on! Wow, meatballs!”)

January 4th – [Censored… ::grin::]

January 5th – Seeing genuine smiles on the faces of our overworked friends as we played Perudo together into the late hours.

January 6th – Sinking down into our soft bed after eleven days away from home.

January 7th – Unpacking my baking supplies with a chatterbox Sophie who frequently stopped talking to give me pretend cupcakes and real kisses.

January 8th – Doing an obstacle course on Wii Fit with Natalie who mostly ran in circles around me giggling and cheering “You can do it! Go! Go! Oh man, try again!”

January 9th – Winning the Wii Olympic Winter Games championship with Dan and finding out the agonizing truth that we are great at curling.

January 10th – Making myself a better-than-Starbucks caramel coffee, lighting a gingerbread candle, and plopping onto a pile of pillows to write.

Caramel cappuccino

January 11th – Sitting down as a family to homemade sundried-tomato risotto and four-way conversation.

January 12th – Being greeted by all the cashiers as Sophie and I walked into our neighborhood grocery store.

January 13th – Crowding around the living room window with the girls to watch the sunset glow pink and orange on surrounding hilltops.

Sunset

January 14th – Realizing that I haven’t changed a diaper in over a week. (!!!)

January 15th – Walking home from the bakery in the breezy, blissed-out morning sunshine—more April than January.

January 16th – Hearing the entire theater cheer around me when beauty and wonder won over evil in “Avatar.”

3D is the new black

January 17th – Triumphing over the gloomy weather with a silly family Lego session involving swimming pants, noseless sharks stealing fried chicken, and the girls’ quirky imaginations at their best.

January 18th – Flirting with Dan like newlyweds after the small ones went to bed.

January 19th – Bouncing, sliding, climbing, crawling, diving, tickling, and giggling with my girls for three straight hours at our neighbor’s amazing indoor play place.

January 20th – Filling the house with the magical scent of baking banana-orange-pecan bread.

January 21st – Snuggling a sleepy-eyed Sophie in the rocking chair at nap time.

January 22nd – Ploofing homemade marshmallows into powdered sugar with Natalie and licking our fingers with a delicious, guilty thrill.

Maple-vanilla marshmallows

January 23rd – Indulging in an old-fashioned pancake brunch after a hopeful suggestion by Sophie.

January 24th – Reading Winnie-the-Pooh in a dog pile on our bed with Sophie occasionally dive-bombing everyone and Natalie adding “tiddely pom” to the end of each sentence.

January 25th – Watching Natalie fall over from laughing so hard when we all died in Super Mario Bros.

January 26th – Sitting at my desk by 7 a.m. with coffee, candles, and a yummy burst of writing mojo.

January 27th – Spying on my sexy husband as he rocked an apron and cooked dinner (an expat ode to Taco Bell!) for our in-home date night.

January 28th – Joking with my ESL students entirely in English and feeling that warm sense of teacherly accomplishment.

January 29th – Remembering at the end of a long, hard, poo-intensive day that I really do love these daughters of mine with every scrap of my heart.

January 30th – Catching hail on our balcony for the girls to taste and marveling at the wild beauty of storms.

January 31st – Closing out January with a family storytime, little fingers wrapped around big ones, big hearts bonding to little ones over Dr. Seuss.

1Jan

Trade-In

There are two things I should say before we begin:
1) I slept until noon today, and
2) it was entirely necessary.

I would like to say this was due to our wild party-animal instincts, but the drab truth is that we saw 31 too-late nights in December and were destroyed (as we say in Italian). I am a little miffed with this holiday season for hinting at long, languid hours of relaxation when it actually meant a sort of continuous harried feeling. Gifts to be gathered, events to be attended, games to be played, food to be cooked, meaningful time to be spent with friends and family—all lovely, holiday-y things that somehow arranged themselves into a military formation in my mind. How does this happen every year, I ask? (Just to be clear, love and good cheer still abounded, as evidenced by the photo below. They just had to compete for attention with tiredness and headless chicken syndrome.)

Family picture 1

And now it is next year. I’m a little surprised to find that I can believe an entire twelve-month span is over already; we put a lot of mileage on 2009, and it’s time for a trade-in. Besides traveling to eleven countries and over forty cities, I learned how to cook clams and braved black diamonds and started running (and stopped running… but have noble hopes to start again) and found a way out of an emotional quagmire and celebrated six years of marriage and moved houses and started wearing skirts again and cemented more than one close relationship and began teaching English and picked up piano playing again and attended weddings galore and had questions answered and spent delightful hours getting to know kindred spirits and finally found my taste for bitters and laughed more than cried. The year was richly layered with experience, and I feel comfortably full. It’s a good feeling.

