Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas in Wyoming: William started walking for real! - Natale in Wyoming: William si e' messo a camminare per davvero!

The Kruse Family
So this how we celebrated Christmas this year: we took William to Wyoming for the first time and spent Christmas with the Kruse family. This has been our first American Christmas and William has decided to take his first steps without help. It has happened on the 23th of December at the Logan airport in Boston, while we were waiting to get on our plane going to Denver (Colorado). There, all of a sudden, my little 17 months old boy was no longer trying to grab my hand to support himself. He was instead walking away from me, ready to explore the world!

He first started walking with his arms up (hands up style), in order to keep his balance. Then, each time after that, he tried to lower his arms a bit more until at the end of our trip to Wyoming he decided to keep them at the level of his waist and confidence took over. Yes, it has happened! You can watch this video if you don't believe me.

So it is official: William now walks and goes everywhere! And without my help. Not only. This is what happened this Christmas in Wyoming, if only William could talk (not that my story would be any different. This was also my first Christmas in Wyoming!):

"I walked walked and walked everywhere and had a lot of fun in grandma and grandpa's house. I also played with some old toys they were all fascinated by (apparently, daddy, uncle Sean and aunt Susan used to play with them when they were kids!). The best thing ever was the family of bears in the Christmas outfit and Santa's hat in the entry way of the house. For some reason mama and dada did not want me to play with them. Grandma instead was grabbing the Santa hat from the bear's head to put it on my head.

William with Grandma
During the Christmas eve dinner I walked a lot in aunt Susan's house. There, there was a babau (dog) who kept jumping on me to lick my face. At first I thought he was funny but the babau kept doing it and my face was getting all sticky and smelly. At the end I thought I'd better learn to stand up and walk away from the damned thing.

William escaping from the babau's affection
Mamma and Dada, just before they sat down to have dinner with grandma, grandpa and the rest of the family, they had the bad idea of putting me to bed in a dark room on the floor with daddy's jacket as a blanket. I was not happy with that. After a good deal of crying I finally got to join the Christmas dinner in front of a colorful and shiny tree. Tasty prime American rib and a lady sat next to me who was pulling faces to make me laugh.

William with grandma
On Christmas day, grandma and grandpa gave me a brown bag with my name on it. Inside the bag, there were Santa's gifts for me. Mamma and Dada also had a brown bag with their names on it. They told me that the brown bag is a tradition for the Kruse family that grandma Bonnie started because she could not easily fit her gifts in the traditional American stocking. When mamma was not looking, I grabbed an animal cracker. Under a nicely decorated tree I could not play with (damned!) there were loads of colorful packets. Grandma Bonnie said that we had to open one packet at a time. Inside the packets there were loads of nice things: colorful stuffed animals, a red puppet talking and moving - I wonder where they found that one! -, a cell phone and a few books, one even playing songs!

How many colorful things to look at here!
Grandma and grandpa spent a lot of time playing with me. Grandpa was soo patient always making sure that I was ok and he was playing with me while he was feeding me. Grandma was wearing silly hats and silly t-shirts and was doing weird things to make me laugh. They were all treating me like a prince there!
William with grandpa
The following day they took me to another house. A nice big house for me to explore. There, I did a lot of walking but I also managed to play with a brand new kitchen and with a Christmas tree. And I got to pee like a man! Yes, sort of by myself. Mamma now understands that when I saw "pipi'", I want to pee in the toilet. Isn't that neat? Sorry, there isn't a picture to show you that. A lot of good stuff but nothing compared to the stairs of grandma and grandpa's house. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed going up and down those stairs while mamma and dada were at the movies. Uncle Sean gave up a party with his friends to stay with me that afternoon. I was so thrilled I kept repeating his yeah, yeah! One thing is clear: grandma, grandpa and the rest of the Kruse family in Wyoming adore me! Now tell me, how can Christmas get any better?"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! - Vi auguriamo Buon Natale e Buon Anno!

Today, in Harvard Square, I saw a box of English mince pies in the front window of a shop that sells food imported from Europe. I was so excited I went inside and bought one. While there, I couldn't help talking to an English person who was also buying mince pies. That red box brought me back to Christmas in London.

We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas
We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Good tidings we bring to you and your kin;
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year!

