Saturday, April 30, 2005

All aboard!

Grazie mille for all your wonderful comments. We have enjoyed reading your reactions and hearing about the goings on in Texas.

We have just arrived in Civitavecchia, and are walking down to Il Porto (the port) from la stazione (train station) to meet our boat. Saw an "Internet Point," so we ducked in to update you all. The long train ride from Milano to Roma was uneventful except for a mistake we made with our biglietti (tickets) which is too tedious to repeat here - just imagine me trying to explain in my pigeon Italian that we really did pay for the tickets even though we only had il supplemento (the upgrade portion). My Italian is not as good when I am flustered.

Yesterday we went to the local mercato near Romina's house, which totally puts our farmers market to shame. Later we went shoe shopping at a store called Scarpe e Scarpe (Steph woulda been in cielo!) and bought Anthony some grey pants (he forgot his) for just 12 euro! The funny thing is all the men's pants come unfinished. So I assured Anthony I could hem them for him, and now he has another pair for the boat.

Romina made us una fantastica cena last night - pizzocheri - a one bowl pasta dish with boiled potatoes, spinach, a rustica whole grain pasta, butter, fontina, garlic, sage -- delizioso!

And insalate di rucola (arugola). She went to bed with the baby and we stayed up far too long, chatting with Alberto after he got off work at 10 pm.

Not as long of a post this time, so you guys can tell we are enjoying Italian life. We are looking forward to being spoiled on the boat, and more good food. We bought some vodka and Cointreau at the supermercato (grocery store) so we can have un apertivo before dinner. Can you believe the Cointreau we pay $40 for is just 12 euros? No sin taxes in this country. Just hefty income tax.

We are having a great vacation. Wish you all were here. Send me a postcard, drop me a line (comment).

Ciao ciao!

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Buon Giorno da Italia

We survived the long trans-Atlantic flight and are enjoying our second day here in bella Italy. We had a 3+ hour layover in Atlanta thanks to our cancelled flight (since the weather was bellisima, Anthony suspects that Delta cancelled and rescheduled all of us to save money on an empty flight). Atlanta has a nice airport, and it is 1.7 miles from one end to the other, so we walked, to make our legs tired. They had a beautiful space with a large sunlight dome and restaurants all around, so we sat there and listened to a guy play piano a la Ray Charles, before we walked back to our plane. Then we ate a teeny tiny dinner off of doll-china plates. Hey, I thought alcohol was free on international flights?!? Well, not anymore. Believe me, there was one flight were we sat next to a group of inebriated Germans that made me wish there was something to dissuade them from imbibing more. Anyway, you can bet I did want to spend 5 of my vacation dollars on Vendage.

We got very little sleep, sitting upright, before it was time to land in Milano on a beautiful clear spring day. In the airport, I was more than a little pleased that I could buy tickets for the Malpensa Express (light rail) and ask (in Italian) where do we leave and understand the answer! Anthony was impressed, too. Our friend, Alberto, was to meet us at Cadorna Stazione,

but we had time for a cappucino before he arrived. The barista made the cappucini wordlessly, effortlessly, and brought the mugs topped with thick foam before us. Anth and I each had one sip, sighed, and said simultaneously, "That alone was worth the trip!" And the price of this perfection was 2.50 euros (less than $3)!

We found Alberto and he wisked us off in his car, immediately immersing us in Italian culture and traffic. He weaved in and out of the tiny Milan streets, speaking perfect English rapidly. At one point we were stuck in the middle of an intersection while the lights changed, so he changed the CD. "I punched a traffic cop last week," he said, to demonstrate how difficult it is to be put in Italian prison because they are so crowded. "He came up and grabbed me saying, 'Tu, tu!' Tu is for your sister; I am Mr Cassinelli. Give me 10 meters, please. No? Bap! (demonstrating punch) Blood everywhere. Everyone in Binasco (his little village) knows and thanks me. This guy has tried this before." A Ferrari pulled up behind us so Alberto and all the other drivers pulled to the right to make way for this beautiful, fast car, a symbol of Italian national pride. But if someone tries to take their right of way, they push their way in front of them.

