Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The All Important First Oreo

In every girl's life there are important firsts, but none as important as the first Oreo. Vivi came to us for her first real Halloween. She was dressed as an owl.

 She came marching in making her little hoo hoo noises.

Vivi let her mom and grandma know that they had arrived at her friend T's house by gesturing effusively.

We have her the pack of four Oreos wrapped in silver foil. She was thrilled. And that was when she had no idea what chocolatey goodness was inside the wrapper.

She generously let her mom play with it for a bit. And then tapped the floor letting us know that it was time for a little Halloween pow wow, if you will.

I'll start the meeting off by thanking you all for coming.
 Vivi was kind enough to help T on with her costume.

Ah, that's better.
 Finally it was time to unwrap the Oreos. The excitement level in the room was palpable.

Hmmm, what's this?
I get the distinct feeling it's edible.
How cute. . . It's got a creamy center.
I went through a lot to get a couple of teeth. Now I know why.

And this my friends is not the Italian sign language for "capisci," but the baby sign language sign for "more." They are identical signs, and they both get you another Oreo.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Less than Perfect Storm: Day 1 of the Italian Challenge

Okay, I'm writing to you in English. And I am hoping that none of our readers in the United States are knee deep in water or feeling the crisp sting of 85 mile an hour winds on their dear faces while I do it. But I am not actually speaking English for five days because I set myself a challenge and because T will not get the army jacket she so badly desires if I do. That is the deal.

After a night of six or seven night terrors, I drank double my normal amount of caffeine and limped to work with a pulled muscle in the arch of my foot. I taught a class, gave a massage, and started to give another version of the same class to my lone follower at three o'clock when a man entered. I thought he just wanted to share the room with us, but he had come for class. My class is really training for women and is very feminine so I had to change everything, and when I ran out of butch things to do, I concentrated on teaching them exercises for his tennis elbow and giving him a massage. The lady gave up her massage because she wanted to coerce him to coming back next time so they don't cancel our class. It was exhausting. Then T's math professor called me and said that our meeting with the principal, the same one I curtsied in front of in year one, which was only marginally better than peeing myself in terms of the accompanying embarrassment quotient, had been rescheduled for today.

It turned out that the principal fears that Italy is taking a page from America's book when it comes to suing your neighbor and wanted me to write a letter giving the professors permission to get information about diabetes from our doctor since otherwise due to privacy issues she would not have the ability to do so. She also wanted me to understand that the law says that the teachers don't have the legal responsibility to give T an injection of glucagon to revive her if she should become unconscious at school due to hypoglycemia. The math professor who is one of my favorites really is scared sh*tless of the syringe, but I got the feeling that if T was lying there long enough she would give her the injection, the way she would for her own child in that situation. She was very understanding about what a remarkable job T is doing in school and how diabetes might effect her concentration at times.

While I was waiting to go into the meeting with F, we got a call from T that her blood sugar was up to 280. The insulin was not coming out of the pump and the insulin we were using might not have been functioning properly, although the expiration date was still good. I sent F home to her and she then got up to 350. I called the hospital. (Don't worry for this next part . . . ) I came home to find my daughter was green with horrible bloody marks on her face, but that turned out to be her Halloween costume for the party tonight. A dead give away was the fact that her friend Giorgia was also green and scarred and scary looking. I sent them to the party with instructions to bring home a goody bag, but, sadly, not to indulge in sweets tonight. It's not even the real Halloween yet so that wasn't so horrible as it sounds. I then ate a huge hunk of bread with butter and pretended it was vodka. That is harder to do than it sounds. Especially, in Italian.
First Words

In addition to a really excellent homemade pizza and great company, our dinner with Meagan, Stephen, and Meagan's parents was extra special because Vivi decided to say her grandma's name for the first time. She also indulged us by practicing her acceptance speech at the Oscar's or possibly for the presidency. No wonder T and Vivi have such a fabulous bond. My friend Gabriella bumped into Stephen and Vivi the other day and she asked him what word Vivi kept saying. It was T's name.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Does not compute!
It's not that nothing happened this week; it's that I'm too sleep deprived to make sense of anything.

I have no idea what this is.
This is T's foot, leg, and polka dot purse. I found it in Iphoto.
1. I avoided going to the school elections because we have a sort of dud class and in the first year I was one of five mothers that showed up. They were so desperate for class representatives that they asked me, and I barely even spoke Italian back then. I said no. Then it turned out that you have no impact as a class representative and no way of contacting other parents except through a letter that is dictated to you by the professors about how bad the kids are. So I skipped last year and this year and was hoping that would be the end of it. Instead I got a call from T's math professor, who is the head of her section, asking me to come to school this week to talk to all of her teachers. During the transition period to the insulin pump T has been getting really low blood sugar values which is good because it means she needs less and less insulin, but it is bad because she has to stop what she is doing in class to call me.  Calling me is not the problem. The teachers know that she carries a kit with a syringe in it (called glucagan) in the unlikely event she would ever pass out from a low number. They called to tell me that they don't want that responsibility. Now I have to get a hold of the head doctor at the hospital in Florence to find out what the legal responsibilities are in Italy for teachers, if any. As it stands now they plan to call me and an ambulance and do nothing while she lays there unconscious. Good to know.

