Friday, May 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Why yes, I have been reduced to posting exclusively when link-ups are involved. And just when this lovely little blog was starting to heat up.

C'est la pregnancy.

Morning sickness. It's over, and not a moment or 11-weeks too soon. I will take bone-crushing fatigue and cravings for baked potatoes over all-day nausea in a heartbeat. And speaking of hearts, mine doth go out to expectant mamas who truly suffer. Especially the HG varietal. I was starting to think for a minute that I was riding that horse, but the clouds have parted, the sun is once again shining, and I don't run screaming and gagging past the seafood stall in the market most mornings.

Houseguests. My husband's best friend (who is a brand new,13-day old priest!) has been staying with us this week, and what a joy it has been. Mass in St. Peter's basilica on the altar of Bl. John Paul II, Mass in our home, served by my somewhat enthusiastic 2-year-old who only wandered off to play with trucks 2 or 6 times during the liturgy, and countless moments of consolation and joy after 5 long, arid months alone in this city. So very blessed. 
Every new priest's dream. And not a shabby morning for our family, either.
Chipotle. Super Target. A car to drive around in. Oh, I mean my family and friends, in 20 short days. Oh America, I am longing to be home again, and all that stands between us is 3 short weeks and an 11 hour red-eye from London to Denver. Should be relaxing, rejuvenating, peace-filled, etc. 

This piece I wrote for the Heroic News blog got picked up a couple different places. And normally when I write 'controversial' I'm filled with comment-dread and holding my e-breath for the comments to start rolling in rough and dirty...but now I don't read them! Weeee! Such a simple, stupid epiphany that has saved me so much e-grief. Because non-blog related pieces aren't meant to be dialogues between the writer and the world.

Can I just say, being pregnant in Italy is a biiiiiig change from being pregnant in the US of A. Or maybe it's just that every pregnancy is different, etc. etc. But I've lost 6 lbs so far (beer weight? Am I a frat guy?), and I'm still not showing at 11 weeks. (Due to, I don't know...All the walking? No processed foods? Eating a loaf of bread a day?) Both boys had me in maternity fat pants by now, and I have to say my relief is immense as I contemplate walking down someone else's aisle in 4 short weeks in a gorgeous bridesmaid dress and having the optimistically-sized-last-December beauty zip right up. Fingers crossed.

Also, stuff like encounter number two in Steph's post never, ever happens here. Or if it does, the language barrier is such that I don't know when it's happening. Which makes me feel...normal. And even though Italy has the lowest birthrate in all of Europe and there are no babies here and there will be no native-born Italians in another two generations if they continue in this fashion...well, these people love babies. Not enough to actually have any of their own, mind you, but oh my goodness do they like to love on mine. And sometimes take them out of my arms in public places...

Joey and JP kissing 'baby' over and over again and talking to my stomach and making big plans for 'baby Jesus coming at Christmas time' and 'playing trucks all together' and 'drink hot milk.' Okay, son, whatever you say. Also, Joey insists that bambino numero tres is a 'he' named Tonio.
'Baby has a penis, Mommy.' Over and over again. Hopefully never in public, but there's always that 11 hour plane ride on the horizon...

Baked potatoes for lunch, every single day this week. Slathered in Heinz ketchup, imported from a specialty store across town and enjoyed with inappropriate gusto. And did you know, Italian Heinz has no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives? It's basically health food, people. I only do the very best for my babies.Weirdest pregnancy craving ever? Nah, with Joey I couldn't get enough of salt and vinegar chips paired with salami and cheese, and I hunted green chile like it was my job. I fatefully and regretfully consumed a super-hot varietal on the eve before labor, and, well, Yolo.

Go forth to Jen, and visit all my e-friends.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Don't be selfish, have a baby

At least that's the gist of what Pope Francis delivered in his homily this morning. God I love this pope.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back to trying to embrace selflessness and  attempt to enjoy being pregnant with two toddlers underfoot and a strangely off-season case of bronchitis. Ain't life grand?

