We travel a lot. A lot. Baby Boy just turned two and has already taken eight flights, most of which were international. Many people never take that many flights in their lifetime. While it’s wonderful that he is being exposed to Italy and the United States, he also gets shuffled around a lot. As soon as he was getting used to his family in the States, we brought him to Ischia to meet all new relatives. And it’s hard for him to have a routine (and for mommy to give him one, which makes for a lot of guilt); I’ve already mentioned the fact that he was born with jet lag. His Mickey Mouse doll, as I’ve mentioned before, is his one constant companion. Truly, he’s Baby Boy’s security blanket, playmate, toy, and best friend all rolled into one.
This morning, while eating yogurt, Baby Boy noticed Mickey swooshing around the washing machine, and it was the end of the world. Baby Boy yelped in despair, jumped off his chair, and began trying to open the washing machine door. When he couldn’t do it himself, he grabbed my hand (as you can see in the photo) to encourage me to open it. I explained that Mickey needed a bath to no avail. I finally had to take him to another room and distract him. He eventually calmed down and began playing with his toy cars. I also had to secretly put a soaking wet Mickey on the line to dry. If he had seen him, he never would have let me do it. I hope the mouse is nice and dry whenever Baby Boy decides it’s time to sleep. Otherwise, we will have had two crises by day’s end.
My son must have understood from day one that he would be living in two countries in dramatically different time zones. I think he was born with jet lag. He screamed and yelled at us for hours on the very first night of his arrival to the world. The nurses had him in the nursery for only a few minutes doing those required tests and when they returned him they mentioned how his wailing was getting on the nerves of the other babies. I was in love, so I didn’t care until a couple days later when I was drunk with sleep and unable to go on. It was the beginning of the end for sleep in my life.
I’ve been told by veteran moms that when your children are little you don’t sleep with the feedings and the nightmares and restlessness, then when they’re older it’s the worry about what they’re doing, who they’re with, and their future that keeps you up. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that sleep is now a luxury that I might not get to have again for about 50 or 60 years. Remember when losing a night’s sleep was the result of a party or talking to your beloved until the wee hours? What happened to those days?
Still, I could do the “sleep while baby is sleeping” plan alpha moms are always talking about. But Baby Boy’s never really caught onto the idea of a routine. Really, he has never caught onto the concept of sleeping in general. For the last few weeks, he has refused to take an afternoon nap, which is fine, except that he then falls asleep sometime between 5 and 8 p.m. I try to help him fight the sleep. Shouting, getting him undressed, jumping around like a frog on speed. I try not to give him milk at this bewitching hour because that milk coma does nothing but destroy all the work I’ve put into keeping him awake. When he’s dozing off, he looks like a drunk going into a blackout. He is a milkaholic, I’ll admit it. His eyes flutter, he slides off the pillow where he appeared to just be resting his head, and he clutches Mickey Mouse. A couple hours later he wakes up as if it’s daytime all over again. I work until midnight (because I keep American hours), so it’s fine until then. At midnight, when my husband and I want to go to sleep, Baby Boy is throwing his toy cars around and yanking our arms to join him. He’s laughing so hard that he starts to cry. He’s running from one room to another. He has defeated us. We know not what to do – anything except sleep.
My only hope is that Baby Boy’s simply keeping American hours himself. After all, when he stays up until 3 a.m. in Italy, it’s actually 9 p.m. in the States, which is around when he used to go to bed (notice I didn’t write sleep but rather bed). How ever will I rationalize his night-owl behavior when we’re back in America? Ahhh, I still have a few months to come up with something. Hey, at least I’ll have something to ponder in the middle of the night when my son is sticking his finger in my ear to wake me up and play.
I’ve been promising to share some photos and information about hosting a pizza-themed birthday party for my son’s second birthday, which we celebrated in Ischia, an island that is a province of Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza. Today, I revealed the whole story of how I pulled this off – from making that chef’s hat I’m wearing in the photo above to the fruit pizzas for dessert – in an entry for ItaliansRus. And I also posted the pics of the affair (including images of all the details) on this here site. See the “Pizza-Themed Birthday Party” photo album. All I can say is that I’m sad the party is over because it was so much fun for me to plan and execute. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to top this event. My apologies to the Italian-American family members, who weren’t able to enjoy it with us. I promise to try and come up with something to celebrate when we return to the States. With Italians, it’s never hard to find an excuse for a party. Am I right or am I right?
Recently, Baby Boy dressed like a pizza chef for his pizza-themed birthday party in Ischia, Italy. (More to come on that in a future blog post.) The only thing he’s missing is the mustache, which I had placed on straws, as part of photo booth props, and as chocolate lollipops, but he would not oblige. Nonetheless, he was adorable, and it got me thinking about other Italian-centric Halloween costumes. Take the poll to the right on this page and let us know which Italian-themed Halloween costume most appeals to you.