This song was always accompanied by mulled wine, hot chocolate, Christmas puddings and mince pies. The Oxford Street lights, the West End skating Santas and the Gospel singers in Trafalgar Square. Christmas carols in Covent Garden, ice skating around historical palaces and loads of drinks. This was my Christmas in London. I wanted to tell a story about it. You'll find it at the bottom of this posting, in case you are keen to read it. I hope William will read it one day.

This year in the US I have been so bad at keeping in touch, or sending cards and gifts to my friends for Christmas. Below is the card I should have sent everyone this year. It is John's Christmas card for me this year. I found it on John's computer by pure chance because my mother called me from Italy to ask me to send her a couple of photos of William in digital format. So I searched for pictures on John's machines and John's secret Christmas card for me immediately caught my eyes.

What did I do for Christmas this year? I managed to put very simple lights on the patio (yes because here in the US decorating your house is the number one top priority at Christmas and in the street where we live it's like being at Dysneyland!). I also managed to find the Christmas gifts for William (that are age 3+ but are not potential chocking hazards, that don't look like stacking cups and that don't fall apart in millions of pieces I have to go find under the coach - not easy). I got him presents. I completely forgot everyone else.

Only a couple of days ago John and I started discussing what we wanted for Christmas. It might be because we haven't had the Boston snow yet. That usually tells me that Christmas is coming here. Also, when William is with his tata (babysitter) I can hardly find the time to go shopping for myself. By shopping I mean buying stuff like a couple of white socks for William, prosciutto cotto, make up removal lotion and the conditioner that doesn't burn my hair. Honestly, I can't be bothered to go shopping for fancier Christmas stuff here. I don't know if this is because I have become a boring stay at home mom or if it is because here in the US there is no need nor visible appreciation for fancier stuff. When did I last go dressed up to a party? Opps, I forgot, I am actually going to a party today. It is a baby party. One of those parties where the babies dress up and the moms come in something slightly better than their PJs. I am wearing a red sweater, the only pair of clean jeans I have and I am bringing the minced pies. I hope they will not ask me if there is meat inside.

What else? This year I have been busy taking photos and videos of my two happy men. This is priceless but very simple compared to my London life. I wanted to take William to one of those Christmas Villages they have here in the US with colorful candles, lights and candies but our weekends have been pretty full. We have been busy buying a house, moving in and making the new house feel like a home. Not a small thing. Now what I really want this Christmas is to have fun with my two happy men and with the rest of the Kruse family. It will be William's first Christmas in Wyoming. Most probably the first of many others. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (but only after we have landed in Denver! :))

My Christmas in London

Three days before Christmas. I am on the train on my way to work. A commuter is setting next to (and cheerfully chatting with) a homeless guy who is complaining about something. "It is Christmas mate! I can offer you a pie, if you want!" "I don't need a fucking pie!" Everyone laughs.

I am getting off the train at Victoria station in Central London. For breakie (i.e., breakfast) I receive a couple of Christmas treats as part of a promotional offer. Sweet I don't have to buy breakfast. I am 10 minutes late, but then I get a call from my boss saying that it is ok to be late to work today. He doesn't sound sober. Last night we all went home pretty late from the company Christmas party. Last Christmas he got so drunk at the company party that he took his clothes off and then suddenly disappeared in his underwear. The next time I saw him the following Monday morning, he was in his office briefing a few of us on a new project.

I slowly make my way to the tube through the secret entry way at the back of the bus station bypassing the massive crowd stuck outside the main entry. Going down the long escalator to get on the Victoria line, the one that makes you feel like your are descending Everest, there is the saxophonist who is playing Winter Wonderland. Every year, the same guy in that same location.

At work everyone is eating Christmas pudding and mince pies. My hung over work mates are wandering around the office like zombies, trying to find people to chat with, hoping that it will soon be lunchtime and that we can all go to the local pub for more drinks. After lunch, some of us make our back way to the office, trying to be professional. Others are off for the day. 4 pm is the unofficial time for the people still in the office (me included!) to start drinking again. They start wandering around each other desks with glasses of sparkling wine in their hands. You ask them what wine they are drinking. They don't know. "It's Christmas mate! Have a drink!", this way they persuade the ones still working to stop. Many empty bottles appear on various desks but I am probably the only one paying attention to that. I can't stand more drinks so I am off for the day. On my way home, I receive a call from a friend. Fancy a drink at my place? Why not? At her house, we start dipping our pringles in humous and continue to drink and chat. Our favorite topic: men! I am pleasantly drunk (or just chilled, like the Brits would say). It's too late. I have missed the last tube train. My friend waits for the bus with me. About ten minutes in the frosty cold. Here it is,    kisses and hugs. "Have a nice Christmas" "You too! Have fun in Italy".  "I'll call you to see if you got home ok, all right?" "All right then", I say. I manage to grab a seat on the second floor of an overly rowded double decker bus and, like a child, I fall asleep and for some magic phenomena I cannot possibly explain, I then wake up the morning after. My head feels heavy and I manage to reach work half asleep. That's all right. I have had a jolly good time, like the Brits would say.