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday in 7

Last night, after a long day of work/mothering/nose-wiping, I was sitting at the 'ol laptop reading the most vile and troll-y comments on some article about something hosted somewhere on the internets and my blood pressure was rising steady, steady, filling up my ears like our stove-top espresso maker and then suddenly, epiphany: why am I reading this shit? My sweet sister Hillary, also a journalist, sagely pointed out that reading comments on any given article is equivalent to sitting in a public restroom and reading all the graffiti on the stall. What. What indeed, have I been doing, and why?

Blogging exempted, the written word is not generally intended to be a correspondence as it is a proclamation, and, therefore, is by its very nature not a 2-way discussion. Mind blown. I knew I had a problem as early as a year or so ago when I was indulging in a very infrequent (perhaps too infrequent) pasttime: reading an actual print newspaper. Probably while waiting in an airport somewhere. And as I finished the piece, my eyes automatically traveled down the page to see what ape_69_mofo thought about what I'd just taken in, in case his sage and worthy opinion might sway my own...what the WHAT.

Occupational hazard up in here, y'all. But I solemnly swear, from this day forward, that I will not - I repeat, NOT - be reading comments on any article that is not my own. And hell, maybe I won't even read those comments, either. Part of the joy of writing, and the mystery of it, is that you're creating something to present to the world, and it's not a collaborative effort that deserves to be shaped by random feedback from strangers. Can you imagine if artists worked that way? Or architects? Or dentists? Imperfect analogies, but do you see what I mean? (And obviously this doesn't apply to blogging, which by its very nature is ordered toward discussion. Different animal.)


 Embracing my new found freedom, I decided to flex my domestic muscles last night and, in a profoundly ironic twist on the plunge into paleo living, I made everything bagels. From scratch. And I've eaten 3 in the past 12 hours. I can't even ... guys they are so good, I almost cried when I bit into the first sample. I told Dave that Einstein Bros was going to call and apologize for ever even attempting what I created in my humble, tiny Roman kitchen last night. Truly life-changing. And, now I totally look pregnant. Probably no correlation there. But this recipe + the addition of dried garlic and onion to the sesame seed topping....carb heaven, I tell you.  


Joey is owning the potty. We're on the big boy commode now, and his nasty IKEA potty chair is tucked away until little brother wants to jump on this diaperless train. It's a legit miracle, because I was fully expecting to be diapering three little booties come Christmas time, but it's been 2 weeks and I'm calling it 'stuck.' He has had a few accidents, mostly in connection with a nasty cold/ear infection combo which renders him slightly hysterical in the middle of the night, but the last 4 nights have been dry and easy. We'll see what regression the coming months of 12+ hour flights and multiple different sleeping arrangements brings, but for now, I'm rolling in diaper money and he is sporting some of the cheekiest baby man bikini briefs that you have ever seen. I can't put a picture up, because I do actually love him and trust me, this would be a scarring thing, not a 'look-how-funny-and-adorable-thing.' Plus, I want to be invited to his wedding someday. Or his ordination.


My job is changing just a bit and I'm now going to be creating original content for Heroic News at the new Heroic News blog. Regular topics to include: abortion, contraception, IVF, eugenics, euthanasia, embryonic AND adult stem cell research, gay 'marriage,' and human cloning. Bring your sunblock and your butterfly nets, because, you know...but please do stop by, and please spread the word on the www about


What can anyone recommend for debilitating pregnancy exhaustion, besides the obvious and unattainable? I'm toying with the stupidest of stupid ideas and thinking about giving up my morning espresso(s), figuring that maybe I will crash earlier in the evening and that 10 hours, rather than 8.5, will do the trick? All I know is this morning I was in and out of consciousness for a good 45 minutes during JP's naptime, and I opened my eyes to find a nearly naked toddler crouched on my pillow systematically piling books and clean laundry on my chest.