Alberto took us to Romina's apartment, where we are staying. Her baby, Leonida, is just 5 1/2 weeks old.

Che bello bambino! He is angelic, fair with deep blue eyes.

It is touching to see Romina as a new mom, super attentive, a little unsure, and very in love with her baby. It is also adorable to hear Italian baby talk. "Piccolino," she calls him, "Che fai? No no no, e brutto, e brutto. Cose che fai?" Her boyfriend, Corrado, is very nice and, lucky for us, speaks good English.

Romina made un bello pranzo (lunch) for us all. Anthony thought he died and went to heaven! Spaghetti carbonara, plates of braseola and prosciutto (it was like buttah in your mouth), insalata with olive oil so vergine it was cloudy. You know its your vacanza when you have vino at lunch.

Romina and Corrado live in a large group of apartment buildings just outside the center of Milan. It is a 30 minute light rail ride into Milan. There is a small supermarket and gelateria there, and large supermarkets a short drive away. They have a balcony on either side and beautiful views of agricultural fields. They have a friendly cat, Spy, but they feel bad that she cannot live a natural life, outdoors and un-spayed.

Anthony and I have decided that parenthood has made us more impervious to the effects of jet lag, because even after lunch we felt good, not at all tired. We went on a walk with Romina. She put Leonida in my BabyBjorn that I brought her, which she was very pleased with, since their tiny elevator is too small to bring the pram (stroller) up and down, and she is using it as another bed in the living room. After our walk, we took the tram into the city and walked around. We stopped in a bakery, where they were doing a brisk business in foccacia and pastries. In the back was a bar (in the Italian sense of bar). I got un bicchiere di vino russo, and Anthony had to order another cappucino, drawing attention to his tourist status with his beverage as much as his shorts! The barista brought us free hot foccacia slices, with thin zucchini and mozzarella, tomato and anchovy, or just olive oil on top. We thought it would be best to head back after that.

After a shower we enjoyed a dead-like 12 hour sleep. Romina made us another great lunch, then dared to visit the city with the baby in the Bjorn, with us as reinforcements. "Do you think it is bad to have him out here, with all the sights and sounds?" she asked. We reassured her it was good for her and the baby to get out. After a couple of hours, however, she was ready to head back, so I found this internet cafe and wrote my update!

We are so enjoying the Milanese pomeriggio, and the beautifully dressed Milan residents, and the incredible fresh food. We miss the children but are not paralyzed by it! We had gelato today, I had torta de mele (apple pie) and cioccolato, Anth had caffe and licorizia. I tried it and even thought it was good (just like Anth enjoyed the anchovy foccacia).

Hey, leave a comment, because I miss you all, even my internet friends, and I'd like to know that you heard me and what you are doing.

Ciao ciao, ci vidiamo alla prossima tempo!

Monday, April 25, 2005


We are leaving for the big trip tomorrow! Yippee! We are packed and the MIL is here to take care of the kids.

Delta Airlines did call this evening to say our flight from Austin was cancelled due to weather.... did we want to reschedule to an earlier flight? Hell, yeah!

Also, I'm not sure if I'm super-sensitive in my pre-departure state, or if the kids really are more precious than usual. Last night, it was Colin. He's been patting me a little too hard lately, and I've told him, "No, that's not nice." So last night at bathtime, he was stroking my cheeks, looking at me lovingly, saying, "Nice. Nah-ees!"

Anna requested I come eat lunch with her today at her Montessori school. While I sat across the teeny tiny desk, eating with her, she sang me a little song. "I love you so much... I love you so much... I'm so lucky to have you... I love you so much..." That'll make you cry! She said she learned that song in circle time, and wanted to sing it for me.

