Sunday, February 26, 2012

Snapshot From a Sunday

I have been eagerly looking forward to participating in Snapshots from a Sunday that is hosted at Clan Donaldson.    Check it out.  It is really lovely idea.  

I was musing about all the cool things I could write about being in Italy and all that jazz that people find so unique, exotic and impressive...but when we actually were awake at my assigned time slot of 3:00-4:00 AM, Jack snapped this wonderful (bonus of being married to a photographer) photo of Abigail and me.  

I chose this picture over the photographs we took later of us getting coffee and walking in our neighborhood.  I think that while the subject may not be unique, exotic or impressive, Abigail and I awake in the middle of the night honestly reflects the rhythm of our lives here.  

Yes, we may be in Italy.  Yes, we may be able step out of our door and get amazing gelato and espresso.  But we are new parents raising a baby across an ocean from our families.  That is what colors our life now.  Having a baby changes one's perspective.  Things that seemed to be necessary and important before are instantly banished to the bottom of the totem pole.  To me, being able to step out of my door and be in Europe was very important.  Postpartum, being able to step out of my door and drive to my mom's house is my fervent dream.  

So, this is us.  An American military family awake at 3:22 AM.  Stationed overseas.  Home, yet away from Home.

My new plants

Rosemary, funny miniature tree thing, spider plant.  

We bought the rosemary and the tree thingy today.  

The spider plant was acquired...

The lovely nonnas in our apartment building have beautiful hanging jungles draped over their balcony railings.  Huge pots filled with palms, geraniums, spider plants and hens and chicks balance precariously over the railings. The trailing fronds tickling the windows a story below.

Rosario's plants are the most beautiful.  She has the most wonderful sing-songy voice. She talks to her grandson, possibly the most beautiful little boy in the world, and her voice wafts into my kitchen window.  Whenever we go out and she is pegging out her wash, she leans over her plants and asks me, " come sta, Anna?"

She makes me turn around so she can see Abigail.  She claps her hands and laughs gleefully when Abigail sees her and smiles

On Tuesday we had a roaring, raging storm.  Here in Lucrino, next to the water, we get major winds--winds that blow windows open, and rattle the Persian blinds so hard that they set the security alarm off.

One of Rosario's pots blew off the balcony and met its fate in a heap of soil on the drive below.  I had to get out of the car on the way into the garage to haul the thing out of the way of the car.  I got into the car and leapt out on a whim before Jack started off again.  I went and pinched a few baby plants to plant.  

I doubt Rosario will mind.  

The pot is still sitting where I left it almost a week later.  I wonder if she is going to reclaim it.  Maybe I need to start my own hanging forest?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Too much information...?

I came across this review on Amazon while looking for enamel paints for a DIY project.  Feel free to read it in its entirety for the full effect, or your could skip to the highlighted sections.

"I have used Testor's enamel paints, for the past ten years, for painting inscriptions and for painting miniatures. I do my paintings on compact discs and on cassette tapes. For these efforts, I use the smallest brush available from the local art store.

Here are some inscriptions that I painted directly on my compact disc:

1. Mozart K513, 2. Schubert Schwager Kronos, 3. Au Privave Sonny Stitt, 4. Ronnettes Be My Baby, 5. Temptations My Girl, 6. Laika and the Cosmonauts.

One might wonder why I put such a hodge-podge of recordings on one disc. The answer is that these are digital recordings of my parakeet chirping to these particular compositions. In other words, after three months of experimentation, I discovered that my parakeet responds most vigorously to these particular compositions. Now regarding the Testor's enamel paints, I painted all of these inscriptions using cursive writing.

For each word, I used multiple layers of paint, for example, a blue undercoat of writing, with a narrower violet top coat of writing. (Of course, you need to wait a couple of days before playing the compact disc in the player, otherwise you will risk ruining the player.)

