Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making Messes

This is what Owen was working on when I thought he was taking his afternoon rest yesterday.  Evidently he's gotten really good at tiptoeing around upstairs.  He helped himself to the contents of every drawer in our bedroom.  It reminds me of the Hidden Pictures page from a Highlights magazine.  Would you like to play?

Directions:  Find all the objects that no attentive parent would ever let a preschooler use as a toy.

This next mess was mom-sanctioned.  He spent over an HOUR (that's like the entire Pleistocene Age in 3yo time) stripping his crayons naked.

Maybe I should put him down for his afternoon nap with a Crayola 64 box.  That would be safer.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Boys of Summer

Thanks for coming to play with us B!

(I'm sorry everything's out of focus lately.  I think my camera needs to go to the doctor.  As for why some pics look blue and some look yellow... that's just my fault :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Intergalactic Planetary*

Owen and I found a glow in the dark solar system at T.J.Maxx for  five bucks yesterday, and neither of us could resist.  I like that it still has Pluto.  No sun, but Pluto.

I sat on the floor and strung fishing wire through the planets and Scott stood on the bed to hang them from the air vent (yeah,  an air vent where a light fixture should be - love those 60s).  I was worried that Scott would step on one of them, so I made sure to tell him when I put another planet up on the bed.

Can you tell I'm setting you up for something?

Inevitably, these words left my mouth:  Careful where you step Scott, Uranus is next to your foot.

He liked that one.  He'd already been making Uranus jokes for about 20 minutes.

Where's Uranus Owen?
Are you sure you want me to hang Uranus from the ceiling Owen?
Owen, Uranus is purple.

Owen didn't get it.  Which was part of the fun for Scott I think.  So chime in.  You know you're itching to make an inappropriate joke too!

*Check the lyrics.  The Beastie Boys couldn't resist a reference to the 7th planet either.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

First Movie

Who thought it would be a stellar idea to take a three-and-a-half-year-old to his first movie dead smack in the middle of his usual nap time?


Who fed him chocolate covered peanuts and peach rings all during the first half of the movie?


Who had to help free him when he his legs "slipped" through the crack in his theater seat, which then folded up on his torso and trapped him in a standing position?


Who has now seen only the first 103 of the 113 minutes of Cars 2?


Who got exactly what she deserved?

Oh yeah...  me.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Beach: Lido di Camaiore

A few days before we left Italy, we drove 45 minutes west to the Tuscan Riviera to have a play day at the beach.  Rather than multistory condos or residential developments, most of the beachfront property there is claimed by businesses that rent out umbrellas, chairs and changing cabanas.  Since each art deco styled business uses a different color, you can see a rainbow kaleidoscope when you stand at the water and look down the beach.

The quarries of Massa and Carrara are visible in the mountains above the beaches, so I imagine the beautiful stone used to make the boardwalk didn't have to travel far.

We, of course, stuck out like sore thumbs.  I was one of only a handful who had blonde(ish) hair.  Then there was Owen who, in his exuberance for the waves, kept screaming out in English.  And that was very bewildering to the nearby Italian children, who, along with their stunning parents, had beautiful olive skin.  (If you had to compare our skin tone to a food, it would be more like pâté.)  

And finally there's the matter of our overdressing.  Rash guards like Owen is wearing in the photo above are probably not big sellers there.  And I knew going in that my 50s-inspired one-piece would be a ship's sail compared to the other women's bathing suits, but I felt like an absolute Puritan when an 80-year-old woman (who leaned on A CANE as she padded through the surf) passed by confidently in her string bikini.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Owen will not be pleased...

when he sees that a shortage of the grown-up variety forced me to swipe one of his Toy Story Band-Aids.

And so appears another crack in my dignity.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Google it

Owen got his first bee sting- right on the tip of his finger- while swimming at Rugiagli.  
These pics have nothing to do with the rest of the post, unless you consider the bee's mortality.

Owen has entered the obligatory dinosaur phase of boyhood.  I think it started with a TV show, but he really fell into obsession when I got him an animal encyclopedia with a 20-page feature on the prehistoric creatures.  I've got to get some video of him saying brachiosaurus and triceratops.  Nerdiness is cute on a preschooler.