Reading and loving this book right now. It's our second literary foray into Duggarland, and color us dorky but we love it, and we love reading about how this family is raising their children and striving for holiness. Do we agree with every single decision they make or belief they proclaim? No, of course not...but I think that's the case for almost anyone else's family who you look at. What they are is a whole lot of inspiring, uplifting, and challenging, especially on the whole parental attitude front. I am often a raging shrew in front of my innocent children, and rarely to I stop to reflect on how damaging mommy's habitual sour puss might be to their little hearts. But the Duggars make me stop and think. And to think, they do it without wine...shudder (like I said, toss the bathwater, not the baby.)


My pretty little baby sister is graduation today. The number 6 whose entrance made our family into a legit 'they-are-definitely-doing-this-on-purpose' public gawking spectacle. The sweetest, most inexhaustibly sanguine and most fashion savvy 18 year old on the planet. And to think, she's already got a semester in Europe under her fabulous leather belt. Tia, I'm so proud of you and I can't wait to see what the coming years bring your way. Wish I were there to see the sixth out of seven Senours walk the blue carpet tarp in Clune Arena at the Air Force Academy tonight. Sniff.

Now if you'll kindly click over to the soon-to-be-published Mrs. Jen Fulwiler, Esq., I'll see you to the door.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

When Showering is Hard

Alternately titled: Failing at everything.

No, I don't mean that. I only feel like I mean that. I am fully aware that keeping the kids alive, relatively healthy, and in good spiritual shape is pretty much the summation of my motherly vocation. And I've ticked all those boxes (so far) today. But it's just one of those draaaagging days where late afternoon is upon us and I have relatively little to show for it.

I don't know exactly what I want to say here, it's not a complaint rant, but it's not a silvery-lined breakthrough either. Motherhood is just hard right now. Living here, in a foreign country, being a stay at home mom in a place that very much not home, is far more difficult than I envisioned it would be. And it's not for the obvious reasons. Yes, I miss American food (however terrible the reputation we've garnered, I will go to my death defending our culinary diversity.), but more than that I miss the feeling of doing, of feeling (and of actually being) useful.

Am I useful to my immediate family? Of course. And most essentially so. But I have cooked no meals for newly delivered friends lately. I've swapped toddlers with no one. I've dropped off donations at zero thrift shops. I've not crafted a single attractive piece of decor for my home in 4 + months. And I've had zero ability to procure any type of paint, spray or otherwise, with which I might resurface the dirty peach colored walls throughout our home.

All these things I was so accustomed to doing in order to lift my spirits and give my mommy moral a boost are suddenly simply unavailable. Or unattainable. Without a car, without a mega store in range, without an American-sized budget (and import economy) which guarantees readily-available and quality 'fresh and different' on demand, I'm at a loss. I am unaccustomed to not being able to manipulate my exterior environment to soothe turmoil in my interior environment. I cannot 'nest' here. Or at least, it is challenging and unsatisfying and ultimately, not worth the effort. I cannot buy my way out of a bad day here...especially now that precious baby Bing #3 is on board and the vino train has slowed to a roll.

In short: I'm living very much in reality here. And reality is not entertaining. And it's not uniformly attractive. I was telling my sister recently that I hate Pinterest now, not because it's a huge time suck (Facebook is more my style of kryptonite) but because almost every single thing I see on there is impossible or unrealistic. And not for the normal reasons! Like budget or body type. But because oh my gosh, I can't find coconut flour here, and JCrew doesn't ship to Italy for a reasonable amount of money. And we live in a 900 sq foot apartment that I cannot craft a pirate alcove/wine cave into a corner of and camouflage it with decorative crown molding and latticework.

I don't know if this is entirely a bad thing. I am sure, however, that it is deeply uncomfortable. I've found pregnancy to be especially disturbing to my equilibrium of vaguely pampered comfort: no gym day care, no bathtubs, no grandparents, no drive-through anythings, no ready made meals (besides the obvious and detestable pizza), and no movie theaters. What's that? You say there are theaters, that show movies in English on the 4th Sunday of each month from 1 to 3 pm and are easily accessible by 3 connecting buses and one metro? You must be thinking of someone without toddlers and with a spirit of adventure that public transport has yet to strangle.

