Tuesday, June 29, 2010

When parents act unreasonably - kids teach them a lesson

I wrote in a prevoius post about how sometimes my parents act nonsense.
Well, this time the nonsense is about me.

As a parent I am more than once in a while VERY tired: nights are interrupted, no time for myself, appointments to which I might not necessarily wish to attend. 
Anyway, there is some project going on to which I can't say no anymore (promise, promise!) and I need that precious quiet time between throwing pebbles in the water and chasing after my little Messner or fighting about just anything with my daughter.
So I feel kind of stressed and sometimes this just comes out as a river of tears that I can't really justify - also, listening to some pathetic songs doesn't help.
Kids are very quiet in those moments and show their best "Why on hell is this woman crying? Must be because she didn't get the chocolate she so much wanted!!!" sorry look.

Of course kids know better.

As we were walking to the beach couple of days ago, Carlotta - always looking for answers - asked me wether I, as a child, wanted to stay a child forever.
No, I remember pretty vividly how much I wanted to be a grown up. So I told her.
Then she replied "You know, life ain't easy when you are a grown up".

Right.
The other thing she told me is that she might try cigarettes when she grows up, but she is not going to like them. Actually, she said, she has already tried cigarettes.

OKAY...

As for my project, it has nothing to do with Long Island (I owe this place the last posts about some place I really love, though) so I am packing for a couple of days, notebook and even some pencils (you never know) and hope this time nothing comes on our way!!!

June is almost over, my dear!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Getting ready for guests...

I certainly told before the story of my mom finding many excuses not to come visit.
First it was about the flight - she has never gone further than Berlin, so I understand a certain preoccupation.
Then it was about my dad and his health - he's perfectly fine apart from some high sugar level.
There is also an upcoming wedding (end of August) to keep her busy - she basically has to go to the wedding, after getting dressed.
I don't know what she found out next. Maybe the fact that she didn't want to be left alone with me. Who would???
Anyway, after months trying to convince her, I eventually gave up.
Just recently I was mentioning how beautiful some of the harbor towns are and how nice it is to be able to go to the beach whenever we please.
Well, guess with that I unexpectedly convinced her.
It might well be she was a bit sad we are staying three months longer than the original plan and she wouldn't be able to see her grandchildren, but I really had the impression she was all about the beach story.


Anyway, now she seems very enthusiastic about the all thing, and what's more is that she found a travel companion: her good friend Maria.
Together the two of them already came to visit us  a couple of times in Berlin; they were never living with us, though.
We have a small apartment and no guestroom.



 Oh my god!!!


This time is going to be different.
Not only will they stay at our place, but they will be with us (i.e. me) ALL DAY LONG.
My sister has already warned me and now I must confess I am a bit nervous.
Don't have so many doubts about Maria: she is fine, she is interesting and kind. More doubts I have about my mom because we are two very different persons.
Plus my mom is totally not able to match colors. Why do I mention that?Is it so important?
Well, I guess it's reason enough for mother and daughter to have a discussion!

What I fear most is not about spending time together outside: there is enough distraction to keep her mind busy. I fear the time we'll be spending inside.
Where she will talk about how bad I don't have a table cloth (yes, yes, that drives me crazy) or where she would tell me how the kids don't have  elegant clothes enough (pleeaaase, leave me alone!!!) or...I don't know, just things I don't care about.

Part of this anxiety is due to the fact that I am not good at accepting criticism, and once I decide something is good for me I don't see any reason to discuss about it anymore. And of course even less with my mom.

In the hope this feeling of being happy but freaked out gets better until September, I started doing a little list of things I want to do with the two of them - yes, I will  accompany them around because they won't drive in a foreign Country, which language none of them speaks.

Most certainly I will take them to New York - sitting them on the LIRR and  expect they find their way back is too much of a dream. 
In case they get on my nerves I can suggest they try.

I haven't been to Montauk yet, but this sounds like fun on a weekend.

My mother will have some remark on this point, but I bet Maria would be more than happy to visit some antique store. There are quite some at the Hamptons, so this is a must.

As for the beaches, I am never spending a whole day under the sun - me and the kids having a very delicate skin - but Catchogue and Southold are near enough to spend a morning without driving too much.

There will be enough to do and I am pretty sure they will have some totally new experience. 
Food might be a shock. But they are both excellent cooks, so - in case they are bored - I can put them in the kitchen to prepare something for me, like clams or mussels: no restaurant on Long Island can beat my mom on that!!!