As for 2010, I hope for much more of this…

Family Legostavaganza

…and this…

The spouses Bassett

…and this…

Sophie taking Mommy on the aqueduct 2

…with maybe just a wee bit more of this to go around:

Naptime for Ballerina Sophie

Happy New Year, everyone!

9Dec

Rodeo

::tap tap::

Hello hello, one two three, anyone there?

I actually had to read my last blog entry to figure out where I was in life before the rodeo that is December came to town. That is acutely pathetic, I know, but at least it makes me feel good about not hosting ads on my site. Because if, say, we had to finish Christmas shopping on distant planets like IKEA and our car died and our water heater (which heats the whole house) broke and our gas went out and our car died again and our water heater broke again and it was a national holiday so no one could repair it and our utility room flooded and I caught a virus and the bathroom heater started leaking and the washing machine wouldn’t start and our car died AGAIN and we suddenly found ourselves scrambling to get all the right documents together so that we could buy a new car only to run straight up against the Italian beaurocratic system which will be on coffee break for the next three months… If, for instance, those hypothetical things were to happen, I would want the freedom to callously ignore the blogosphere until our life got itself to rehab.

There’s been so much I’ve wanted to write about though, like the visit from lovely Rachelle (and how my girls were so smitten with her that I may have been demoted to nanny), and the Paolo Nutini concert that almost had to go on without us, and the e-mails from someone Dan and I have never met who feels led by God to have us bring American television church to Italy (!!), and the thrill of Christmas shining from the girls’ eyes. There are so many of your lives I’m eager to catch up on as well.

However… All that may just have to wait until things stop breaking around here.

They have to stop sometime.

Right?

Right?

::tap tap::

27Oct

Superlatives

Busy:
Not losing my mind in the sadistic onslaught of toddler teething.

Likewise busy:
Not losing my mind in the time-sucking vortex of potty training (the messy stage, oy).

Busier:
Hand-sewing floofy princess skirts from yards of pink tulle because 1) in no universe will I pay €80 for a pre-made costume, 2) we don’t have a sewing machine, and 3) two certain princesses deserve to look every bit as floofy and pink as cotton candy come Halloween.

Busiest:
Mastering 672 songs this week so I can fill in as church pianist next Sunday. (Hint: It’s not possible. Do you think the congregation will very much mind me throwing up between chord changes?)

~~~

Angry:
About someone else’s poor financial choices resulting in a month-late paycheck for us.

Angrier:
Toward the parents standing calmly in the center of the playground, smoking cigarettes and watching their children kick mine.

Angriest:
At the relative who posted a gloating Twitter update while driving through an active school zone. (This, like drunk driving, makes me see red. The lives of little children are not as valuable as making sure the Internet knows you’re… uh, cool? Macho? An asshole extraordinaire?)

~~~

Bright:
The galaxy of electric whirligigs blazing and swirling in the Luna Park below our house.

Brighter:
The sun rising clear and oh-so-jaunty over Mount Subasio, sneaking two fresh-faced girls with her into our room every morning before the alarm clock has a chance to wake up.

Brightest:
Plans for a holiday season bursting with music, food, and dearly-awaited guests. Oh, and snowboarding! And gift exchanges! And a wee trip to Venice! Cinnamon-sprinkled wonderfulness awaits.

~~~

Dusty:
My writing abilities.

Dustier:
My writing motivation.

Dustiest:
The top of the bedroom dresser. Yeesh!

~~~

Lovely:
Rosemary, peppermint, daisies and more daisies… my balcony friends welcomed in from the cold and brightening every room of the house.

Lovelier:
Friendships beginning to bloom from a batch of terrifying social undertakings. (I still have to pop a few Tums and re-read this every time I leave the house, but the value of new relationships is beginning to offset the appeal of staying a hermit.)

Loveliest:

Orange makes us happy

28Jul

Fishbowl Invitation

These summer days have been custom-fitted with a fisheye lens. We unpack, we clean, we eat salad, we sleep in puddles of melted motivation. Our priorities have adjusted to the demands of changing homes, not to mention the brick-baking heat and the reality of two girls at home, and the hours arch and flex strangely. My writing time keeps slipping outside the bubble where it waits, nose to glass, to be invited back in.

I see it, of course. Each day shifts through a hundred nuances I wish I could bottle and share or weave into a Ray Bradbury book. I’d love to invite each of you up to our balcony at dusk, when the fading sunlight plays alchemist on the city. We’d pick mint for our mojitos and debate in whispers over the exact color shimmering off the buildings below. Orange? Pink? Mother-of-Pearl? Enchantment?