The very smallest things, materially speaking, have both frustrated me and piqued my gratitude lately. The store had 1 avocado left for only $4 (equivalent) US dollars? Amazing! Buy it, who cares if it's half brown! All the cleaning sprays I've tried in this country smell like suffocating, biohazardous death? Misery! Nightmare! Cue extensive fantasy about Target's Method brand tangerine-scented everything.

In short: I think I may have been parenting - and living - a bit on the surface, in my former life. And here below the surface, where I'm trying not to drown, life is not comfortable and it is not serene. And we were made for greatness, not for comfort, it's true...but oh my gosh it's painful to have that reality imposed on you. I have been wondering for months now what I'm doing here in Italy. I don't wonder what we're doing here, because obviously my kids are massively blessed and my husband loves his job and it was the right choice for us, et cetera et cetera...but what am I doing here?

Learning how to stop 'doing' and getting a crash course in 'being,' I suppose. And it is painful. And boring. And frustrating. And it's so much harder than measuring a day by productivity and accomplishment. There is nothing to measure. It's just a collection of moments, of choices, of little sacrifices or angry 'non-serviums' that sum up to a grand total of exhaustion by 10 pm. And I have no way of seeing the fruit of it now, because at the end of a day, of  every day here, it looks like I've done nothing.

I can only presume (and hope) that it's because He is the one doing all the work.

p.s. so many amazing comments lately. And if I haven't responded, I promise it's only because your email isn't linked to your name, and not because I didn't read and love what you wrote. Links please!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Clerical Sort of Saturday

Today was, all things considered, one of the most fun we've had in Rome so far. Today was also the day that Dave's best friend (and the best man in our wedding) was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Denver. So even though our hearts were far away at altitude today, we still managed to ring in Father John Ignatius' big day with a grand ghetto celebration abroad.

The man himself, toasting us on our big day.
While waiting for the livestream coverage of the Mass of Holy Orders, (which we nerded out to for 2.5 solid hours. How many theology degrees up in here?) we took the boys up to the super picturesque nearby soccer field to watch the team of seminarians from the North American College (the NAC) dominate the somewhat more melodramatic Latin American team to clinch the coveted "Clericus Cup" for a second year straight.

Also it's kiiiiind of a cool view.
Joey was mucho impressed with the game and the fields, which I'm going to attribute almost entirely to the fact that we let him try to pee on a tree. John Paul put a lot of weird things in his mouth, so he had a really great time, too.

The real highlight of our pre-Ordination celebration was, however, finding the world's most ridiculous looking BBQ at our teeny local grocery store and dragging it home to perch on our balcony.

Those holes aren't going to poke themselves, mother.
Summer has officially begun in the Eternal City.

While it would have been infinitely sweeter to be there in person to witness to Father John's (and Father Paul Kostka's!) transformation into 'priests forever, in the order of Malchizidek,' I'm thanking God for the internet, a little bag of charcoal, and a husband who is still in the kitchen scrubbing down the aftermath of a whole day spent in domestic neglect.

"It's happening, mom!"
Father John, Father Paul, we couldn't be prouder...and we are eagerly awaiting your visit later this month with 3+ months worth of pent up Confessions. Kidding. Okay only a little bit. (Do you have any idea how hard it is to find an English-speaking priest? Or how lazy I am?)

Buona Dominica, tutti.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Party of Five

Because I just ate half a baguette dipped in olive oil and called it dinner, Imma let you in on a little secret.

Perhaps I've Been Overthinking This...

Joey is potty trained. Like, 7 months of dabbling and coaching and coaxing and then boom, yesterday, he went 24 hours sans diaper because I was feeling, oh, I don't know, lazy? Stupid? Adventurous? And he surprised me. Blew my expectations out of the water. And speaking of water...not a single accident. Not one!

