Monday, March 11, 2013

Adventure is Exhuasting

Just when I thought I couldn't go at this parenthood thing any more ghetto-like, I stopped looking for a bi-lingual preschool/daycare situation for Joey and just settled on 'taking him everywhere/sneaking downstairs to the market in front of our building while he naps' route. So far, so mediocre, but we'll see if we can't tweak some things.

Mingling with the neighbors.
Today marked our 7th Monday in Italia, and like most of the other Monday's before it, dawn found my trusty nanny sister Christina and me on duty once again. Dave has been working like a dog since the whole no more Pope situation reared its sad/exciting/confusing/mostly stressful/hopefully sanctifying head, so he is gone for 12 hours most days, with the exception of weekends, where we see him for all but 4 hours during the day. Wee.
"Is this an adventure, Mom?"
Having digested a grim forecast via for a '100% chance of rain,' we did what any sane caretakers of children would do in such a situation, and after one too many hours indoors over the weekend, and made the executive decision to go to the beach. Because everyone knows the only thing more fun than a rainy day at home is a rainy day at the beach. With babies.

Regardless, fortified by espresso, we marched our charges down to Stazione San Pietro and settled on a regional train bound for a medieval castle/town place, complete with a large lake. Close enough, right? Besides, the beach train wasn't leaving for another 45 minutes. Now, lest I leave the impression that I am some kind of adventurous spirit who enjoys washing her undergarments in the bathroom sinks at local hostels and eating everypartofthepig at local kitchen table establishments, I'm not. I like eating at chain restaurants of the Mexican variety, and I really used to like my washer and dryer back home in the good ol US of A. But that's neither here nor...well, actually, I guess it is there. But the point is, when in Rome...okay I'll stop, I promise.

Scraping powdered dish soap out of the latch with scissors. Or teaching Joey a vocational trade. I don't know.
We're here now, anyhow, and life is hard. It's beautiful and exhilarating and rewarding and once-in-a-lifetimeing...but the overarching theme is most definitely 'hard.' I spend anywhere from 1-3 hours per day doing basic household maintenance like laundry, dishes, and light cleaning, and if that doesn't sound like a lot, then I'd like to cordially invite you to my former life where I cranked out 45 minutes, tops, on a good day, and called it health-code compliant. Dear God, I miss my dryer and my Bissel upright. And Super Target. But I promised myself I wouldn't cry while writing this, so I'd better stop there.
The dryer with a full load.
Not to go all #firstworldproblems on you people, but I think my issues are becoming legitimately of a second-worldly nature. I have turned like 30% of my wardrobe greyish green because I can't figure out how the flip to use the washing machine, and we have no dryer. That might not sound awful, but it is awful. I spend like 2 hours a day on laundry alone, and if I don't we wear dirty clothes, because we each have so few options. And it takes hours for stuff to dry in the humidity. 24 hours, precisely, for most adult-sized pieces. And about 30 hours for jeans. And we each own 2 pairs, do the math.

Speed drying on the radiator.
Also, we walk or take the train or bus everywhere, except the one time per week when we take a cab somewhere, during which period I anxiously watch the fare climbing on the meter and mentally tabulate how many bottles of wine could otherwise have been purchased. Let me tell you something, until you have schlepped home enough groceries and drinking water for 5 people for a day or two on your back, you haven't lived. Truly exhilarating. When I'm going on a specifically water-seeking mission, I usually take the (empty) double stroller and load both seats down with 1.5 liter bottles. (We also drink the tap water, but we have been warned that the estrogen concentration is so high that the boys and Dave really shouldn't, so we try to limit how much of it we consume.) Now, I realize this is hardly walking 4 miles each way to a plague and crocodile-infested river with a jug on my head, but it sure as hell isn't Costco with a car. Somewhere in the middle, I guess.
Speaking of carseats, this is pretty much JP's now...and he loves it.
Also, the complete!lack of any discernible! order! Oh my gosh, these people run their businesses like, um, well, like they run their government. It's a shitstorm, I tell you. Case in point: we still don't have our permanent internet. We signed the contract in January, but it's only March, signora, and you can't rush these delicate matters.

I realize I sound like the world's most ungrateful and depressing downer right now, but I have to be real about how much I'm missing my friends, my parents, my car, my gym membership, and my beloved dryer. And Windex. And Oxyclean. Okay I have to stop now.

What I do have? Amazing coffee. The most incredible front-row seat to this historic moment in the life of the Church. Kids who are learning to speak Italian and interact more comfortably with adults than with other children (okay that one's kind of sad, actually, but there just aren't any here!), a beautiful view of St. Peter's dome from my balcony, a balcony, great wine, a husband who is doing an amazing job and loving his new responsibilities, a very helpful and generous sister who is staying with us an entire extra month.

And really, really cheap train tickets to nearby adventures. Just so long as I try not to think about the laundry they're going to generate...


  1. Awww...I was totally all J about your son's kiss from the Pope and thinking how lucky to be living in Rome and now...well, the nearest Target/Costco/or even Super Wal-Mart is a minimum of 45 minutes away BUT I shall never complain again because I could not live without all my modern conveniences. i.e. vacuum, dryer, and swag wagon (aka mini van).