I’d have a printout of my thoughts from the day ready if conversation began to lag. You could read how absurdly long it took to get myself and the girls ready for a morning walk to the park and how, by the middle of our steep climb back, I would cheerfully have exchanged my children for a day at the spa. Before you had too much time to judge, you would read on to where Natalie hung socks on the laundry line with me while we sang “Old MacDonald” (and Sophie occasionally interrupted her own “E-I-E-I-O” to point at the sun and shriek “THE MOON?”) and how love for these two girls of mine pulsed against the confines of my sanity. You would read how NieNie’s latest entry pulled my heart into pieces and how a line from Elliot Smith brought back the thrill of diving into the blogging world seven (seven!) years ago.

You would get a little dizzy from the way my mind flits from friend to friend, the way I still miss my best friend at age six, the hopes I hold for current acquaintances. You would reach the paragraph with all the secrets, at which point I would decide it’s time for a chocolate-whiskey-and-beer cupcake and four consecutive rounds of Balderdash. Secrets are secrets, after all. But this is my wish-upon-a-star in writing—to put myself in words and invite you to share.

So in lieu of an Italian balcony blogfest*, here’s a question for you: What would you like to read more about? Any pressing inquiries you’d like to see addressed? A topic that’s been on your mind lately? Something you’d like to know about me? Glassy-eyed summer days or not, this blog is ready for some friendly conversation. (Cocktails optional but recommended.)

~~~

*As lovely as the idea is, teensy matters like distance, time, and money make it unlikely. Annoying matters, those. However, if you’re ever coming through central Italy, do let me know, and we’ll try to make some magic happen.

19Jul

Era

A few days ago, had you been paying careful attention, you may have heard the universe take a deep breath and gently release an era to extinction. The following puff of breeze was the door to our shoebox apartment closing, and the electric crackle in the air was the current of joy waiting just inside our new fairy tale house. We are surrounded by boxes and have bruises in strange places, but are hopelessly happy to be here. (Pictures will be coming once we shed the cardboard décor.)

And it’s my birthday. I couldn’t ask for more in this abundant world of ours than waking up (gloriously late) this morning to birdsong and sunlight pooling on my bed, to PDA from my husband and sticky-sweet kisses from my girls, and to home. A trip downtown for outdoor jazz and Venetian ice cream didn’t hurt though. I’ve also loved looking through my birthday list from last year, seeing how very many things are checked off (all except 3 ½, if you want to get technical) and how much delight they added to the last twelve months. It seems a birthday tradition has begun.

Birthday gelato

Wishing on each unborn day of next year to:

~ Get lost in a field of sunflowers

~ Host a fabulous dinner party

~ Make millefoglie from scratch

~ Go to a concert with my husband

~ Put our new guest room to use

~ Try a new food

~ Respond to every e-mail in my backlogged inbox

~ Find an agent already

~ Visit another country for the first time

~ Organize a night out with girlfriends

~ Find the perfect pair of jeans

~ Surprise someone with kindness

~ Read a dozen good books

~ Grow some kind of fruit on our balcony

~ Re-learn obscure Italian verb tenses… and try not to forget them again

~ Work out regularly

~ Create a unique dessert

~ Eliminate holiday stress in favor of holiday cheer

~ Find my daily groove

~ Write something from true heart-compulsion

~ Restore a lost relationship

~ Read through a chapter book with Natalie

~ Find my soul mate in stationary and write newsy letters on it

[And the carry-overs from last year:]

~ Learn one beautiful piano piece well enough to play by memory

~ Start college funds for the girls

~ Submit at least ten short items for publication

~ Finish my book

Here’s to a new house, a new year, and new era. Cheers!

9Jul

Cinder Block

Our living room is breaking out in boxes. With less than a week till we’re handed keys for our new house, I shouldn’t be caught off guard… but I am anyway. A psychological cinder block is sitting squarely on top of my packing mojo, and I really wish I knew why so we could get on with this move already.

I feel distracted by nothing in particular, my brain wandering in the annoying, aimless way of ten-year-olds on summer break. The agenda for this month had been impressive: potty train one child and teach the other to read and write. Both are ready for their respective milestones, and I feel the responsibility to teach, the urgency to do it now. But first chores take my attention, and then laundry, and I have to finish the grocery list, and what in the world are we going to do about our empty house in the States? And then everyone’s hungry and lunch is late, and our afternoon gets knocked so far out of orbit that not even coffee can help, and I plug the girls into the TV so that I can get some pressing things done on the computer… and before I take a single focused breath, it’s too late to go to the park, and the motherguilt sweeps its cloud cover over the evening. And then the girls are in bed, and I’m cleaning up from their dinner to make ours, and we finish eating at bedtime exactly, and I realize I have gotten nowhere for the sixth day in a row.

It’s frustrating. As is the rash of empty boxes in our living room. Somebody should really start packing them.

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