Sunday, December 14, 2014

La Festa di Santa Lucia
When I realized that Patrizia's party was on the festa di Santa Lucia I started to have fantasies about

 a scenario in which Americans go to a traditional Italian holiday dinner and are forced to stuff themselves until they turn into some kind of expat turducken.

This time we were prepared: We requested a vegetarian option that we know our hostess prepares to perfection and we brought a minimal dessert (marshamallows for roasting in the fireplace), wine, and whole wheat bread.

Of course, in this scenario, our hostess was much more of this type than the other:

Nevertheless, I think the pictures speak for themselves:

Hey active little boy, the Americans say you can stick your arm in a fireplace.
 F is tall.
Patrizia's daughter and son-in-law are beyond adorable. She's a nurse. He just got a job in human resources at Gucci where the perks are awesome.

You got a 2500 euro bag for 250???? Tell me more!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

This blogpost is brought to you by and Hyperbol and a Half (because I couldn't deal today).

This is how beautiful Angelina Jolie looks with chicken pox. If that is not motivation not to scratch . . . well, I don't know what is!
Angelina is talking to me.

Look up!

 Especially in Lucca,

sometimes when you're feeling down,


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I am the Grinch
It's official. I found out that our Christmas tree had bark beetles and I made F throw out the whole six foot beetle gym. Hold on. I kept the ornaments. T is pissed. But I can't sleep knowing that these creatures are dropping out and crawling around the house before they die. What if they had babies? I can't deal. I hate to have nature in the house. Sorry, not sorry. Since T says it's not Christmas without a tree and both T and F find fake trees "depressing," we will ask our friends Tina and Giuliano the florists to try to bring us one that they can vouch for.

Self portrait

In other news, the bane of T's existence are these versioni she has to do in school. They are translations that you have to do cold from Italian to Greek or Latin using your gigantic dictionary and some intellectual discretion. She is fairly terrified of them. Yesterday's was a case in point. She had to check with her friend Camilla afterwards to make sure that she had read this Aesop fable correctly. She said it was about a chipmunk who had to bite off his own genitals in order to save himself from a hunter. I looked it up and I think it was actually a story about a beaver and not
these guys . . .

"Aesop's Fables, translated by Laura Gibbs (2002)

Perry 118 (Phaedrus App. 30)
There is an animal whose name in English is 'beaver' (although those garrulous Greeks -- so proud of their endless supply of words! -- call him castor, which is also the name of a god). It is said that when the beaver is being chased by dogs and realizes that he cannot outrun them, he bites off his testicles, since he knows that this is what he is hunted for. I suppose there is some kind of superhuman understanding that prompts the beaver to act this way, for as soon as the hunter lays his hands on that magical medicine, he abandons the chase and calls off his dogs.
If only people would take the same approach and agree to be deprived of their possessions in order to live lives free from danger; no one, after all, would set a trap for someone already stripped to the skin.
Note: This strange legend of the beaver's self-castration is attested in the Greek and Roman natural history writers (e.g., Aelian, Characteristics of Animals 6.34 and Pliny, Natural History 8.109). For a fable about the god Castor referred to here, see Fable 166."
( from

All in all, there were too many creatures in Tuscany for me today.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Opla' part 1
I did something. . . that will wreak havoc.

For a change.

Today we were invited to the lovely couple featured below's house for lunch. Their names are Fabio and Francesca. It is a holiday in Italy: la festa dell'immacolata. Francesca made us like a four course lunch and Fabio poured like three kinds of alcohol into our glasses at various points in the meal, as if we were important guests or something.

The woman on the right side of the photo is my friend Patrizia. She is having us to a dinner party she has been planning for the last four months on Saturday night. She is going to make special desserts from her native Napoli. She asked me for the phone number of the lovely couple she was talking to all night at our Thanksgiving gathering. I vaguely remembered her talking to another couple at the end of the night, probably just a few words before saying goodbye. They are our friends Luca and Monica who run the best bakery in Lucca. I sent her their phone number. She called them and invited them to her party. They were confused. Monica asked me to send a photo of her on whatsapp because she didn't know who Patrizia was. I thought that was weird since Patrizia said that she had talked at length with this lovely couple. I took this photo. I went so far as to cut the couple out of the shot and then I sent it to Monica.

