What a Collection!

Frida, age 4, attends weekly gymnastics lessons. She comes out of the lessons beaming, chattering happily about what they did while I help her out of her leotard. She says ciao to her friends and we load up in the bike trailer to go home. She never asks me what I did while she was in the gymnastics lesson, or maybe she did once and was so bored by the answer she never bothered to ask again. Let’s play…

45 Minutes in Heaven

how to play – imagine what you would do if you had 45 minutes of free time and access to the following, all of which are available INSIDE the gymnastics facility: 

  • an outdoor track complete with high jump
  • warm Italian May sunshine
  • ice cream, cookies, lollipops, and those chocolate wafers that always seem stale except in Europe
  • a smartphone
  • prosecco, beer, and various slightly bitter pre-mixed aperitivi (like Campari)

You would make yourself a prosecco-ice cream float and go lie down on the high jump mattress, right? Well done, you!

The other mothers* and I either stand around chatting, stand around staring at our iPhones, or stand around smoking. Never have I ever seen anyone go for one of the adult-friendly drinks at the bar at the kids’ gymnastics school. I think we’re doing it wrong.


*I would say ‘parents’ except that there’s a word for ‘parents’ if they are invariably female and that word is ‘mothers’. It’s always the mothers. It’s Italy. In 2016. Jesus, am I ready to leave. The gender role bullshit here makes me want to scream.

One quick example : at Mother’s Day at Frida’s school, there was a nice slideshow with pictures of all of our little darlings during their school day. The head nun was announcing the pictures and reminded us that our children were watching everything we did. She then turned to the next section, which was about the kids emulating their mommies. The first slide : kids ironing on little play ironing boards. I laughingly shrieked ‘Oh My GOD!’ because I thought that it was a very funny joke. It wasn’t. Next slide : kids washing dolls in the little play bathtub. Next slide : kids pushing prams with dolls in them. Next slide : kids with little play shopping carts. Next slide : kids putting dolls to sleep in little doll beds. The audience was sighing and weeping and I was torn between being an incensed American feminist and being so so very grateful that I am an incensed American feminist instead of one of the lovely, smart, kind, capable Italian working mothers who have to put up with this 1950’s pigeonholing for the rest of their lives. (While wearing high heels! Ugh.) When I asked a trio of Italian working mom friends about the lack of kids pretending to stay up late studying to get their Phds, or grab their briefcase to go to their awesome lawyer job, or go to the hospital to perform brain surgery JUST LIKE MOMMY, each of the women I asked got really uncomfortable. It wasn’t something that was OK to talk about. It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t ironic, it wasn’t changing, it was just their lives. I was immediately sorry to have asked.

Except that until you meet an actual real-live Hillary Clinton fan in person, you might not truly believe that one existed. I’m a feminism unicorn, sent to Italy to provide proof that feminist unicorns exist. We’re somewhat smellier than anticipated, but we bring hope from a land where women can have it all – kids, career, loving marriage, great friends, satisfying sex, high-quality chocolate, and toned arms.

Know this, American voters: if you elect Donald Trump, the unicorn dies.


Freezer Failures

In preparation for the move, I’m working my way through the freezer. I am, apparently, not one to throw away a chicken carcass. When I buy fish at the market the fishmonger (with whom I have been doing twice-weekly business for two years) asks proudly, “You will keep the head, yes?” He thinks I go home and turn those heads into fish risotto, something that he once described to me as “kids’ favorite!” I think of myself as someone who does this, who willingly embarks on experimental, nutritious cooking projects to broaden the palates of my two little fish eaters, but my freezer tells me that actually I just go home and throw the fish heads in the freezer with the other fish heads and then I make something they might actually eat.

Let’s Play….

Cultural Difference, Gross Food Edition

how to play: read through the list below, and decide which items are delicious and which are disgusting. Then ask yourself how anyone eats any of it. 

  • Fish Risotto (if you’re a kid)
  • Fish Risotto (if you’re an adult at a nice restaurant with white cloth napkins and a good white wine)
  • Fish Sticks – the best are the ones that bear absolutely no resemblance to fish in look, taste, or smell
  • Balut – fertilized duck or chicken eggs
  • Scrambled Eggs (after watching the Balut video in the link above.)
  • Coca Cola (after hearing that story about how tooth left in the cup of Coca Cola totally dissolved in like two weeks)
  • Bourbon (if you’ve ever had too much bourbon)
  • Egg McMuffins (anytime other than the morning after you’ve had too much bourbon)
  • Rotten milk, so rotten it is hard (some people call this ‘cheese’)
  • Raw, chopped pork mixed with onions. For breakfast! Ah, Germany, you are a strong sort.
  • Lamb, goat, pork, and beef

What did you come up with? Is everything delicious, or just some things, and does it depend on what you got used to eating when you were a kid? It did, right? So if I’m trying to raise culturally diverse citizens of the world rather than just picky little polyglots, I should start making some fish risotto.

The balut ship has sailed, though. Them’s nasty.




Leaving the Jasmine Hedge

We’re gearing up for another move, this time from Italy to Germany, and we’re having to ask ourselves some important questions. How important is it to you to know where to take dead batteries? How much do you value knowing when to get off the bus without looking at a map app on your phone? When thinking about your quality of life, does speaking the same language as your banker rate higher or lower than immediate access to fresh fish? Is the unit of measurement days or hours in your evaluation of ‘fresh fish’? What about if the fish is lightly pickled? Smoked? Salted?

We are adaptable, we humans, and we are at our best when we look for the things to like in our given situation. That said, my quality of life is greatly improved by access to direct sunlight and good eats, and I am tempted to extend our stay in Italy through berry season, into stone fruit season, and oh those Alto Adige apples sure are good, and then it’s time for the autumn crop of artichokes and then come truffles…

It’s not going to happen, though. The movers are coming on June 3oth. Better take advantage of our current condition, then, right? GELATO SEASON STARTS NOW.

Time to leave, really, before we start thinking that the smell of blooming citrus is a standard accompaniment to children’s school field trips.


In case you were wondering how seriously Frida takes her carousel rides, here she is getting ready to practice posting.

Frida Carousel