While wandering around Ischia Porto this morning (yet again), we saw an adult with children on a motorino, which is a motor scooter. The adult was wearing a helmet and the children were not. My husband and I discussed it. He said he wouldn’t take kids on a motorino without helmets. I said I would NOT let my kids ride on a motorino. Period. We don’t agree and sometime in the future we’ll be confronted with this by our son. I’m certain of it. He’ll be traveling back and forth between Italy and the United States for the rest of his life because he will be close to both families. As a result, he might one day want to drive a motorino around the island himself. I say we should prohibit it. We should prohibit it big time. I’ve seen one too many brutal accidents here on the island both with natives and tourists, who enjoy renting one of these bad boys. And I just find them completely unsafe, especially when novices jump on one.
Yet, I let my husband convince me to ride behind him – with a helmet, of course – during the years when we were dating and first married. I was hesitant, but even my mother-in-law prodded me to give it a chance because we don’t have a car here, and we had no other way to get around except for the rather inconvenient buses on Ischia. So, I agreed. We scooted all over the island – to other beaches, our friend’s homes on the other side of Ischia, fancy dinners (a nightmare on your hair-do), and thermal spas. I haven’t been on the back of his motorino since I got pregnant. Of course, it’s dangerous for a pregnant woman to be on the motorino, and I wasn’t even here at all during the pregnancy. Now that I’m a mom, I’m even more hesitant than before to get on the back of his scooter, even though hubby is a great driver and is always safe. But I digress.
Despite the fact that I rode on the motorino (against the will of my own parents, whose opinion didn’t count much because of my status as a full-fledged adult), I don’t want my son to ride on one. Ever. It’s just one of a slew of things that fall into the category of “Do As I Say, Not As I Do.” And it will be one of a slew of things about which my husband and I will disagree and will have to compromise. I got exhausted before the day even started just thinking about these future negotiations between husband/father, wife/mother, and son. Probably, I have about 15 years to prepare my case. I better get started now.
You know things have gone terribly wrong when your kid would rather use his potty as a racetrack than to actually go potty. We’re going to be putting the potty on the back burner for a while. Baby Boy still gets stiff like a board when you try to put him on the seat and clutches me as though he is a monkey, replete with claws digging into mamma. He also runs like lightning whenever anyone flushes. I think he’s afraid he’ll get sucked down there, too. I guess he’s been watching Finding Nemo too often. And clearly he’s been watching Cars too much because the potty became the Piston Cup course last night. Ka-chow!
Around Christmas time, many of you find that little elf from the shelf in various parts of your home, including the kitchen sink, the sofa, and even the toilet. Well, Mickey Mouse has been playing similar tricks on us in the middle of August. The story goes back to January while we were vacationing in Florida. My then one-year-old son tried to steal this doll at the entrance of Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios. I made him put Mickey back on the shelf. But his aunt caught wind of his wish to take Mickey home, so she bought him one. Ever since then, Mickey and Baby Boy have been inseparable. Now that we’re in Italy, he brings Mickey to bed with him, in the garden and down the slide with him, and he has even fed Mickey yogurt for breakfast. Mickey seems to be another member of the family. Much to mommy’s surprise, the mouse shows up just about everywhere. The other day, he was taking Baby Boy’s bike for a ride (see photo above). And Mickey even took a nap all by himself (see photo below). If only he could teach Baby Boy to do the same! What’s nice is that Mickey is a constant comfort to Baby Boy even as we travel. We keep uprooting the poor little guy (from New Jersey to Florida to Ischia), but Mickey Mouse can go wherever he goes. For now, he’s his best friend. Since Mickey has become our travel companion, I decided that every once in a while in this here blog, I will share photos of his journey. Where do you think Mickey will show up next?
One of the best aspects of living abroad for a bit is getting to go to a foreign supermarket on a regular basis. True, I’ve been coming to the ones here in Ischia since I was 2 years old, but they remain foreign and never cease to amaze. Besides always seeming to find treasures, such as the green apple juice above, which tastes like sour apple candy, it is also always an experience for the senses and the memory bank. For starters, these supermarkets are not super at all; they could be closets in the giant American ones I frequent back in New Jersey. This is an island, so the stores are pretty tiny. It’s hard to even get Baby Boy’s super-sized American stroller inside a few of them, including the one closest to our house.
On our last trip over the weekend, we went to a supermarket that was completely new to Baby Boy and me. It is considered to be the biggest one in Ischia with two floors separated by elevators. Consider it the penthouse of supermarkets on this here island. Upstairs you’ll find paper and party goods, cleaning supplies, and beauty supplies. Downstairs is all about the food. With more room to breathe, I thought for sure Baby Boy would behave. I think it just made him feel a little too comfortable, like he was back in the States. He began by taking off his shoes and throwing them into various aisles from the seat of the carriage. I picked them up and put them in my bag. I thought that would resolve the problem. Nope.
Instead, he insisted I carry him. Next, he wanted to be put firmly on the ground wearing nothing on his feet but socks. Since he’s heavy as a 30-lb. bag of flour, I obliged just for a minute. He spread his arms out like an eagle and ran down the aisle trying to knock over whatever was in reach. He managed to pummel and stumble over a couple of potties and some baby food before I snapped him up. Figures, he goes right for his own stuff. I thought it was Wal-Mart-like of the Ischitano supermarket to have goods like a potty right next to the food. There were also pots, pans, brooms, and shovels. I found it to be a baker’s paradise with all sorts of neat gadgets – tube pans, tart pans, little metal cupcake pans (which Italians wouldn’t use for cupcakes, but I would) and tons of ingredients for baked goods, including chocolate chips specifically for cookies and muffins (which I haven’t seen anywhere else). Then, there’s shaved chocolate, rainbow sprinkles, decorative marzipan and fondant, and slew of other sweet delights. I picked up some cupcake liners (which are extra small because Italians don’t use them for cupcakes) that look like the skin of a giraffe. Very cool.