  2. Check it. I am crazy jealous of your life, in rome, with your children and husband, and you know the whole 'pope kissing your child' thing. And a lot of time when I read your blog, I call my husband and say, 'we need to move, take an adventure, live somewhere else for awhile'. And he reminds me it might be all its cracked up to be. True story, I didn't think of all the things written in this blog. Overwhelming. Many prayers your way.

  3. Jenny,
    You are doing an AMAZING job as a mom! When I saw the pic of JP in his regular seat strapped to you...I just thought WOW! You are giving him that attachment parenting lifestyle that the books talk about, but what seems too much to do in reality. You are giving so much of yourself to your kids and husband! Keep it up friend! Can I send you any windex or oxyclean?:) miss you so much!!

  4. You know what, I say complain a little. I'm sure other, holier folks will give you an awesome pep talk and encourage you to offer it up but I'm telling ya: Here's my shoulder - cry away.

    There can be really overwhelming, difficult aspects in the midst of really awesome things. It doesn't mean we're ungrateful, unwilling, or unable - it just means it is what it is.

    Lastly, we wash jeans once every 7-10 days unless they have pee, poop, or vomit on them. Snot, food, regular spit up, marker, little bits of mud - all that can be spot cleaned or ignored. And I have a washing machine and dryer.

  5. Jen- I cannot imagine how hard it would be living there! I do think it would be so hard to be in a strange place with a differnt language, no where close to family. And, to make matters worse, you have adoring fans, idealizing your experience. Seriously, at first, I envisioned myself in your position and I pictured drinking cappuccinos all day and seeing the sites (all the while my kids would be perfectly well behaved). Yeah, totally not realistic!! Thank you for being honest and sharing the diificulties of it all too. Praying for you!

  6. 1. All three of my boys have the snowman footie pjs.
    2. Rome is rough sans kids and I can't imagine how rough it is with kids by yourself.
    3. I hear you in regards to the local shops. One day I vow to figure out the buses, their logic when it comes to hours of operation, and how speak Roman slang.
    4. You are doing an awesome job so go dring some vino, eat gelato, and formaggio!

  7. i studied abroad for 4 months in eastern europe and while it was fun and exciting and exhilarating i was definitely reading to come home to the american comforts we are used to and depend on.

    drying laundry for one person wasn't too bad...i can't imagine drying daily loads for a family of four...eek!! be a saint! even when you really want to dry a load of laundry and have your jeans dry soft and not crunchy :)

  8. So interesting about the estrogen in the water...I'm assuming from all the birth control?? And then we wonder why men are becoming more effeminate and infertility is on the rise? Duh.

  9. I agree with Colleen - more info on the estrogen situation! So fascinating. But I digress. I'm sitting hear reading and thinking that all the things you are talking about would be an amusing anecdote to tell people after returning from a funny vacation for a week or two. But to have it be your life? Hard, hard, hard. I know you have all those "good" aspects of living there, and someday when you return to the states, all that WILL be an amusing anecdote. But you're completely within the realm of normal to long for the things that we take for granted here. I have 5 kids and the thought of no dryer? I would literally go insane. Once, my dryer was broken for 3 days and I about kissed the repairman full on the mouth when he finally showed up at my house.

  10. We moved to Dublin Ireland this summer for a year for my husband's work. It's not the same in some obvious ways but I wanted to tell you I feel your pain- especially on the laundry. We do have a dryer but it's unethusiastic so there is still quite a lot of line drying. I eventually googled the manual for my washer and that was very helpful- I finally figure out that the loads actually did take 2 hours, it wasn't that I was pushing the wrong button. And, once I got the hang of it, the washer actually does get things cleaner than US washers but 2 HOURS! MOst of the washers have a short cycle, though. The measuring of the detergent is also a trick. You often have to buy a measuring scoop at the hardware store- while I knew they didn't have a scoop it took me a bit to figure out you could still buy one.

    I also totally feel you on the walking EVERYWHERE. We rent a car on occasion but mostly walk. I like it in theory but there are days I would have trouble choosing if I miss my washer and dryer or minivan more. Is delivery an option? Especially for the water? We don't have to buy water but we do go through a ton of milk a week. We get our groceries delivered which makes that a lot simpler. I'm not sure if it really works with the whole Italian business model but it's quite common in the UK and Ireland now. The delivery charges are usually 4-12 euro depending on day and time but since I'm a SAHM, I can get it at the cheaper times. And, it's not just from the fancy grocery stores.

  11. What an enormous amount of laundry to cope with! There has got to be a solution! Per chance do you have a cast iron pan with a loop in the handle for hanging and a fan? I wonder if it would help to heat a cast iron pan, tie it to a rope and hang it in the middle of your drying rack to speed up the drying process. Pair that with a fan to take care of evaporation and ? I'll admit that I've never tried it but hey, maybe it would work? If iron could be used for wrinkles, why not for drying? As a final note, I read that back in the day, they used beeswax to keep the iron from sticking to starch.

  12. Oh, there was another things about laundry. A breeze seems to be the key to getting things dry in Ireland- they will dry in drizzle if there is a stiff wind but not in still, sunny but humid air. So, maybe a fan would help? If you could get a little oscillating one, that might do the trick.


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