On my compact discs, as well as on my Maxell UDXLII cassettes, I also frequently paint paisley designs with the Testor's enamel paints. My paisley designs involve multiple layers, often four overlapping layers of enamel paint. I like to build up the layers so they have a 3-dimensional effect to the touch. On one particular composition of bluegrass music, I painted a fiddle. The fiddle was made of multiple layers. With the Testor's enamel paint, it is easy to mix together the colors to get exactly the desired tints and hues. The colors also can be easily used to paint a graded effect, as in the wooden parts of the bluegrass fiddle. Most of my recordings contain music by Brahms, Schumann, Jennifer Higdon, Aaron Kernis, Bartok, and Prokofiev (not parakeet chirps!). One word of caution -- once you open a jar of Testor's enamel paint, and use the jar on three or four occasions, the remaining paint in the jar will harden on its own within a couple of months."

Is it me or is it strangely humorous and endearing, if not a bit sad?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Compulsion or Highly Developed Sense of Aesthetic?

My Tita's Cabinet.  
 I tease my aunt and my mother that I can determine their stress level by looking into their kitchen cabinets. If mother and aunt are feeling particularly stressed, their Fiestaware will be arranged in some specific manner.  They mostly lean toward color blocking or separating into warm and cool colors.  The effect?  Beautiful.  Pleasing.  Soothing.

I consciously coordinate the color of Abigail's baby spoon with whatever food she is sampling.  Sweet peas, purple spoon.  Sweet potato, turquoise spoon.  The effect when feeding baby? Beautiful...maybe that's a stretch. Pleasing--yes. Soothing. Definitely.

My question:  Is this a compulsion or just a highly developed sense of aesthetic?  I know what I think. What things do you do that could fall under this category?  Is it compulsion or just a highly developed sense of aesthetic?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Nu? Comments?

I am not sure if I am able to get comments... could you, dear readers, kindly leave some so that I can see if it working?  My technologically challenged self would greatly appreciate it.


1.  Began at 2:30ish when Abigail woke to practice her latest and greatest moves.  The latest and greatest being babbling, crawling and pulling herself up in her crib.

2.  Jack and I went to Base for Abigail's doctors appointment.   (I have left out the marital squabble that ensued surrounding logistics and execution of said maneuver.)

3.  Realized I was to spend afternoon on Base with Abigail.  I forgot the stroller.

4.  Spent morning at Naval Hospital getting Abi her shots and 6 month check up.  Found out that we still haven't applied for her SS#.  Found out that the Italian nationals working in the passport/documentation office once again lapsed in communicating the details of doing all the stuff that one has to do when one has a baby.  There are about three trillion babies born in Naples every year on Base, you'd think someone would come up with a nice organized checklist to give to parents.

5.  Paid our outstanding bill from Abigail's birth.  $2.30 for a breakfast we had sent up for Jack before the nurses told us they'd just order extra for him.

6.  Thanked the US Government for their awesome healthcare that allowed us to have only had to pay $2.30 for Abigail's birth.

7.  Was tired of wrangling squirming baby.  Bought an umbrella stroller.

8.  Drove to Capo without having panic attack!!!!!

9. Dinner.  Fettucini Alfredo---Light from Rachel Ray.  Yum.

10.  Chased down and stuffed baby into her pjs.

11.  Posting.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Things that make my heart smile.

Turkey meatloaf, mashed potatoes, peas and carrots.  
So, All-American, 1950's housewife, I had to post it. 

Jack's long-sleeved t-shirt drawer.  
Doesn't it give you a sense of blissful-inner calm?

Mission Baby Sleep: Night Four

We all have colds.  I am at the tail end of mine.  Jack just got walloped with it at work and Abigail is fighting the gentler-breastfed version.  She has a little hoarse voice and a bit of a cough.

Last night was kind of rough at around 12-2:30am, but baby got to sleep at 2:30 and slept straight through til 5:30am.  Awesome.

I had planned on going out for a walk today, but bundling up against the chill and setting out just was too much.  I guess I am not feeling as good as I thought I was.  Feeling kinda brain dead today.  I guess it is apparent.

