Thursday, November 17, 2005

michelangelo or mr. incredible?

We went all-American today.

It was really out of sheer desperation. I was all set to spend our afternoon at the Sistine Chapel and to go check out Michelangelo’s ceiling, but the kids wouldn’t bite. We’d already spent an hour with S, practicing his letters, and T had practiced writing Os, and I felt desperate to get out and see a bit more before going home next week. I tried everything.

“You get to see what this artist thought G-d looked like. How many people get to see that?” I asked.

But S said, “Mommy, nobody knows what G-d looks like. You know that.” He looked disgusted with me.

Strike one.

“Okay,” I said, “But you get to see pretty pictures of angels,” I said. “Who doesn’t like angels?”

“Ugh, no more angels! I can’t stand anymore angels!”

He had a point. We’d seen so many statues and paintings of angels during our visit so far that they were really becoming a dime a dozen. But I wasn't ready to give up.

“They look like cute babies,” I appealed to T. “You love babies.”

“Ugh,” she said, copying S.

Strike two.

“Come on, you guys! It’s the Sistine Chapel! When you’re in Rome, you have to see the Sistine Chapel! It’s Michelangelo!”

They looked at me like I was crazy. Obviously, strike three.

“I know,” said S. “Let’s go to the Disney Store. We saw it from the bus the other day.”

“We can’t go to the Disney Store in Rome,” I said. “You can do that anytime at home. Besides, it’s a super long walk.”

“I’ll walk,” S said.

So in the end, I gave in. T fell asleep immediately in the stroller and S and I walked the forty minutes to the Disney store and then forty minutes back. We passed Piazza Venezia and the presidential building. We talked about the captured obelisks and the war columns and spoils. We talked about how little Italian cars are compared to American cars. We passed by the Museum of Art and talked about painting and different artists, like Miro (who is on exhibit at the MOA) and Michelangelo, and how S got to present his watercolor at the graduate drawing review that morning along with the rest of the class when he visited the studio with his dad. S told me about how proud he felt when the professor told him he liked his broad strokes and abstract design, pinned up his painting on the wall, and then asked him which of the students’ work he liked best. S walked the whole way, there and back, without a single complaint.

“Maybe we could go see more art,” S conceded, carrying the package with the over-priced, plastic Mr. Incredible that he’d purchased with his allowance.

“Hey, maybe we could go to the museum tomorrow,” I said.

“Okay,” S said. “But I’m still not going to look at any more angels.” He paused. “And can we go to McDonald’s and get shakes, too?”

“Don’t push it.”

He shrugged. “Okay, as long as we stay away from angels, I’m good.”

Thursday, November 10, 2005


After the last post, I received some email requesting a photo of Ozzie, so here he is in all his glory. Note his pink neck. This is not because he's a poodle, despite the fact that T does not believe Ozzie is a "poodoo" because he is not pink.

S has pretty much been pleading nonstop for me to call his doctor to have him tested for "ploodoes" (okay, it's one thing to not correct the two-year old, but it is cruel not to correct a five-year-old, isn't it? Even if his version is so much cuter?) the second we get back.

"Really?" I asked. "You actually want the doctor to give you a scratch test?" S shares a healthy fear of needles, as do most of his five and under friends.

But he said earnestly, "I'd do anything for a dog. I promise I'll walk him and feed him and take care of him. I can do it."

I have a serious fear that I'll fall down the same path as many other parents and believe S (even though as a rational person and parent, I know that it's just not possible for a five year old to do that much), and that based on the results of this scratch test, I may have another small pink mouth to feed in the next year.

Monday, November 07, 2005

gelato holiday

The kids and I are in Rome for six weeks while B teaches architecture in a program with the University. Italy is amazing and we are having an amazing time, but traveling with two small children is so much different than I’d ever expected. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t traveled internationally since having kids, or perhaps it’s because I was just so overwhelmingly ecstatic about the potentials of Italian shopping (think shoes, shoes, shoes, plus a nice leather bag here or there), or perhaps I’d just imagined my kids to be these wordly little people, ready to take on anything. I imagined the three of us waking up everyday to take on Rome. We’d picnic in the Forum, study Italian for a few hours, lunch on panini, perhaps a bit of a nap before a gelato, and then immerse ourselves in Italian culture, dining late at night (with kids—they do that here) and strolling the streets.

Here’s my parenting lesson for the year. Wake up.

Three weeks into our trip, after bus trips through Tuscany and Southern Italy, after countless piazzas, palazzos, and duomos, after ferries, islands, beaches, and fountains, when asked what his favorite part of Italy is so far, my five year old son says, “I like the way the ice cream tastes.”

This is not a random answer. You can ask him this question any time of day and he’ll say, “Is it time for gelato yet?” Since we’re doing some home schooling on this trip, we’ve decided to incorporate gelato into his lessons (spelling/reading gelato flavors, fractions (how much of one flavor do you have if you get three flavors instead of two), and math. S is keeping a journal of his trip, but his crowning achievement is the last page of his journal where he’s keeping an inventory of how many gelatos he’s had and which flavors he’s had most. Luckily he’s a skinny kid, but I hope his teachers don’t turn us in to CPS for nutritional deprivation.

S’s other great Italian love is Ozzie, the dog of the directors’ of the Rome Program. Somehow, miraculously, S, who is so allergic to dogs, is not allergic to Ozzie, and perhaps because of this, and perhaps because Ozzie is fourteen years old and extremely patient, S is madly and obsessively in love. He even overlooks the fact that Ozzie has some sort of rare skin disease and is missing patches of fur all over his body.

“When we get a dog,” S says the other day, “let’s get one just like Ozzie.”

“A poodle?” I asked.

“No, one with those patches of fur like Ozzie has.”

I guess I could promise him that because we’re not getting a dog. I feel successful each night the kids are fed and bathed and in bed. I can’t do that for a dog.

Though, to be fair, and I’m truly not a dog person, but Ozzie’s face is so cute, he looks like a muppet.

Not that we aren’t having a fabulous time, but somehow my children inherently know they’re not Italian (imagine that!). They get crabby in the evenings, can’t wait until 8pm to eat dinner with the rest of the bambinos, and somehow, they can’t keep their clothes neat and clean like the Italian kids here who all seem impeccably dressed at all times. I’m okay with all that, but it did take some getting used to that life in Italy with children is very much like life in the U.S. with children, just Italian style. Instead of the Pacific Science Center, we see the Coliseum or the Pantheon (“Wow, big building. Can we get gelato now?”), but we have to see them just as quickly as anything else. It doesn’t matter if it’s spectacular.

Though, S did have a definite moment at the ancient Greek temples in Paestum, where, after running around and chasing lizards for almost an hour while we all sat and had a picnic and gazed at the ruins, he was actually stopped for a second by the sight of one of the temples.

“Hey, did you guys see that building? It’s cool.”

He actually sat down with the rest of the architecture students and sketched and then painted an amazing picture of the temple at sunset. And then announced that he’d become an architect, too, someday.

Maybe he’ll design a gelato store.