2. I have a class at the gym with just one person in it. They haven't taken it away from me yet, but it is really, super awkward and exhausting to re-teach a class I just taught to just one lady. It would help if I ever got a full night of sleep, but I don't. So I just wait around while the sweat freezes to my body and the remaining mosquitoes nip at me, eating a really gross nutrition bar that they sell there at the gym that tastes like a cross between plaster and carob. Remind me to buy the hot chocolate in the plastic espresso cups out of the machine instead, okay?

3. This woman who works at my gym and just had a baby asked me to personal train her. And since she had a famously stunning pre-baby figure and everyone knows her; it would be a huge coup to get her as a client. I have to find out about rates for co-workers and iron out the details since she prefers to workout at her home next to her baby. But if she gets the results that I expect her to, it would be better than making a commercial that airs every fifteen seconds on the RAI network.

4. T plans on being a dead flapper for Halloween. Her friend Natasha is going to be a dead Marilyn Monroe. To be precise, T says she will be the ghost of a dead flapper who killed Marilyn Monroe. They made a skit up about it in which Natasha does an eerie impression of Marilyn singing Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

5. Our election ballot thingy never came to us in the mail, and we don't know what to do about it.
Obama, if you can hear us, we are voting for you.
6. My dear, scientific friend Alessandro the interior designer has had an epiphany about life and the mind-body connection and keeps referring bioenergy clients to me. He seems to have a limitless number of friends with thyroid issues. They are all sweet and out there.

7. I am so stressed out that I started getting acne cysts not only on my face, but on my neck. It is very Halloween like, but not in a good way.

8. I may have found a house cleaning job for that woman Mary who came to the bread baking lesson, but I hope she got the cash together to get her phone charged because now I worry she won't pick up.

9. It turns out that I can speak Italian at home like my expat friends with Italian husbands, but it is going to cost me an army jacket for T. She gets the jacket only if she supports me in not saying a word of English for five days beginning on Monday. Desperate times, desperate measures.

10. Comix starts on Thursday and all of the piazzas are already filled up with big white tents in preparation for the thousands of manga costumed masses who are going to bring their multicolored wigs, fake blood, and almost nude selves to town for the event. T's school is closed from then until Monday, but I still have to get to work.

11. Our supply of test strips that T needs to use to test her blood sugar ran out and nobody wanted to give us any more of them so I had to borrow them from my friend who works at a hospital. Our supply of everything for the insulin pump did not show up in our pharmacy's computer which means we have nothing ready for the coming month and we have to go back to the hospital pharmacy to find out why. This put the DREAD in dreadful.

12. The other day Viv, the little girl T babysits, woke up and asked for T whose name is one of the four words she can say other than mamma, da da, bye, and now ciao, which T taught her. Technically she says bye-ciao, but she's still a bilingual genius. Her daddy Stephen followed a bunch of girls T's age with backpacks around, risking feeling extremely stalker-like, so that Vivi could see T at the gate before the school day started. Cuter than that does not exist.
This was weeks ago when it was warmer so please don't call the Italian scarf police on me. She's fine.

I apologize for the tacky list formula for today's blog post. You would totally forgive me if you were here today which is Sunday. It is pouring freezing rain outside, but that has not stopped the Lucca marathon from hooking up the loud speaker so that it blares at us. It is headache provoking and also alarming because although they are allegedly speaking in Italian, I have yet to understand one word. Is it bad to have a cocktail at 9:56 AM?

p.s. I guess F is exhausted, too. Last night Natasha was sleeping over. She and T had switched sides of the bed and F accidentally pricked Natasha's finger instead. Luckily she and T started laughing hysterically. F is mortified. Sorry Melissa, we promise not to prick your child in the future.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The bread lesson/La lezione di pane

There were about 17 people here for the bread lesson. F decided he was going to finally speak to people at one of our parties. And not only did he speak, but he spoke in Italian. Hurrah! He mostly made himself understood and it was very cute. Everyone went home with the two page sheet of instructions which came out great after I asked a bunch of questions on the phone to my friend Patrizia and after our friend Carlo came by with an emergency pencil in hand to create something that could be understood by all.

That is me fleeing the room.
If the bread could have spoken, it would have pushed people to drink more wine.

We had examples of the six phases of bread-making from when you create the sourdough starter from fresh grapes to when you are ready to take it out of the oven. There were note cards on the table to highlight the phases. I hear some people do absolutely nothing on Sundays, but if you do that for too long in Lucca you can lose touch with all of your friends. I invited too many people who did not know each other so the beginning of the lesson was pretty awkward. It was made even more awkward because the weather was springlike and everyone preferred to drink water instead of wine. I insisted that we make a toast just as soon as the academic part of the afternoon was over so that people would start chatting a little more freely. I personally had several dixie cups as soon as the cork popped.