It's Friday, late afternoon. I am waiting outside a Gothic church in Kensington in my long black coat. It is all frosty outside and many people of all ages are waiting outside the Church to go to see the traditional candlelight concert inside. They are all British except for few foreigners like me who have heard about the concert from the locals. Inside the Church, a beautiful chorus starts singing the traditional carols. There are candles lit all around the packed Church. There are people standing everywhere, downstairs and upstairs, some in uncomfortable positions. Nobody is moving, neither during the songs, nor during the silence of the pauses. They all look like statues. I am filled with emotions and wonder whether it is appropriate or not to look at the people around me. They are all still nailed down in the same positions they took when the concert started. I try hard to imitate them, but I move and drop few tears here and there. Still, I don't make any noise.

Then the magic begins. I am no longer thinking about the movements of my body. I am feeling lighter than ever and I am staring at the soloist while trying to capture the subtleties of the pauses. My heart is filled with joy and I don't need to smile to share the magic of that moment with the strangers around me. I am hooked. Jingle Bells is the last carol and the concert is over. We leave the Church one by one, in silence. Some are smiling, others are trying to hide their emotions but you can see that they are trying. I belong to this second category.

I go to the nearby Cafe' in the Crypt through the entrance that is not obvious. I pick the one table still free at the back against the stone wall and start writing by a weakly flickering candle. I am taking a few bites of a friable scone with clotted cream while sipping white tea from a hot terracotta cup. Next to me, there is someone reading a Jane Austin novel. One table over, there's a woman writing Christmas cards. Then there is a bloke who looks like a professor, probably correcting the work of a student. Beyond him, a homeless guy having a soup. We are all sitting there, occasionally glancing at each other with some Medieval Christmas tunes playing in the background.

The next day, it is late Saturday morning. I still am a bit hungover. Christmas is in two days. Is that possible? I need to find gifts for my parents! Where? I have a couple of places in mind, one in Notting Hill and one in Carnaby Street, but on a Saturday afternoon the tube will be crowded and if I catch the bus I will not get to either shop in time before they shut. I jump on the first bus coming to my door step and get off at Trafalgar Square in Central London. Hari, hari, hari, hari... I am waiting for the Hari Krishna people to go by.

I make my way to Hamley's, a toy store where I often go in to warm up and daydream on cold rainy days. The Christian fanatic is still screaming outside - I bet he is there right now - "Hey you, yes I am talking to you, have you heard of Jesus? Do you know who Jesus is? Yes, I am talking to you young woman!". "Ok, ok, I've heard you but I have to buy a gift for my dad!", I quickly say and enter the store.

Voila', here it is. This is the perfect gift for my father: a playmobile toy with a little magician inside. It says age 4+. Perfect, my dad will love it! (he is an eccentric architect with many hobbies, including magic tricks). "Going to Italy for Christmas? Oh, that is lovely! Have a nice Christmas and see you in the new year!", says the magician at the till with his Santa hat. He doesn't know me, but I recognize him as I worked there my second Christmas in London doing the classic cups and balls trick.

For my mom's Christmas gift, I am heading to Fortnum & Mason across the street from Hamley's. There, the luxurious aromatic teas, the Christmas puddings and colorful cakes you only see in adverts catch my attention. "It is Christmas, you MUST treat yourself!", I hear my friends say in the back of my head. "Ok, ok, all right then." At the end instead of looking for my mom's gift I end up sipping hot chocolate and eating pudding.