The mall experience is also one they must go through. Absolutely.
Even if I am not a big fan of that, there is something to it.

Obviously there are too many things one could do the first time in the  US, but they'll just stay for ten days, so - if one includes the first days of adaptation - that won't be enough to see and do most of the interesting stuff on Long Island.



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lost raccoons

This morning we spotted three tails under the bushes in the garden...
We tried not to scare the little raccoons away, knowing how bad people drive around here.
They had probably lost their mom and were looking for a safe place.



How sweet!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Week 24th. My Birthday. You Witness.

Given the fact that the settimana enigmistica (the Italian crosswords-riddles&puzzles authority!) is my favorite magazine and that some people used to call me like that, no wonder this title is some kind of riddle.
Anyway, since some of you were already laughing at the strange coincidences I experienced during this week, I'll explain what I mean.

I had birthday and I had my cousin and her family visiting from Italy for some days.
Because they are Jehovah's Witnesses - but also people I like a lot - I decided to leave my celebration uncelebrated on the very day - and keep my daughter distracted enough and forgetful - so that nobody would be offended or hurt.
I wasn't hurt: as I said, my cousin is one of the persons I like most and since she is nice, sweet and caring that's no effort.
As kids we used to spend quite some time together and she was always a sort of older sister to me, as much as I was the sister she never had.
This in spite of the fact that we are very different persons: because her mom was converting to the new confession in a very sad and depressive moment, her life turned from the rich, intense, high-society life into a secluded and probably weird existence.
But never was my cousin rebellious nor angry. Up to now she lets her parents invade her privacy and decide a lot on how she should be.
Which doesn't mean she doesn't have her own personality, she is just too nice.

If you compare her to me, you'd think I am sort of ungrateful nasty kid who doesn't let parents know her whereabouts, let alone decide on anything personal.

Anyway, it was nice to have my cousin here. It was fun, not too stressful and - as my mom put it - some kind of "movement". Not that I don't have enough.

To make the story shorter: she left the day after my birthday and my dear friend Jane soon came over (how nice of you Jane!!!) and gave me her present - always good taste, I love it!!!So it was Present's Day.

On Friday there was a party. Not my own though: Carlotta's graduation's party.
Graduation is a big step for a little child and a goodbye loaded moment.
Not only will Carlotta leave pre-school and start Kindergarten: her teacher, Ms Leesie, is retiring. If I could go to pre-school again, I'd want Ms Leesie as a teacher.
She was taking care of my out-of-the-tank-fish non-English speaking daughter and made her feel at ease, taught her to write and read, but most of all she was a wonderful person and made me always feel very confident about our pre-school choice and relaxed about the big change our daughter was going through.
Yes, Ms Leesie, don't cry because it's over, but be happy because it happened!

Then came Saturday, and there was our Special Guest's Day.
And - I hope - good food.
Sure, my birthday without good food is an offense I wouldn't tolerate.
And flowers!(A note for myself: remember to water the flowers!).

And today EVENTUALLY my other present, the breakfast I so much talked about.
Honestly, I am happy it's Sunday, so tomorrow I can start dieting!!!

Of course it was also Father's Day, so I (see the geniality) brought kids and husband to the Stony Brook Museum - which was free for fathers - and while they were visiting the exhibitions and having some fun, I had some time to read.

It was such an intense, emotionally full week I could drop asleep any second, but I don't want to forget how good it is when you can spend time with people you like.
That is the greatest present ever. And not one I take for granted.

Also, this kind of extended celebration has its advantages, because one can make more small things and still consider them very special.

And Bob, to you: I have been partying like it's 1975 and the party isn't over yet!
Isn't it another fun coincidence I was born after Armageddon?

Monday, June 14, 2010

American Breakfast - part 2 (cold cereals)

With my birthday approaching (and no wisdom in sight), I have to hear questions like "What do you wish?", "What should we do?", which I can never answer because I don't really need anything special...wait, I DO need something!!!

I need my peace: quiet, silence, calm.
(Ideally a desert island would do the trick, but I'll be contented with something smaller).

That I can never have a relaxed breakfast has been an issue for quite some times now, so it's time to have another breakfast outside.Hooray!