My friend Mary suggested a 100% all-or-nothing potty training blitz which, truthfully, sounded terrifying and fraught with puddles of urine. Or perhaps public displays of soggy cheeks. Her point was this: if diapers are still around some of the time, then the kid isn't going to 'get' it fully. Or at least, there will be confusion and laziness because half the day it's okay to pee in your pants, and the other half of the day it's not.

Made perfect sense to me. Also sounded completely ridiculous because this kid still wakes up with a soggy diaper in the a.m. (probably due in no small part to the gallons of acqua frizzante he begs at bedtime), and who wants to be laundering sheets all day without a dryer? Who, I ask you?

But, partly because I have nothing better to do (read: no car to worry about getting peed in, no pressing appointments to angst over being soiled, no social life for 6 out of 7 days in the week...) we went for it. And he stepped up big time. Seriously I feel like I have a little man now instead of a toddler. And I'm so proud of him I could burst. It's an amazing thing to have your kids surprise you with their competence. Parenting: we're doing it.

Here's how it broke down:

Month 1-7: picked out big boy undies, dolled out chocolate for successful performances, occassionally busted out the undies at home, but always reverted to a diaper for leaving the house/naps/bedtime/whenever mommy felt like it. Basically I felt like Joey in undies was a loaded gun. And I'm guessing that didn't inspire a huge amount of confidence on his part.

This week we decided to get serious. I don't really know why, except that I'm eating carbs again so my brain fog is dissipating, and I couldn't find his size of store brand diapers on Monday, so I pulled the trigger.

Day 1: undies for long periods of the day, treats or money (we're shameless) whenever he had a successful performance.

Day 2: Screw it. Took off the diaper in the morning and never looked back.

-Undies all day, frequent offerings of milk and water, and even 2 trips out of the house sans diaper where he informed me he had to go and then did so, in an unfamiliar and slightly disgusting Euro bathroom, no less. (Granted, I dangled his buns over the toilet and didn't let him touch a thing...but it was still traumatic for me. Not for him. He acted like he's been doing it for ages.)

-Undies at naptime. Now this was scary. I relish the heck out of those 2 hours of peaceful afternoon respite, but he was feeling SO confidant from his successful morning that it really didn't make any sense to undo that confidence with a diaper. And I really felt like it would have done just that. So, we had a very serious discussion about the 'just-in-case-big-boy-pee-towel which I doubled over his sheet, and he used the potty twice before naptime. And then I held my breath. At the two hour mark, he yelled for me "I'm peeing Mommy!" which I guess translates to "I've gotta go!" because he was still dry and wanting an escort to the bathroom. I couldn't believe how much he had held in that little bladder of his when we got him in there!

-Undies all the rest of the day. And a trip to the store to pick out anything he wanted, because honestly, I would have bought him a pony. He settled on a 1 lb. bag of faux peanut M&Ms. Get after it, son.

- Bedtime. This was the part I'd been dreading. Per Mary's instructions, I'd cut off liquids at 6pm and he had gone at least 3 times between then and 8pm, when he finally went down. Deep breath, explanation of how he could call for help if he needed to go, and ... lights out.

- 10 pm dream pee (I don't know what else to call this): It was also recommended that I lift him out of bed for one final bathroom trip about an hour into his nighttime sleep, which we acted on after much debate. This kid is not the world's greatest sleeper, so the thought of waking him on purpose was...not pleasant. But he didn't really fully wake up. He just kind of drunkenly giggled and watched me through slitted eyes while he performed yet another stunning potty session, and then he went right back to sleep when I lied him down. Damn, this is too good to be true.

- Morning time. I'm not gonna lie, I had a fitfull, restless night of sleep filled with dreams about urine. It was bizarre. And I woke up numerous times to listen for him and imagined he would be floating on his mattress by morning. But... 7:30 came, Dave went in at the sounds of restless natives, and there we found a dry, happy 2.5 year old waiting to be escorted to potty town.