One day to Christmas. Still haven't found my mom's gift. Londoners often say that everything that exists on earth can be found in London. The problem is to know what you are looking for. I am on the phone with my friend Kristin. She says "Why don't you go to John Lewis (it is THE PLACE to go to for buying gifts in London)". "Thanks Kristin!" Hold on a minute, it was in that store that I ended up fighting with a woman last year over a pair of gloves. Ok, I am not going there. Instead, I take the bus to Trafalgar Square, then the short-cut to Leicester Square. There at the funfair with the old fashioned carousel, there are a couple of drunken fat slags wearing short skirts with no tights, singing a mixture of Christmas carols and cheerful tunes like "Don't worry, be happy. Tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu, tu... Don't you worry, be happy! It's Christmas, come on, smile!". I smile and continue walking past the guy who is playing Jingle Bells with the road traffic cone at the corner of Shaftesbury Avenue in Piccadilly Circus. From there I spot one of the sex shops in the red light district that carries all kinds of wacky things. There! I head straight in without a second thought. I knew I should have come here. I'll get this naked baby pissing. Can't get more original than this. My mom will love it!

The best gifts I could possibly give my parents.

Friday, December 10, 2010

William saved by the fire marshal - William salvato dal maresciallo dei pompieri

Yesterday (Thursday 9th December) William and I were ready to go shopping when something unforgettable happened. I accidentally locked William in the house with me freezing my ass outside (temperature below zero C). I had no keys, no cell phone, and both the front and back doors were shut.

In the previous houses where we lived in the Boston area, we used to have a combination lock, which made our life easier. Then we moved into this old charming New England house. "Honey don't worry, this old door forces you to use the keys to close it so you won't risk locking yourself out", said my husband with a smile. Ultime parole famose (famous last words). Yesterday I was indeed locked out of the house with William crying inside and me crying (believe me, crying) outside the house. And my husband? He was in Seattle teaching a 5 days long class.

An hour before I was chatting with my mother in law about me not being used to living in a house all by myself - in London I always shared an apartment with flatmates. The only time when I didn't a burglar came to visit me and stole all of my belongings, dirty clothes included - no kidding. In each of the houses where I lived in London I did lock myself out a few times. Usually, all I had to do to solve the problem was to go to meet a friend for a drink (which in England means a few, many), and by the time we were done with drinks, one of my flatmate was at home, ready to open the door for me. Sweet. Although a couple of times I had to break into the house. It is pretty common for a Brit to do that.

Now imagine me being stuck outside the house in the American suburb, where all you can see is rows of houses and not even a hint of a pay phone. I was screwed. Even if one of my neighbors had been at home, what would I say, "Excuse me, oh, ehem, I am sorry... I am the idiot next door who locked herself out with a baby stuck in the house. Can you please help me smash the door?"

Nope. Instead, I tried to smash the door myself, as I used to do in London in the same circumstances, but apparently American doors are built better. I kicked as hard as I could at both front and back doors, but nothing. From past experience, I was expecting the doorknob to fall off, or maybe a shower of broken wood. Nope. I was not getting a single hint of progress. The door was not getting damaged. My foot was. So I started crying. My baby inside the house was crying louder than ever before and I was freezing my ass off.

It turned out that the first stranger passing by started running towards me to my rescue. No kidding. Like in the American movies. And this is the cool bit. Instead of helping me smash the door, which is what I expected, he smiles and calmly makes a phone call to the fire brigade. "Fire brigade? There is no fire in my house. I am just locked out". When I was 9 I had caused my father to call the Fire brigade with a false alarm, and that led to me being without chocolate for 6 months. How could I let this happen again?

Too late. If you call a fire truck in the US, it comes inside of 3 minutes (I checked my watch). And seconds later I saw the fire marshal coming out of the front door of my house with William giggling in his arms. Just like in Virgola's story (an abandoned dog locked in an apartment who is saved by a fire marshal). No smashed door, no broken window, not even a broken lock to show my husband at the end. That day I had accidentally left the front patio door open after placing the Christmas lights on the balcony. Solito culo! (usual ass, meaning usual luck)

Just when I was hoping that everyone would leave and forget the idiot who locked herself in, a couple of neighbors magically appeared - they were looking at the big red fire truck from their decks. Then the marshal asked a colleague to take my name and various details. At that point I was worried that he would offer sending social services to my house to help me overcome the trauma of the incident (They often suggest things like that here in the US!). Great: they are making it official, I am the idiot of the neighborhood! Instead, he handed me William with a heroic smile, he said that he was safe and that it was a fairly easy job. He then left with that heroic smile still on his face. Like in the American movies. They must like these calls where they don't have to risk their lives and they get to be heros. Now, I just wish I had taken a photo of that moment. I hope William forgives me.