It'll be an exception, so let me tell you how an Italian - used to either tea-biscuits (those you can professionally dunk to show-off), rusks or double-baked bread (the messy, old fashioned, tastier version of rusk) in a big bowl of lukewarm milk with pure soluble toasted barley - finds her way in this Country to have breakfast at home.

My usual breakfast since we've moved is nothing fancy but a bowl of cold milk and cold cereals with a cup of coffee (or what someone describes as "coffee tasting beverage").

Clearly this is EASIER SAID THAN DONE.
I needed some training before finding the right cereals.
Why?Just walk the cereal aisle in a supermarket: it's perverse.

You'll have different shapes and textures for the same cereal (shredded, puffed, rolled, toasted) and different coating (sugar, honey, maple), plenty of colors (fruit loops!) or chocolate-chips (or chunks, or the all deceiving "flavor"), cookies in cereal form, cinnamon-apple smelling concoctions, old fashioned, quick, space-travel compatible crunchy companions...
Want to start reading the labels or have you already given up?

For me - chocolate junkie, but not sugar addict - plain cereals would do: rolled oats, wheat (puffed or shredded), corn-flakes (although the ingredients' list isn't the most reassuring).

A peanut butter sandwich is something I wouldn't have consider couple of years ago, now it's almost necessary.
But here, too, one has to face the Hamlet's dilemma about peanut butter: plain or crunchy?Salt added or not?What about natural?

And what kind of jelly or jam?
Does anybody really eat mint jelly?

Will someone ever have the time to try all the possible options and combinations?


The many question marks are a clear sign that I am very curious to know how people like their own breakfast.
And even though I wouldn't go as far as to have breakfast with any person I know (a punishment I inflict only to my family) I certainly will do my little survey.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

M is for Maps


Super cute map in Kobe, Motomachi

Some of the things I do are just random, some other dictated by rational thinking. To guess what is what you'd have to know me to a certain degree.

One of the things I rationally did, was choosing the picture for my profile because, although I don't have many nice pictures of me, this one explains a lot about me.

Taking a closer look at it, in fact, one can see that I am standing in front of a big map.
It's not just the casual picture taken in a touristy moment, it's more like a general attitude.

I love maps.
I own a number of maps. No matter where I am, no matter if my bags are stuffed, there is always place to collect more maps - those with funny cartoons, those with numbers for sightseeing, those you find at information centers (of course, different versions of the same place) and those you might just find in the telephone book...

Once - oh my, that's embarrassing - I even stole a map.
I swear it was absolutely unintentional and I would have brought it back, hadn't I been almost a hundred miles away from the scene of the crime (Omaha, Nebraska - football team map!).

This makes me feel a little bit like Dora the Explorer, except that I don't go around singing "we did it, we did it" and that she only has one map.
Which is very helpful but not fun.
In fact, my main preoccupation while reading a map is NOT finding the right direction - you could argue that I use maps more or less to "successfully get lost" - but to have a general overview of urban planning, or of what is next to me and what is too far to even bother...which is the shortest way to get to a place and if there might be obstacles to reach my destination - obstacle is usually anything larger than a three lane street.


I have no cognition of north and south - for that I rely on light and shadows (primitive, but effective) and therefore I am very fond of the Japanese information booths you can find almost everywhere on the street.
They are always pointing in the direction you're looking at. How easy is that?
No turning of heads.

So, if I come back from some vacation, the one thing I will certainly bring back - instead of some funky object or dust-catcher - is a dozen of maps.
Plus more paper to fill up my collection.

And you can bet it will all be in my hand baggage.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Sag Harbor Whaling Museum

The past ten days were very busy and almost every night I was falling asleep soon after my kids: still, I didn't feel there was a day I wanted to sit at home by the beautiful weather and went to a couple of interesting places.

It had been in my plans for a while and eventually I visited the Whaling Museum in Sag Harbor.
Lately I am observing that - since we are in the US - my kids learn to know different animals than they would in central Europe, starting with the "quirrl" (squirrel), the chipmunk (a novelty for me, too), many fun birds (not just that flying rat someone calls pigeon) and - even if not live - the whale.
Admittedly, I had the impression that the history of whales is more or less a history of men, but it was nevertheless fascinating to learn more about this mammal; there are different kind of whales and their bodies were used for the most various purposes like fuel for lamps or tennis rackets, cosmetics and fashion products, like corsets (and here you find me totally against it).
Whaling itself was a native Americans' technique*; unlike English settlers, though, native Americans were using parts of whales they found on the shore. Englishmen learned the technique, added a good knowledge of the seas and ship building to that (with a hint of sea imperialism) and began whaling as we know it from literature.
So it came that, in the late XVIII century, Sag Harbor was flourishing as the shipping and whaling port it was born as, becoming the third largest in the world, with the stereotyped harbor atmosphere including a red light district, a number of taverns and a wide-spread rum commerce that remained charecteristic for quite a while (think about rum row during Prohibition!).
As I said, the whole fascination with whales has for me a too masculine aura.