It took off in soap opera like proportions when my friend Serena, that sly girl, didn't mention to me that her birthday had just past until last night at the end of our phone call. T helped me run breathlessly around the antique fair to find a cool purse to give her. It was handmade and so one of a kind with black wires all interconnected in geometric shapes giving it modern, avant garde pizazz. We also surprised her with a cake -- chocolate, her favorite.

My friend Federica brought her friend Mary from Nigeria. It is adorable that they are friends since they communicate mostly through their hearts. Mary speaks some English, but very little Italian and Fede speaks very little English. Mary is here legally, in that she married an Italian, and is searching for work, and they were asking me if I could help out because she can't pay her rent. I put an announcement for her on the meet up group internet page. And tried to frantically translate some of the bread making instructions into English for her before she had to leave in a hurry to catch a train back to Prato.

My friend Adonella's friend Cristina who runs the Tricot store in Lucca had to come late and so we had an after-party. I was glad that I had just managed to clear the table and make the place look decent again when the doorbell rang.

 F and I finally got to sit down about seven hours later. T was off hiding/babysitting/eating pizza with her preferred parents Stephen and Meagan while all of this chaos ensued.

We know what you are thinking: Haven't you people ever heard of watching cartoons in your underwear and drinking beers on Sunday? Answer: Um, no.

(The number of times I wrote the word "friend": 7. It's like I'm worried you all think I have an explosion of cousins. Seriously, if there are named people who don't start with the initials T,F, or K, let's just assume for future reference that they are friends or really awesome enemies.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dinner with the in-laws

It is almost impossible to describe how lucky we feel to have met Meagan, Stephen, and Vivi. 
Even though they are only here in Italy for a few more weeks and we haven't known them for long, they have made a real impact on all of us. Not only has T become a really accomplished and responsible babysitter, but we have all found a family who has real style, a sense of adventure, and great senses of humor. We like them so much we made a dinner for Meagan's in-laws even though they are the kind of Republicans who want to talk about it.

F hid behind his pots while I drew off of a really ancient episode of West Wing from some time capsule in my brain where an intelligent Republican press aide made some arguments that got the attention of the chief staff writer for the Democratic president. I used this to find a common ground with Meagan's father in-law, but when he started espousing trickle-down theory, I had to draw the line.  I asked to whom the wealth during any Republican Presidency had ever in history trickled down and he went silent for a long moment. That was nice. It was a lovely dinner full of across-the-aisle warmth, joking, and camaraderie. You can tell by these charming photos:

The next night after her in-laws had departed, Meagan came over to hit the wine with us and watch the second part of the finale of Project Runway and stay up all night chatting with me. When I woke up my throat was dry and I remembered that I had, in a flurry of exuberance, invited twenty people over for a bread baking lesson with F. The house is not ready, my complexion is a disaster and I have to translate six phases of bread baking instructions into Italian before lunchtime.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Non ho capito un'acca/un tubo/un accidente/ un ficco secco
The theme of this week is: things I don't understand. For one, who replaced my husband with a Korean teenage boy? All we hear is Korean pop music in this house; it is maddening, I tell you.

Here are a series of photos of T and Vivi doing crazy sh*t with a bowl. I have no idea what possessed them (but it looks like fun!)

Apparently, while I was at work, there was also a daisy chain of girls in my kitchen braiding each other's hair.

Last night I went to a kind of Italian Tupperware party at Laura's house, but instead of Tupperware it was for Just herbal creams from Switzerland that her zia Giuliana sells on the side. I got a cream made from thyme, pine, rosemary and eucalyptus. I don't know why. I also forgot to take any photos of the party and everyone was mad that I snapped these shots at midnight as we staggered out to our cars. My friend Patrizia gave me a ride. She drives like Mrs. Magoo and gets mad when I make sound effects of alarm or dismay. She is loyal as can be and I am glad that I get to be her wingman when we get where we are going in one piece.

All the girls said Adonella was really cool and in gamba. I want to be her when I grow up.

Sabrina likes me mostly because of F's gorgonzola bread, but I am fine with that.
Serena is my best.
These are the photos that T had to choose from for her self portrait to be used in art class. She hates all of them. I don't know why.

When F took her back to the hospital on Friday the doctors were full of compliments for our well kept diario and food journals and because T manages to put the needle in her stomach all by herself. I guess it was worth crying in front of everyone to eek out this enthusiastic burst of compassion. The doctor reset her insulin pump in a way that it is more personalized for her and told us that she can get her permanent one on November 12 along with the sensor that will sound an alarm if she goes too high or low in the night. Last night she went too high at three in the morning so I had to call the hospital to reset the levels again. I don't know why. She got a graffiti covered "skin" for the pump that will make it look like a doctor's pager that Nicki Minaj would use if she ever makes a guest appearance on Grey's Anatomy.