We're taking the kids to their schools tomorrow, then its off to the airport. I'll update as internet access allows...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

What I did Thursday

I spent time with my friend, Cadaver Dog, at work today and did my first practice root canal. I was going to post a picture of the final Xray, but the disk I brought it home on got corrupted and you can't see it.

I'm not sure what my co-workers think of me. I brought another beautiful cake that my metrosexual husband made at his cake decorating class for them, then I spent my lunch hour with a disembodied dog head. Before that I pulled teeth from 2 cats, and closed a wound on a dog's leg with special tension releasing incisions and sutures because it was under too much tension to heal. It was like a puzzle. Fun fun fun!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Buon Viaggio

Did I tell you I'm leaving the country? For 2 weeks? Without my children? Well, I am; I'm leaving next Tuesday.

Anthony and I are celebrating 10 years of marriage with a "second honeymoon" type of trip. We originally thought we'd go to Italy (because we love it) and Greece (because we've never been). But then we got the inside scoop on this cruise from Rome to Cannes, France to Barcelona, Spain, and we couldn't resist. We've never cruised before, and as former itinerant backpackers there is a real appeal to unpacking once and letting the ship do the traveling for us. We won't have to find a place to stay or even find a decent restaurant!

We are flying into Milano first, to see my dear friend Romina. She just had an adorable baby, Leonida, about 8 weeks ago. The last time I saw her was 4 years ago, when I just found out I was pregnant with Anna. She said we could stay with her if we don't mind being "casuale."

We'll also get to see our friend, Alberto. He has already called me twice and requested I bring natural peanut butter, shorts with the American flag on them, and Tom's Natural Toothpaste. He also wants me to bring pictures of my cat and dog (didn't request the children). Alberto is a real character. It will be good to see him, too.

After we land in Barcelona, we will travel to Madrid. Its Anthony's birthplace (Air Force brat) and he knows nothing about it.

I am freaking out a little because we are leaving in just one week. I haven't done my research like I usually do for one of these trips. I've never been to Spain or France at all, and I don't speak any of those languages. I speak a little Italiano, but I haven't reviewed my vocabulary or grammar. Plus, I'm going to be away from my kids for 2 whole weeks!

I'm not worried about them. They will be well-cared for by Anthony's mom the first week, and my sister Emily the second week (with help from my cousin, Bev, and my mom). But how will I live without holding their little bodies close and kissing their fat cheeks? How can I live without Anna's creative little sayings? And Colin has gotten so precious... can I bear to be away from him?

I try to placate myself by thinking about all the days (in a row!) I won't have to fix anyone's meals - it will be brought to me! Fully prepared, even! And then, the dishes will be wisked away to be cleaned and put away by someone else. Also, Anthony and I will actually be able to have long, uninterrupted conversations before we are exhausted from the daily grind of caring for a family. We can go to bed whenever we want and sleep as late as we like.

Yeah, I think I'll manage.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Indoor Picnic

"Today is not a good day for a picnic," Anna told me, this rainy afternoon while Colin was napping. "We should have an indoor picnic." Great idea, I told her. She wanted to make a full spread of food, even though we'd already eaten lunch. I convinced her coffee and cookies would suffice.

We lounged on our "picnic blanket" and talked about what kind of foods we liked. Anna mentioned corn on the cob and pepperoni. Then she wanted to talk about what kind of things we like to see outside. "The chickens," she said. "Our plants growing tomatoes and edamame," I said. "I like that, too," she said, "and I like the leaves on the trees." "I like to watch the dogs sleep in the sun. And I like to watch you and Colin playing nicely together in the sandbox." She wrinkled her nose at that. "I like to plant things in my garden for you to eat!" she said.

She looked so beautiful and thoughtful and happy, with her smooth olive toned skin and her exuberant curls. I wanted to get a picture of her expression as she talked about things she liked. But after a few photos, she started to make really silly faces, pulling her mouth in all kinds of directions and bugging her eyes out. I didn't like it, but I remember doing the exact same thing as a kid.