Here's the surprise (for me at least).  The whole meteor-hit-the-earth-volanoes-exploded-nuclear-winter armageddon that led to the dinosaurs' extinction has Owen pondering his own mortality.  I usually tread lightly around him when it comes to such matters. For example, when he brings me a squashed bug and asks about it, I'll tell him the bug's body stopped working.  I guess I'm working up to distinguishing between body and soul.  I don't know.  I'm trying.

Here's a conversation we had while we were in Italy:

O:     Mommy will my body 'top working someday?
Me:   Yes, baby.  Everybody's body eventually stops working.  But bodies are made to work a loooong time and your body is still new.
O:     Mommy?  Will your body 'top working someday?
Me:   Yes, someday.
O:     Will your body 'top working before my body 'tops working?
Me:   There's no way for us to know that.
O:     Well... can you look it up on the internet?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Flying with Owen

Are you so excited you can't stand it?!  we were frequently asked before we left for Italy.  I usually responded by saying,  Let me get the 24+ hours of traveling with a 3-year-old behind me, and then I'll feel excited.  

But Owen was a pretty good traveller.  When the inevitable exhaustion descended, he became raw and unfiltered (the luxury of immaturity, right?).  So I wasn't too shocked when, about 10 hours into flying, he loudly announced his intentions to break the plane in half.  He then followed up his terroristic threat by passing out cold.

I'd done my research and brought lots of little toys wrapped in tissue paper like presents to dole out over the hours.  I had chopsticks for making snack time more fun.  Scott provided tech support with books and movies on the iPad and the Cupcake Maker app on his iPhone.  But the surprise ball Owen's Beck Beck and Uncle Joe made and mailed to him to take on the trip was the real winner.  The astronaut on top marked the beginning of the thread, and as Owen unwound the miles of yarn, he found stickers, rubber frogs and more space paraphernalia, which he kept and played with during our entire stay in Italy.  So clever!

And the yarn made for good times after we got home too.

Scott is a crazed swamp monster with a vacuum cleaner attachment, and Owen is defending himself with a ceramic swan.  

Umm.  Yeah.

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I learned

Lunar eclipse on June 15th.  It was dark, and I didn't have a tripod so it's a little blurry.

I promise not to go too Eat, Pray, Love on you, but I have been trying to process what I learned (or relearned) during our trip, and this is just as good a place as any to get some of it written down.  
  • Improvisation is good, and things almost always work out (provided you don't get all uptight halfway in and ruin it for yourself).  A good bit of our trip was a leap of faith.  Would the place we rented turn out to be a dump?  Would people be nice to us?  Would we do okay driving/navigating?  This philosophy applies to little stuff too, like making dinner and fixing your hair.  So what if it's not perfect; life is more interesting and fun and you learn more when you're on the periphery of your comfort zone.
  • Ordinary places can be just as much fun to explore as big tourist attractions.  The Leaning Tower of Pisa was cool, but so was the farmer's field with the giant snails.  Scott and I realized that there's probably a lot we've been missing right here in Birmingham.  Random Saturday drives are now on the agenda (which dovetails nicely with the whole improvisation revelation).
  • In math terms:  Reading books > watching TV.  And taking time to talk to people > reading books.  Duh in theory.  Not so duh in practice.
  • iPads are not for bloggers or photographers (even amateur ones like me).  They're good for surfing and reading books, but Apple's got some work to do on the other fronts.  That said, I do love the iPad and it's neat-o magnetic cover.
  • Even if a kid is potty trained, always always always keep a change of clothes (and shoes) handy.  A perfect day at the zoo was marred by this oversight, and because middle school is still in Owen's future that's all I'm going to say about that.
  • The exhilaration of a journey is tempered by the absence of friends and family.  I caught myself thinking so many times, so-and-so would love this or I wish so-and-so was here walking with me right now.  You guys are loved and you were missed.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


This is an old photo, but it accurately captures how we're feeling this morning.  I get the prize for outsleeping Scott and Owen by 3 hours.  I dreamed I got up early.  That counts.