Good News:  My mother is coming to visit in ONE MONTH.  We can begin countdown.  The goal is to have Abigail's sleep routine down enough that Jack and I can go out for dinner, alone.  Bliss.  My goodness.  What will we do with ourselves?

We are also trying to plan a vacation for next summer when my mother-in-law comes to visit.

My dream is to rent a narrow boat and travel the rivers of some cooler clime.  Germany, Ireland, (not England because of the Olympics).  There is also talk of Scandinavia or Croatia.  Hmmm.  That is the one good thing about living in Europe.  These are all doable possibilities.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, dear reader.  Leave them in the comment section.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Night Two

Last night wasn't as bad as I expected it to be.

Jacks shifts were easier.  It was REALLY hard when it was my turn, but it wasn't as torturous for Abigail as I expected it to be.  I mean, she cried a lot.  But she was being cuddled and loved.  Just not nursed.

She woke up at 3:18 AM, which is usual for her.  This is her "playtime" when she likes to practice all her new tricks.  Last night she wasn't able to practice.  She wasn't happy.

She wasn't happy until 5:00am.  I lost count at how many time I soothed her to dozing and then tried to lay her down.   At 5:00,  threw in the towel and brought her to bed.  It was time for her to nurse anyway.

I hope we didn't ruin everything.

But good news.  I actually had a dream last night.  Usually I don't actually get enough sleep to dream.  Last night I did.  I think that is a good thing.

Tonight our routine got a bit screwed up because she didn't nap well and ended up falling asleep at 5:00pm.  I woke her up at 5:30, but she really wasn't ready to go down.  She did fall asleep at 7:15.

It is 8:30 and she is still asleep.

We'll see.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Blogging for my Sanity

Beware.  This might be a doosey.  We are currently thirty-nine minutes into the first night of our GENTLE- LOVING SLEEP TEACHING with Abigail.  That is what I am calling it for me.

Judging from the wails that are coming from the other room, I am not sure she would agree with the title.  Basically, we are trying to get her to go down in her crib and stay there.  She is learning to sleep in her crib.

I don't know if I am strong enough for this.  I feel like a cruel, hard-hearted mother.

I can hear her settle, fall asleep and then she starts wailing.  I am sure it is when Jack puts her down in the crib.  But seriously.  She cannot be held ALL the time when she sleeps.  I mean-- it is not even the nursing down. It is her being able to sleep without being held.

When I was nursing her, before handing her off to Jack, tonight I was crying.  I am sad to think that this is the end of me being able to nurse her to sleep.  But it isn't, not really.  She needs to be able to sleep in her crib.  She is awake and crawling around our bed in the middle of the night.  It is not safe.  And she cannot spend every minute that she is asleep with me.  It is impossible.

7:46.  Crying again.

We split the evening up.  Jack is on until midnight and then I am on til 6am when she wakes up and presumably, I get to go to sleep for a little.

Not the best night to start, either.  I had a migraine today.  Which means I spent the day trying to keep Abigail happy while suffering though bouts of puking.  Lovely.

Ok.  Maybe knitting will calm me.  Etsy?  Alcohol? Valium?  Anything.

I guess I'll clean the kitchen.

Test Video: Black Bear in our Backyard

A couple of years ago, a dry summer tempted many bears to come down from the mountain into town.  This young male bear visited us often.  He pulled down Pat Pat (my step dad's) squirrel come hawk/owl feeder.

Yes.  Squirrel feeder.  Funny story that.  It started as a bird feeder.  But then the squirrels found it.  Pat Pat has a inexplicable fondness for rodents, so he built them a feeding platform.  He liked to watch them eat during his morning soak in the hot tub.  The squirrels got fat.

We have a family of Bard owls that live in a tree about fifty yards from the bird/squirrel feeder.  They realized that Pat Pat was serving them as close to a free lunch as any bird of prey is gonna get.  The squirrels were fat from having their meals served up on a platter.  The owls and hawks were pleased because they also were being served a meal on a platter, too.  And that platter was about twelve feet up in the air.  Perfect.  