Then she turned the camera around and took this nice picture of me:

Really Revolting Post

OK, I'm going to talk about something gruesome and morbid at work, so if you're sensitive about those kind of things, just skip to the next post.

If you're still with me, just know that I warned you!

I really want to learn how to do root canals on dogs. I have taken a couple of laboratories on the procedure, and its pretty complicated. I've got the basics down but I need to practice. I don't want to get bogged down in the details while I've got a patient under anesthesia. So that means cadavers.

I called a local humane organization in a neighboring county. They agreed to bring me a cadaver head. They only euthanize if the dogs don't pass their behavior test. I also needed a dog that wasn't very young (with immature teeth) or very old. It took about 2 months before they had a suitable subject for me, then they found 2.

The dead dogs arrived on a day when I was not in the clinic, so the staff put them in the deep freezer. On Thursday I pulled them out. They were both large, and hard as doggie ice cubes. I only need the heads, so I thought I'd defrost them to cut the heads off. I put them in the shower and decided to check on them the next day. "This is going to take longer than you think," one of the nurses said to me. "Think how long it takes a turkey to defrost. This is like 5 or 6 turkeys."

I returned the next day, and even after 24 hours, they had only defrosted about 5 millimeters deep into the dogs. At least they didn't smell. Some of the staff suggested defrosting in water but that sounded too messy. I asked my boss for advice, and he said have our kennel guy cut it off with a hack saw.

The kennel guy was not thrilled when I told him about this task, and immediately started making excuses. "The hacksaw is dull. And! The handle is broken." "Here's $20, go to Lowe's and get a new one," his supervisor said. "I don't know if this is going to work. I don't know if I can stomach it. I've seen dead people before but this is a dog. Oh, and its head! Why do we have to do this?" I told him I would help if he would just go to the store while I was seeing appointments.

Finally, he returned with the saw and new excuses. I told him if he would just help me lift the dogs into the tub I could do it. I started sawing away at the first dead dog. It went a lot more easily than I thought, and pretty soon I was 3/4 the way through the neck. About this time the kennel guy said, "I feel bad that you're doing this, and between your appointments. I'll do it." But I said no, no, I'd gotten this far through the dog, I wanted to finish it. He could to the next dog if he wanted. But I did the second dog, too.

As he was bagging up the dogs' bodies for me, he said, "You know, I really admire you for what you're doing. Not just that you're doing this to learn root canals, but that you're able to cut their head off! I hope I don't have nightmares about this!" So I told him that it helped that I never knew these dogs, and these dogs were too aggressive to be placed in a home, and that at least they would be contributing something for some other luckier dog. Still pretty gruesome.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Saturday, In the Park

Just a few pics from our beautiful day...

At the Austin Farmers Market

At Zilker Park

Anna eating her corny dogs at Zilker.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

The Owl and the Pussycat

You'll all be glad to know today was much better for Anna. Unfortunately I was at work most of the day, but still, I am glad for her.

Did I tell you she knows the entire poem "The Owl and the Pussycat" by Edward Lear? Apparently they learned it at school. I guess it may not be that impressive, since it is just rote memory, but still, its a long poem. She bowled me over one morning before school when it came out of her mouth, word after word, like she was possessed by the spirit of some spinster librarian.

Everytime she tells it to me now, it reminds me of our friend Greg Bennett (are you out there, GDFB?). He once told us about a wedding he went to in which "The Owl and the Pussycat" was recited as part of the ceremony. Knowing Greg, I can't imagine him not cracking up during the wedding.

Imagine these words coming out of my sweet Anna's mouth:

The owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy, O Pussy, my love,
What a be-yooooo-tiful Pussy you are, you are , you are,
What a beautiful Pussy you are."

Yeah, Anthony can't keep a straight face, either.

Later in the poem, the Owl and Pussycat sail away, for a year and a day, to the land where the bong-tree grows. Not palm tree, like I originally thought, but BONG tree! Sounds like sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll to me!