Our trip back was uneventful until we got within a few miles of Philadelphia yesterday afternoon.  We were trying to get on the ground before a big storm hit, but the airport closed a few minutes before we could land.  Then we didn't have enough fuel to circle, so we diverted to Atlantic City.  We finally came back to the Philly airport (and it's now very congested airspace) more than an hour later and got in line to land.  But when we were about 100 feet off the ground, we could feel the plane go full throttle and lift back up again.  Because the flight we were on originated in Germany, there were dozens and dozens of U.S. soldiers on board, and they all started laughing and cussing, saying we had been "pushed".  Turned out the plane that landed in front of us wasn't getting off the runway fast enough, so our pilot decided to abort.  He came on the intercom and said, "It's just one of those days, folks."

Owen's Mimi and Granddad picked us up from the Birmingham airport around 11 last night, and Owen was so happy to see them he insisted they sit next to him in the back seat of their own car for the drive home.  And when we pulled up to the house, we spied this sweet banner through our front windows.

Thanks H boys!  And N for the yummy chocolate chip banana muffins.  Only 5 of the original dozen remain.

So that's that!  Thanks for following us on our adventure.  There's lots more I wish I could have shared, so I'll try to find a way to make it sound just as interesting coming from a corner of my Alabama kitchen as it would have sounded coming from a Tuscan farm.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How we know it's time to come home

Our basil plant is in need of Last Rites.

We ran out of Nutella this morning.

Scott and I have exhausted every English-language non-romance book in our little library, and although he would force himself to translate Turkish before stooping to Danielle Steel, I don't have that much pride. I'm in the middle of a book now that uses phrases like "panther leap of arousal" and where people quiver and feel ravenous all the time. Very demoralizing.

Our laundry pile is beginning to rival the bell tower for tallest structure in the village.

And most importantly, we miss all of you. We leave at 4:15 am local time tomorrow to head for the airport, and I don't know if I'll get another post up before then. See you all stateside on Saturday!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Zoo

We left it up to Owen to choose what we would do yesterday, and he asked for a zoo, which we were lucky enough to find only an hour's drive from us in Pistoia (as in birthplace of the pistol).

Not that there were any at this particular zoo, but this is Owen's impression of a walrus.

I was amazed by the accessibility of the animals and how comfortable they were around people. I know this isn't necessarily the safest or healthiest arrangement for the animals and humans involved, but it's not like we were feeding the giraffes Little Debbies or walking down the sidewalks with Bengal tigers. (But there was a snake skin on the floor in the reptile house!) Clearly things aren't as litigious in Italy as they are in the U.S. It's refreshing to have an experience where I don't feel micromanaged but rather trusted to use my own common sense.

Owen would like to add that he shares my overwrought insights and that he wishes the penguins would have gotten off their nest and gone swimming while we were there.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Buon Compleanno Part Due!

A birthday gelato for Mimi - it's raisin flavored. We love you! Have wonderful day.

Unscientific personality test

Which church interests you more?

Church A: One of the most beautiful churches in the world, iced with decoration in every single nook and cranny. Even the floors are considered priceless works of art. Some of the frescoes and sculptures inside are believed to have sparked entire artistic movements. On the downside, you must pay for the privilege to view it and share your experience with about a thousand other people.

Church B: An abandoned church in the countryside that you can have all to yourself. You discover its humble frescoes by picking your way through weeds and debris and peering through boarded up windows and doors. On the downside, you're trespassing and feel as if the wooden scaffolding holding it up could give way any minute.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ponte Vecchio

I was really hoping to find a simple pair of hoop earrings just to be able to say I bought gold on the Ponte Vecchio, but Italians must like their accessories to make more of a statement. We'd been in Florence for hours, but it took all the gaudy jewelry on the old bridge to remind me to keep an eye out for Snooki.

Didn't see her.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Buon Compleanno!

Why we can eat lots of gelato

Torre Guinigi, Lucca

Grotta del Vento, Fornovolasco

Dorian Castle, Vernazza

Torre Mangia, Siena

Duomo, Florence