So, let me tell you about the Museum, which was the most pleasant surprise: once the house of wealthy whaling-ship owner Mr. Huntting, it's one of those example of classic architecture applied (revisited and re-interpreted) to American buildings.
The entrance recalls the front of a Greek temple with its Corinthian columns - beautiful, but screaming for restoration (just to give you the right feeling: when walking around Venice you'd be always looking for the next brick falling down!)
Inside there are plaster decorations on the ceilings and a spiraling wing of stairs that leads (visually, at least) to a circular window on the top.


(This picture is from the Museum web-page, no chance of taking a pic with the sun coming in)

I couldn't climb it to satisfy all my curiosity as it was closed to the public - it houses a masonic Lodge - and most probably I would have been in big trouble coming down, totally dizzy.
Nonetheless it was great to be there at noon, when the sun was shining directly through that glass, illuminating the entrance with a Pantheon-like effect. I couldn't tell if the window was made of alabaster, because it was pretty sparkly...


Whaling history aside, documenting the adventurous voyages (some as long as a year just to spot a couple of whales!), displaying harpoons and scrimshaw, there was a collection of objects from the past belonging to Mrs Sage, later owner of this building and philanthropist: old toys, doll's house furniture, clocks, some fine Limoges porcelain, a number of native Americans' artifacts...
After visiting the museum - empty, except for a few people - we took a walk in Sag Harbor.
It felt like a familiar place from my childhood with lots of nice restaurants, little galleries, colorful shops; of course the view of the bay was gorgeous, but at the same time it was very "hamptonish" and Main Street was a polo-shirted walk, with no evident difference between lower and upper Main Street, so the effect was less literary than in Moby Dick and more elegant  than it probably used to be.

Maybe the reason is that the history of whaling was too short, as in the mid-XIX century oil was discovered in California and whalers, whaling boats and anything connected to the commerce of whales were not needed anymore.
Of course this is very personal, but I might have been less impressed than in Greenport.

Little detail of this nice day, I got myself a CD called "I love Long Island", with a number of traditional songs dating to the XVII and XVIII centuries, sang by the "Connecticut Peddler". 
A bit odd for some ears (but hey!if there are people listening to the Chieftains...) unusual perhaps; anyway I enjoy listening to these songs about traditions, battles and popular themes when I am driving.


*Here I am referring to the North American Continent, it is obviously widely spread around the world.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Am I aging or getting wiser?

Because I am in a hurry, but because I will do that sometimes - postponing is a habit - but not now, I just want to remember that I have a blog-roll; these are the things I do read and that make me feel good.

Obviously it is updated.

Everybody is my favourite. Some is my most favourite.

One is a kind of second voice talking for myself very often - that's Elisa
Thanks for talking your mind!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oooops...I did it again!

I know, I know, I was weak; I ate that bar of chocolate.
Sure, it was not mine to enjoy, but hell...it was there and now I feel a little sorry.
Is it my fault I can't resist dark chocolate?

What's in my brain that makes me need that?And what is in my blood NOW.
Good, I confess: as short as a pleasure it might seem, it is on the run the winning, uncomplicated key to ALL of my problems. And I don't want to quit because there is no real reason to do it.
Some research showed that consuming chocolate could cause depression (contrary to the belief that it cures it), but no, not in me.
Give me more of that, I don't feel depressive; guilty maybe, a bit nasty, but not depressive!!!

I don't mind chocolate cake or chocolaty stuff, no, no, I am for the real thing: starting from the 70% cocoa and up, I am in heaven with a couple of ounces of that bitterness and even when it is not in my pantry, it is in my thoughts.

Once in a while I do carry it in my purse (you never know!) and very seldom it stays there for a long time. No matter how hard I try to forget it.
But trying and focusing are productive ways of keeping things in mind, so obviously not good ways of forgetting.