When we were finally in line, my husband and I were rushing to pay the cashier and pack up all the stuff in the flimsy biodegradable bags; I know, they’re good for the environment but they barely make it home without a rip. Baby Boy had other ideas. He snatched a giant umbrella that was for sale and with his Hulk-like strength started waving it above his head. I took it away from him and put him back in the carriage for a moment. I turned around, and he began trying to climb out. He had one leg dangling over the side of the cart when my cousin, who happened to be in line behind us, alerted me to the situation. I had to hold him in one arm and pack bags with the other. The lesson: If you’re taking Baby Boy to the grocery store, make sure a relative is always the one behind you in line. Since this is the small island of Ischia, home to pretty much all my ancestors from the beginning of time, that shouldn’t be a problem. Oh, and don’t forget the green apple juice.
Now that school is out in Ischia, Italy, kids are at the pinete (pine tree forests) if they’re not at the beach. The towering pine trees are surrounded by all sorts of plants, including wild sage and flowering bushes. There are pathways for those who want to walk and take in the scenery. Of course, some of the paths lead you up mountains that can be difficult to navigate with a stroller or a bum leg. Don’t expect any sort of warning about this. You should know by now that when in Ischia, you are walking at your own risk (writes the girl who has come back from three knee surgeries, a result of an injury she picked up on the island in 2004). No warning signs about the difficulty level of the paths means there are also no signs for the entrance and exit. My friends and I recently got lost in the pineta while searching for a way out.
It turned out to be a fun adventure because Baby Boy was napping in his stroller and their daughter was sitting nicely in hers. We carried the strollers up these stairs made of dirt and grass with wooden frames, and we saw a giant dog (looked more like a horse) try to eat a giant rock. We also caught a couple making out by the children’s swings. They were not at all fazed by our presence, and the guy had no problem rounding second as we were walking by with mouths agape. This is what happens when everyone lives at home with their parents well into their 30s and even 40s. Even the playground seems like an okay place to get some action.
I guess you could argue that Ischia is doing visitors a favor; if there were indicators about where to go, you would miss out on exploration. A trip to the pineta does not have to be so exhausting, however. There are also sitting areas with benches or chairs. As mentioned above, some of the pine tree forests have playgrounds, replete with a slide for the little ones. One near our home has a man-made pond full of croaking frogs, who even let you touch them.
Since the forest is an enchanting place for kids, you will also hear the sounds of childhood – giggles, shouts of joy, and the pitter-patter of little feet. On any given afternoon, you are likely to find a group of children gathered to play a pick-up game of soccer or just chase each other around the trees. Sometimes, the natives hold childrens’ dance and music recitals on a makeshift stage in one of the pinete. Even if you are just sitting by yourself amid the lushness, you will be delighted. One look at these pine tree forests and a visitor understands just how Ischia came to be known as L’Isola Verde or the Green Island.
Right about now, you are either disappointed or relieved because the headline had you thinking this was a whole other kind of blog post. C’mon people, you know who I am. This is about an actual babe, my almost two-year-old boy, of course. I mentioned to you that I love taking photos of the beach. Now that we’re living literally steps from the beach, I am constantly snapping pics.
What I love nearly as much as pictures of the beach are pictures of my son on the beach. But getting a normal toddler to stay still is impossible, let alone Baby Boy, who has outpaced the Energizer Bunny on occasion. At first, I was blue because I had no pictures – or at least no good pictures of Baby Boy on the beach. Then, I had a stroke of genius. Ok, maybe it was just a stroke of common sense.
Instead of trying to pose him or waiting for the moment he stood still (read: fell asleep) to photograph him, I started to just follow Baby Boy’s every move with the camera. The more pictures I snapped, the more likely I’d get something worth framing (or at least worth using to decorate my Desktop or cell phone screen). When my American friends, their nearly two-year-old daughter, my son, and I headed to the beach on Memorial Day, we were armed with a camera – and we all snapped, snapped, snapped as many photos as we could of the kids.
When the two babes toddled over to the spogliatoi (locker rooms), we were swelling with joy. The graphic element of the locker rooms contrasted by their sweet faces, while they were exploring this new terrain, was pure perfection. Once you turn the photos black and white, they look like something out of 1950s’ Italy, which is special for me since that was the era my father was still living in Ischia. It also happens to be the moment in history when Ischia stopped being reliant on an agricultural economy and started focusing on tourism. Regardless of what history the black and white images spark for me, they are worthy of a frame and look good in color to boot (see below). In fact, this second picture would be great blown up as a poster for our home in Ischia. Not surprisingly, you can expect more beach photos on this blog throughout the rest of the year.