Pat Pat got upset when he started seeing small stains of blood on his bird/squirrel/owl feeder.  He built a mesh dome above it.  Much to our chagrin (my mother and I) it seemed to work.

Then the bears came down from the mountain.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


It had been a rough night. Mama Georges was being punished for indulging in that yummy penne al carpaccio ( penne pasta with scampi and a rosy sauce). Why must nursing moms be punished twice for lapsing on dietary restrictions? I suffered. Then I suffered while Abigail suffered. I feel guilty. Times two.

Sent from my iPad

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Sleepy on Hudson is the sleep consultancy that we called on Saturday in desperation.  We heard about Brooke through Victoria Gearity, our WONDERFUL Birthing From Within mentor, find Victoria here.

We have been having a really hard time sleeping.  Abigail refuses to be put down any other way than lying next to me and nursing.  She is up at least every hour from 7:00pm to 7:00am.  We try to put her in her crib at night, but she only stays for about an hour. She knows where she wants to be--in bed with me.

It is SO hard.  I am so torn.  I want to give her what she wants; to be cuddled and nursed all night.

BUT:  I am awake all night because she is either pulling at me, kicking me away or doing both simultaneously.  Not to mention that three of us in bed is a tight, tight squeeze.  When she does sleep I wake up because one of my arms has fallen asleep.  Not cool.

The past month (this new not-sleeping thing started when we got back from NY) has turned me into a brooding, cranky, forgetful, short-tempered, snippish, snappish, shrewish, weepy mess.  I am so tired I don't even know that I am tired.  I have no energy for anything.  I just want to sit on the couch and stare at the wall. When I try to sleep with Abigail during the day, I can't because I am just SO tired.

Enter Brooke, Sleep Consultant.  She was really nice and understanding and I was SO SO SO excited to hear her suggestions.  On her website she mentions that she provides alternatives to Cry-It-Out.  Perfect. Enlighten me.

(Oh, and where if not in Westchester will you find such thing as a baby sleep consultant)

We spoke with her last night after filling out the sleep history she sent us.  She began telling us her suggestions.  How over 3-5 nights we would put Abigail to sleep in her crib.  I could nurse her down first, but after that initial "bedtime" we would try to soothe her upon each awakening WITHOUT nursing. Upon which we could expect her to cry and cry and cry.  We could hold her and rock her and sing, do anything---but nurse.  How is that different than CIO?

My heart is crying just to think about depriving my baby of the thing that she needs and wants most.  The only thing that she needs.

I don't like being in this sleep-deprived state.  I don't like that I had another argument with Jack at 1:30 in the morning.  I hate that he slept on the couch AGAIN. I hate that I am the one who has to be up nights because Jack has to go to work.  I don't like that the only way to get her to sleep and stay asleep is for me to be wearing her in the sling or to lay next to her.  I don't like that I am so used to holding her that for the short times where she actually is sleeping in her crib, I have no idea what to do with myself.  I wander around the house like a half-way deflated balloon---scared to embark on a project because I know that I will have to go back to her the minute I start something.  Yesterday, I realized I had only ONE clean shaven leg.  I hate to admit that my marriage is suffering because we have no time to ourselves.

Hate is a very strong word.

But I HATE to think of my baby crying and crying because I am very consciously denying her the very thing that she wants.

I do know this.  That up until a little over a month and a half ago Abigail slept in her crib for naps and slept in her crib for all if not most of the night.

So, it is something that she has done for the better part of her fresh, new, sweet little time her on the earth with us.  

Brooke heard my trepidation and feelings that this was CIO packaged a little differently.  She assured us that she would write up a number of sleep plans that she thinks might make us comfortable.  I am holding out hope that she will be able to come up with something that doesn't make me cry to think about it.

That is the drama of the moment.  I feel like curling up in a little ball and rocking and sobbing.  I feel like this is the first hurdle of a lifetime of letting her go.  She is growing up.  She is crawling.  She is becoming independent and while it is amazing and exciting to meet the emerging identity, it is SO very painful and scary.