Also, Colin evidently DID sleep in his spidey shoes last night (!). When he woke up grumpy from his nap, Anthony had the spidey sense to put the shoes back on, and the grumpy mood was vaporized! Maybe I need to buy Anna a pair, too...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Check me out!

Colin had a great day today. We went to Target to get gifts for some birthday parties we have coming up, and I got Colin a pair of sandals. I wanted to get him a cheap pair of sandals he could wear in a pinch until I can get him a nice leather pair. I found these cool Spiderman sandals for just $6! He loves them. He says, "Rook. 'Pie-duh-man."

He also points to the octopus on his shirt and says, "Ah-pus."

Here he's pointing to Spidey. He loves these shoes! I took them off to put his pyjama pants on and he cried. So I put them back on after the pants were on. I hope Anthony got them off before he put him to bed...

Un Fun

It was a tough day today for Anna. She made a lot of bad choices today (like continuing to whine while I was on the phone, throwing Pooh Bear at me, swatting me with her night-time pull-up) and had to deal with some unpleasant consequences (being escorted to her room to continue the whining, and Mommy leaving during the middle of the bedtime routine, leaving the rest of it to Daddy, who doesn't let her chose everything, like which pyjamas she gets to wear). Tough for her, and for me, who has to act passionless and consistent, and like all the crying and whining and gnashing of teeth doesn't bother me.

Before I had kids, I always felt that discipline problems needed to be treated with consistency. What I didn't realize was how weary I would become of enforcing the consistency day after day, accompanied by the whining. I still follow through, but it feels much more tempting to take the easy way out now that I'm on this side. But, I know the easy way out now means its much harder, later.

Anyway, hope tomorrow goes better.

She did say one really great thing today, though. We were eating the last of the Easter Cookies, and she dropped hers on the floor, mostly because she wasn't sitting in her chair properly. Montana scarfed that cookie in seconds, and Anna was on the floor having a complete meltdown. I shook the tin to let her know there was one more cookie she could have. Anthony said, "Wait a minute. Anna, do you know what you should have done to keep that from happening?" Anna raised her tearful face from my shoulder and said, "I should have thrown the cookie into my mouth before it fell on the floor."

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Release the Ladybugs!

While I am enjoying my fresh, organically grown lettuce, it is a bit of a bugger, since I am having to rinse the leaves 4 and 5 times to get all the aphids off. I'm sure we're still consuming some aphids, but I have to at least get all the visible ones off.

Today we all 4 took a bike ride to a local nursery and bought 1500 live ladybugs for $5. As Anna can tell you, they can eat as many as 50 aphids in one day! The nursery recommended refrigerating them (to induce fake hibernation) and releasing them at dusk. Anna checked the "sleeping" bugs several times during the day, and greatly anticipated the promised release of the beetles after dinner.

Moments after leaving the winter of the frigidaire, those little bugs were swarming to get out. It was recommended to release at dusk because they don't fly at night, and you want them to stay on your aphid-infested plants to eat, or better yet, lay their eggs so the larvae can chow down, too. Spraying them with sugar-water also hampers their departure, since the stickiness clogs their wings. Here's Anna enthusiastically spraying away, getting her Daddy's hands all sticky!

Colin said, "Bugs .... out! Hi, bugs." Most of the time we were placing them on the plants, though, he was busy getting into the mud. Oh well, almost bath time. Here, he waters Anna's garden with a leaky pot.

At the end of the evening, we had lots of ladybugs swarming our plants. Only a few took flight. I hope they didn't go down by the chickens.

Buon Appetito!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Party Reminiscing

Found this one lingering on the camera today. This is what the excited birthday girl did when I said, "Do you want to tell your friends its time to slay the dragon?"