Midway through lunch today, I realized my mistake. This is when I should say cacchio, right? I asked them. As in, oh shit.

Patrizia is coming over for an English lesson tomorrow at which time I have to explain to her what went down Unfortunately, Fabio and Francesca have already made plans for the night of the party with some cousins that they can not refuse.

I feel like I don't do much, but the things that I do do, I can really make into spectacular disasters.

Good thing we have a blog.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Toddlers and Tiaras
So tonight I went to the teen disco to see my student Andrea in a hip hop battle. The "Baby" category for 12 year olds and under was supposed to start at 6 PM. When F left me off in the parking lot there at 5:45 PM the line was already quite long.

This is my I can't believe I'm doing this face

These are the other crazy people on line.

Everyone wore hats.

I left my winter coat in the car because my goal was not to carry anything inside with me. That was a no-win situation in that I was going to miserable for part of the time either way you cut it. Last thing F said to me was that he recognized Andrea's sister in a gray hat and her short statured father in the line. I couldn't bring to mind what his mother looked like even though I have met her several times so I just started talking to the lady next to them. She was kind of stand-off-ish, but I wasn't too offended. I asked her if she had heard from Andrea and how long he was planning on staying . .. things like that. Finally, the lady turned to me and said that she knew who I was from when I worked at the fancy gym, but that she believe that I had no idea who she was. This turned out to be true. The father and sister did nothing to intervene or make things better --  the whole time.

I was a bit distracted,  thinking about the fact that this afternoon I had sent a link to the show The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce to my friend who has separated from her husband and who has a great sense of humor. I thought she might enjoy herself some Janeane Garofalo as much as I do. She wrote me back and asked her if i had really meant to send her the link. Of course I panicked. Maybe she didn't like it. Nope, that wasn't it. It turned out that I had inadvertantly sent her a link to a porno site by accident.

There were only two people taking tickets in the end. They were being really casual about the whole thing. After you bought your ticket they every so slowly gave you not one but two sheets of office paper, one red and one yellow. It turned out that you had to hold up the right color for the team of little people that you wanted to vote for. I would have voted for Andrea, but I never got the chance because his team didn't make it to the battle round. I refused to vote for the others because the other mothers and siblings around me were violently rooting for their kids and I didn't know how any close their mafia ties were or anything.

Andrea is 89, blurry, but 89

The music was really horrendous. They had these little sideways hat, varsity letter jacket, high-top wearing hip-hopsters lip syncing to lyrics like "lick my four letter word" and "another name for cat" and "rhymes with American itch" and other atrocities. I wanted to shake all of the parents and say, "Get a bilingual dictionary, people!"

There was almost a riot. At one of the most obscene lyrics, I turned my head away to grab it in shame and the 16 year-old girl behind me started snapping at me about how she couldn't see. I asked her (in Italian, so proud) what she wanted me to do about it - use my superpowers to become invisible? She said just turn back how you were before. I mouthed the words maleducata and something that may have also rhymed with itch and looked up to see Andrea and his teacher staring at me talking, apparently, to myself. I looked back at her and saw that she was sitting. Well, get up, why don't you? I asked her. She said she didn't want to block the people behind her, who nodded in her support. I swear to you that I had been standing there since the show began, people were standing on either side of me, and little children, mostly, were sitting down on the floor in front of me. I spent the rest of the three hours in the cigarette scented, drafty, teenage make-out castle feeling that I had inadvertantly alienated many people. Oddly enough when one of the mothers vacated and I moved out of the way, the super rude girl thanked me kindly. I'm so tired just thinking about it.

This was the viewing arrangement behind me. I still don't get what happened.  . .
The MCs were aggressive in their weird encouragment of red and yellow voting patterns.

At the end, I wasn't sure why Andrea never acknowledged my existence. I decided to jump on stage and say good-bye to him and make sure his part was done. He actually saw me then for the first time, as it turns out, and seemed pleased that I had kept my word. That was what this night was all about after all.  It sure wasn't about me ever getting to dance or have satisfying human contact of any kind. While I was congratulating him for his fierce dancing, his real mother showed up. Sadly, I met the whole family in the parking lot moments later as F got stuck behind the train crossing and I had to wait out there alone in the parking lot with no coat for forty minutes. They sheepishly admitted that they thought it was weird that I was talking about Andrea to a lady they didn't know earlier, but they didn't remember exactly what I looked like either. Never again. I mean it this time.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

We got this
F was super manly today. Not only did he bring home the mother of all Christmas trees, but he got 5'5" T on his shoulders to put the angel on the top. Thanks to Natasha for helping us out!