I never imagined the amount of blind courage it takes to be a parent.

I wish there was a better way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Midnight Superbowl

After the Game
So, thanks to those pesky time zones the Superbowl didn't air live here til 12:30am.  Jack wore his Eli Manning jersey all day and stocked up on game food for his own private party.  I didn't make even make it til 10:00.  Abigail begged to be invited and made a honorable attempt.  Tobi was bribed to stay awake by said game food.

Jack found out that:  Tobi likes jalapeno poppers better than Cool Ranch Doritos.

I found out that Tobi's stomach can't handle either.

Yep.  Puke.  Puke on New Rug.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Tobi vs. Feral Dogs

We took Tobi to Carney Park for his weekly jaunt in the dog park.

Ironic that after his attack on Zoe the Beagle last week karma decided to deal him a blow.

As we pulled up to the dog park parking spot we saw five LARGE dogs all snoozing in the field around the park.  After a quick glance around for their people.  We quickly surmised that this was a pack of feral dogs.  I was nervous but Jack boldly went ahead.  I stayed in the car with a (finally) sleeping Abigail plotting how I would grab the broken log that was conveniently laying nearby and valiantly defend my husband and dog against them.

Three of them followed Tobi and Jack barking at their heels the entire way to the fenced-in dog park.  The fourth and biggest growled at them from about ten feet away.  Scary!

They watch Tobi as he played and then sauntered off.  Jack and Tobi made a bee line for the car.

We reported that there were prowling to the guard at the gate.  Hopefully they moved on before anyone (them or someone else) got hurt.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ikea Nightmare

The Offending Piece

On Saturday we got up and at'em in record time for the Georges.  We got to Ikea before 11:00!  Seriously.  I even showered.  We went for some hang-y things for the kitchen and frames.  We came out with plants, frames, hang-y things for the kitchen and hang-y hooky things for the garage and a dresser.  Typical Ikea trip.  I mean it is amazing how the Ikeans (?) can so easily convince you that your life would be simplified by some snap-together three part piece of Swedish ingenuity.  

The dresser.  Jack hasn't had a dresser since way before we got married.  He needs one.  We got this one for 49 euro!  It was originally 250 euro.  SCORE.  And now we are part of the Ikea Family Plan.  Really. That sounds like we have joined forces to produce tall, blond, robust Swedish children who sit in saunas and design flat pack living solutions for small spaces.  We should have bought two dressers (Jack adds, "I don't know about two.").  

I started to put together the dresser.  This was the biggest and most complex thing I had ever constructed from Ikea.  I was all set to do it.  I even read (looked at the pictures) the directions through once.  I even read the part that said to check all the bolts and stuff to make sure they were all there.  Do you see where this is going?  

I looked at the bag of TONS of little dowels and screws and stuff and thought:

Wow.  Does anyone ever go through all of that?  And what happens if something is missing?  Do you call the company?  Would the Italians understand me?  If they did would they do something or just yell something like this is Naples, of course we haven't got the right number of pieces!? Nah.  This is all packed by machine.  They have to have all the parts in there.  ---Oh, there is a hole in this bag.

*All of this thinking happened in a fleeting moment.  But it happened.

NOW you know where this is going.  

Skip to Jack taking over the construction because Baby needed Mama.  

In total we were missing: 

2 little dowels
3 wood screws
1 plastic bolt for a drawer
1 big bolt to fasten the leg

I don't know what he did about the rest, but after a failed attempt to match the bolt at the NEX Jack drove a huge wood screw through the leg.  Jury-rigged.  And the LONGEST construction time ever!  It spanned two days.

Jack said after releasing a number of NOT blog friendly expletives.  'Well.  It was 80% off because it was missing 20%.'

But it is built and awaiting his clothes and my love affair with Ikea has soured, a little.