Monday, December 6, 2010

William's walking journey - Il cammino di William

If I hadn't had a child I would have never known that walking is a journey and that in between you moving the arms to pick up a toy hanging on top of your head and you going from the couch to the table in the dining room there is a long physically and emotionally exhausting journey. Being short in words but overwhelmed with joy, I've asked William to walk you through his journey (see video below). Merry Christmas everyone!

We say in Italy, "don't say it too fast" because then the opposite will happen. Well, I guess William has decided to scoot and to hold onto things a little bit more. He will walk when he decides to do so. No more pushes, I promise.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

William's little girlfr... oops, I mean friend - la fidanz... no, amichetta, ehem, amica, compagna (di giochi) di William

"I swear that if I have children I will NOT be like my mother! I will not tell them what to do. I will not tell them who they should go out with, I will not read their diary and I will have nothing to do with their sentimental matters, I will not call the first good boy (or good girl) that comes to our house "boyfriend" or "girlfriend" without their permission and, above all, I will not arrange marriages for them! " I used to loudly say to my mother after being introduced by yet another one of my marriage candidates. Usually a bold Italian guy wearing a large pair of Harry Potter like glasses (when nobody knew who Harry Potter was and how cool were his glasses) and which would have suited my grandma better. "But he is a doctor and his father has an established business!" my mom would say in excitement. "Ma mamma, questo obiettivamente fa cagare!", I would reply to her in disgust. Few days later, another atrocious looking guy (perhaps a lawyer or a big brother of the Fiat people living up the hills of Turin) would appear at our doorstep, ready to be humiliated by my evil actions (e.g addition of vinegar to ossobuco). Still, my mother WOULD NOT get it.

On the day I got married, my mother said to me on the phone five minutes before the beginning of the ceremony: "Are you sure you want to get married? You can still back out if you want!". She couldn't trust my decision (and probably thought she could make a better suggestion herself at that point) until she met and got to know the man I married, and gave me her approval, which luckily didn't take long.

Now look at me as a mother. As soon as I make an Italian friend with a smart and cute baby girl close to William in age... that's it. I immediately find myself making jokes on our two kids dating, often with the thought at the back of my mind that William will have a nice and smart Italian girlfriend, that one day he will marry a nice and smart Italian woman and that he will have nice and smart Italian children (hopefully with the same woman). OH MY GOD!

When I catch myself thinking like this (like my mother) even out of jokes, I almost immediately feel the need of making clear to William, the little girl and to everybody else involved that I am not the one who decides such things and that William's friends are all welcome in our house until William decides that one is more welcome than the others. Very good intentions but it only takes one phone call to bring the "little girlfriend" back into my words. Do you want an example? "Ciao Gaia, come sta l'amichetta di William?" Unfortunately, in the Italian language, as soon as you talk about the "amichetta" (the little friend) - I know, you don't do that with the ugly looking girl you bump into at the playground -, as soon as you refer to her as the "amichetta" everyone's thoughts go straight to "girlfriend" and it doesn't take much before you start calling her "fidanzatina" (little fiance'). If you call her "compagna" instead to avoid this, you have the associations of the couples living together without marriage. So you go back to calling her "amica", hoping that the term is not too close to "girlfriend".

Then if you allow kisses and romantic dinners (which by the way William had a week ago), you have lost all of your good intentions. If the girl is not Italian, you will think: "Hey, this girl is not Italian. Your roots William, don't forget your roots!" At least, this sounds better than "Wives and bulls from your own country!", which is what my parents' used to say to me with little success - in fact I took both the man and the bulls not from Italy but from Wyoming. If the girl is Italian, you will then be thinking that perhaps she is not attractive enough or that she is too short or too demanding or too good looking or too old for him, the list being endless. And you will soon turn into that type of mother you were desperately trying NOT to be: jealous, noisy, deus ex machina and with the highest possible standards, hoping that your child will stay with you for the longest possible.

But look at the pictures below and tell me if these two are not cute together. What? Ok, ok, I'll shut up.

William having fun with his friend Naima at the Italian Christmas party