Na+T= Nutty

Friday, December 05, 2014

Holiday time hustle

To follow up with the justification note for T, which she took full advantage of to get out of being interrogated in Science, let me tell you that in the game of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire Italian style, I both had to poll the audience and phone a friend (Gabriella). Gabriella thought about my request and then took 15 minutes to text me the most beautifully worded excuse note that ever was. It was so eloquent that I made F take a picture of it with his phone so that we can use it from now on. 
Today I had a parent-teacher meeting with the math professor. She had aggressively shiny hair and sharp bangs. She wore a war mask of four inch thick make-up and she was un-wooable, that is, she did not let me woo her. Woo-woo! How you doing?? (I may or may not be watching The Wendy Williams Show on streaming.) She is from the south of Italy and she was not the least bit charmed or impressed by our family's being from New York. (gasp!) 
I took another stab at it and tried to appeal to her as a female. I told her how great I thought it was for my daughter to have a female role model in the math department; and she pointed out how in Italy, teaching is a female dominated field because the men get the higher paying math occupations. At least it has its positive side, I added weakly, while tracing the three colors of her eyeshadow with my desperate gaze.

I could feel my time was running out so I told her that all of us parents - at this point she looked at me skeptically because I guess it is pretty far fetched that I have conversations with any large group of discerning Italians, giustamente, suppongo -- felt that she was much better than last year's math teacher. 

Finally, her face cracked a smile, and I am not using cracked metaphorically here. So I left the room as quickly as I could and announced to the scary parents in the waiting area outside that I had been fourth in line and so now number five could be up at bat. They said they didn't know what number they were because the professor had the list of parents' names. I said nothing, because that, among other things, is not my problem.

This afternoon I had a lovely coffee with a woman who is following an aryurvedic diet plan. Out of curiousity I took the on-line test for aryuvedic body type when I got home. The recommendations included avoiding loud music and energetic dance performances which is too damn bad because I promised my middle school hip hop student that I would go to his break-dancing competition at the disco this Sunday night. Two words: blog worthy.
Today's lesson with him was kind of a wash. The last four times he has come to my house he has asked to use the bathroom where I suspect he hangs out for as long as he can before he feels guilty enough to come back to the table and the grammar exercises. He usually says that he is so tired that he feels dizzy and then fake stumbles and looks up at me to see if I noticed his fake stumble. I try to teach him one thing per lesson and then I let him watch youtube videos. Hey, they're in English, okay? Today I inadvertantly taught him about my boobs because I wore a blouse that was really too transparent. At least I wore a jacket in that refrigerator they call T's high school this morning. If my ass kissing didn't woo the math professor, I'm pretty sure my tits wouldn't have done the trick either. Sigh.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Here's an example of something that wouldn't happen to us if we were still living in New York:

T asked me to write her a giustificazione/excuse letter to get her out of being interrogated in science class tomorrow. She stayed up that other night studying until 2 AM and never made up her ever-increasing sleep deficit. This afternoon she crashed and woke up not even knowing what day it was. She just wants the letter as a back-up in case she doesn't get enough done before the night is through.

The problem is that neither of us is sure how to say "Please don't interrogate her" in Italian. I did what I do all day long when I need to learn a word - cioe' I GOOGLED it. What I came up with was a dozen articles explaining the treatment of Amanda Knox while she was in the Italian prison system and a couple of images from the television series Homeland.


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A sobering Question
Am I the only one who thinks that all state necklaces look like . . . well??? I mean obviously Florida more than the others, but still. (It's been a weird day.)

Guess I'm not the only one . . .

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Dinner table conversazione

(scene: last night at the dinner table)

T: "What just happened to mom?"

F: "She was possessed by her inner rapper."

T: "I feel like mom's inner rapper is the same as her outer rapper."