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.


Jessica, Jackie and Ezra said...

You're breeding architects! I have a gelato obsession as well. A gelateria opened up on 24th st. My downfall. Too bad you can't ship the real thing.

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Jennifer said...

Italy?! How incredible! I've only been to Rome once, but I loved it. I walked around for days drinking it all in. Of course...being there with 2 young children, and homeschooling on the way...much different. I can only imagine. I love Sam and his gelatos though! ;)