Weekend Review or Challah Glory

We had a nice weekend.  Despite the icky weather.  We are in the midst of the coldest cold weather snap that Europe has experienced in a long time.  It is pretty cold here in Naples.  Not as cold as it is in New York, but cold.  Feels like winter and being across from the sea makes it feel colder and damper.  There was actually something frozen falling from the sky at one point on Friday.  Wild.

These are the highlights of our weekend.  I will post each separately to avoid running on and on.

Challah Glory
Ikea Nightmare
Feral Dogs vs Tobi
Midnight Super Bowl

Challah Glory:

This Friday our friend came over and cooked us lentils and pasta.  Lenticchie e Pasta.  It was yummy.  Yummier that I didn't have to cook.  I perfected my challah.  I am making the dough in the bread machine and then braiding and baking it.  Zabar's beware.  It reminds me of once when I took the train to the City by myself and bought a loaf of challah in Grand Central and ate the entire center of it between NY and Cold Spring.

Beauty on a Platter

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Still Raining

Still pouring.  It is definitely winter here.  Gone are the breezy, sun-shiny 60 degree days we've been having.

That is Jamaica.  Better than a picture of wet, cold Lucrino.  What you can't see is that Jack is holding a pina colada.  It is only 11:00.  Ahhh, welcome to Jamaica, Mon!

My floors are a mess.  I have given up doing any more than a perfunctory pass with my sorry excuse for a vacuum until the rain stops and the muddy-doggie-footprints cease.

Abigail is happy playing on the floor right now.  Every so often she offers up a shout to let Mama know that she is still around.  That shout finished in a big yawn.  The poor kid is SO overtired.  Yesterday I got her down for all of forty minutes.  She didn't get these 'thanks, Four-hours-is-fine-for-me' genes from me.

The forty-two year-old man child is doing something upstairs.  It sounds like he is sawing through metal.  Probably.  Lovely.  First they were pounding and crashing under us, now it is happening over us.

Oh.  Here is how we spent the night of our two year anniversary.

Yes, attempting to get a mirror-like military shine on Jack's boots.  Romantic.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Another day, another load of laundry

It is pouring out today.

I am sitting here trying to convince myself that the workers who are drilling away at something under my feet are not going to bring the floor, ME and Abigail down on top of them.  Last week they took out the wall of our garage and rebuilt it about four or five feet over.  I KNOW it was a load bearing wall.  I mean, don't load bearing walls go under load bearing beams?

You can just feel my faith in Napolitanos screaming out from that last paragraph, can't you?

Tobi is outside at his post guarding the guys who I believe are putting in our new garage door.  I guess that is one of the joys of renting.  Presto!  We have a bigger garage and a new door!  We didn't even ask for it.  I know that the 42 year old man-child has something to do with it.  Now if he could just fix our faulty wiring that shuts of half the electricity in the house if I choose to run the washer, dryer and dehumidifier all at once.

Tobi has been ostracized (that means he had to go live at the end of town...literary reference) because I caught him drying his smelly-wet-doggie-self against the quilt on my bed.  He usually settles for rubbing himself at top speed against the stretch of no-longer-white wall in the hallway.  We call it our Tobi racing stripe.  I usually go at it every couple of weeks with a Magic Eraser (it really is magic!)  

Abigail is sitting in her swing next to me fussing.  She is scowling and wants something.  I am not sure what.  Probably to get out of the swing and be held.  I don't really believe her protests though.  When I look at her and smile she smiles back.  I am trying to see if she might be convinced to fall asleep in her swing.  I don't think it is working.

Ok.  Enough blather.  I am going to try to put this tired baby down for a nap.  I believe I spend an average of two hours trying to get her to sleep for every hour that she does sleep.

My dream is to be able to say, "Abigail, it is time for your nap."  and have her fall asleep. Don't scoff.  This is a true story.  My niece does this-- in the middle of New York City no less.  "Addison, get into the stroller it is nap time."  "Ok, Mommy."  Asleep. Granted she is two, but I can have a long term goal (errr-dream), can't I?


She is lucky she is so cute.