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Our embryonic garden

Here is a picture of our early spring garden. The first row (right) has 4 lettuce plants and 3 spinach plants, followed by our sugar snap peas. I took this pic of our lettuces after I had harvested enough for 2 night's worth of huge salads for Anthony and me. I have never grown lettuces before, and WOW are they tasty! Eating fresh greens picked hours before, with just a little olive oil and salt -- mmmmmmm. There are a few leeks in the middle of the lettuces, and one old cabbage on the end.

The 2nd row has Edamame plants! I can't wait to pop those into my mouth. There are some older onions in the middle. The last row is tomatoes - 9 of 'em - all different varieties, some heirloom, some reliable merced.

Between the garden, the chickens, and the solar panels, our neighbors think we're freaks that are planning for the apocalypse.

Take a picture of me, Mommy!

Bate, bate, chocolatte!

Bowling for flowers

Here are Anthony's columbines. He's waited a year for them to bloom, and they don't disappoint. This is the only native Texas variety. Can you tell we're enjoying spring?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

All My Chicks

We ate dinner tonight on the porch, it was such a beautiful, cool, breezy evening. After we ate, I let the chicks out of their cage to stretch their legs. So cute!

Sorry this pic is out of focus. This is a pic of our cute little Americauna chick. She's about a week old. When I got her last week, she still had her little egg tooth. All day long she says, "Cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep cheep." Just like one of those little electronic chicks you hold in your hand.

We also have an Americauna pullet, seen above, who is about 5 weeks old. She looks like a mini chicken, but she still says "Cheep cheep cheep cheep..." Anna is very excited because I am taking the chick and the pullet, and some of our hens eggs, to show off at her school. (We also have 1 rhode island red hen, and 2 black sex links). The hens live in a little fenced off area behind our shed, and sleep at night in the little green coop Anthony built them. The Americaunas are going to be fancy hens, and lay "Easter eggs" - green and blue eggs. In 6 months, they will lay an egg a day. That means we'll get 10 eggs every 2 days, if we're lucky!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Post Party Happy Buzz

The Princess Party was a complete success. The weather was beautiful -- warm sun with a cool breeze. All the princess guests showed up, nearly all of the little girls in costume, and seemed to have a great time. We started out with a great craft, making Princess Crowns. All the party ideas I got from the internet. I took free Burger King Crowns, had Anthony spray paint them gold, and the kids glued on plastic jewels. We played "Pin the Kiss on the Frog Prince," but my other games I decided to forgo since the kids were having such a good time, just playing in the sunshine on the playscape. We did slay the dragon pinata, eat pizza, and cakes.

People are always surprised that I don't make (or buy) the cakes. But, with talent like my husband and his mother, there is no need. It's great because then I can concentrate on the other party details. It was, in fact, the Princess cake that inspired the whole princess theme this year. Behold, princess cake made by Marion:

All the cakes

One princess cake is not big enough for everyone, so Marion (my MIL) also made the castle cake in the top left corner. Anthony made the 2 balloon cakes (as well as the earlier Uniqua cake).

Party in action

Here are the princesses (and prince Patrick) waiting to slay the dragon. Notice all the princesses in their finery, some wearing the crowns (click the picture to enlarge). That's me in the top left explaining the rules.

Getting ready

Here's the birthday girl, Princess Anna herself, putting on her princess sandals in preparation for her party.

Prince Colin of the Basketball

Couldn't resist this one of the little brother!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Its Princess Party Central

Sorry I haven't posted much recently, but we've been preparing for the Princess Party we're having for Anna tomorrow. Every child we invited is coming. It's lots of fun, and the Princess was almost too excited to go to sleep tonight.

I would like to write about our wonderful trip to Lexington last Monday, where we picked 6 lbs of strawberries and had a very good time. We also have an adorable new chick that needs her picture posted. But I will leave you with this anecdote.

I was lying on the floor, reading a book to Anna. She jumped up and said, "Oh! I need to go tinkle." "Okay, go ahead," I said. She put her hand on my chest and said, "Pause yourself, Mommy. Just pause yourself."