Amazed, encouraged, enthusiastic about possibly teaching him how to read by the week's end, etc.

And there you have it. My kid is a dry genius with a serious M&M habit. And I couldn't be more proud.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Whole30 Update

Maybe failure is the wrong word. Let's call it 'scaling of expectations,' shall we?

But it's day 11 of this experiment, and my body is calling it quits on this no grain or dairy business. I can't physically keep up with the children, I'm grumpy(er) than usual all day long, and there are no sweet potatoes in Italy. None. I've been to every fruit stand this side of the Tiber, and I have yet to find one. In short, this isn't a realistic concept for me to adhere to strictly for an entire month. At least, not at this point in our family's life, and while living in this particular part of the world.

I have discovered the number one reason why Italians eat so many carbs: there isn't really much of anything else. By that I mean traditional Italian food still dominates the Italian culinary scene. There are no (real) Mexican restaurants. There are no 'French/Italian fusion bistros.' There are no Vietnamese places, and the ubiquitous Chinese restaurants have (mostly) been infiltrated by Italian staples, so their menus end up including varieties of bruschetta and pasta dishes. You want American? They've got McDonald's. But...come on.

It is, in short, all Italian, all the time.

And Italian cooking does not jive well with a paleo plan of eating. The things I've been trying to procure for some of the recipes for this adventure simply don't exist here. Or, if they do, they are only available at select and remote (to me) locations within the city. So no almond milk. No shredded coconut. No sweet potatoes. No bacon (trust me, prosciutto is not the same thing.) Only seasonally-available, mostly local fruits and vegetables. (Again, not a bad thing, exotic selections to break up the monotony. Like cilantro. Or raspberries.)

And the number one reason I'm calling it quits? I just don't feel good. And I don't have the energy to keep up with these kiddos while I'm carb-starved. Or to work out. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad we started eating this way, (and Dave is sticking it out for the month, because he is awesome) because it has radically expanded the kids' palates, and to a certain extent, our own. the end of the day, it's basically a diet. And diets are, by their very nature, unrealistic to maintain because of their restrictive nature. In short, I've decided it's a wonderful framework to build a healthy weekly menu around. And it has some great insights into the not-so-healthy ways some of us interact with food and alcohol. But at the end of the day, I don't actually believe that beans are toxic to the human body, or that nobody past the age of 2 should consume dairy products. Should grains occupy a higher rung on the food pyramid and meats and veggies a lower spot? Surely. But to cut out entire food groups for non-medical reasons is neither realistic nor feasible long  term. And in mommy world, a month feels very, very long term.


-Learning to appreciate espresso normale again. Straight up, creamy espresso, no sugar or milk added. Perfect in it's simplicity.

-Building meals around meats and vegetables instead of starches. Finding new ways to coax zucchini into behaving like pasta. Discovering how very little I actually care for pasta, besides the fact that it's cheap and everywhere. Ravioli is my one concession.

-Feeding the kids a smorgasborg of fruits, veggies, protein chunks, nuts, and seeds and calling it 'lunch.' Thanks to Joey's gluten intolerance, we've never been a pb&j family, but now we're an even weirder pile-of-seemingly-unrelated-foodstuffs-on-the-high-chair family.

- 5 lbs down. Okay, that's indisputably awesome. But, it could have had something to do with the vino and birra abstinence, too.

Am I a failure for calling it quits 11 days in? I don't know. We're still making better food choices, and I'm not eating taco chips for lunch anymore, so I'm calling it a win. Or maybe a tie.

Anyway, transparency and all're welcome.

p.s. Day 3 of operation Potty Training, and he is currently napping (or pretending to) in Thomas undies atop a 'special big boy just in case pee towel.' Today we had our first successful trip out of the house sans diaper, so I'm feeling crazy brave. Thanks Mary and everyone else for the words of warning/wisdom/encouragement!

Monday, May 13, 2013


Because you can't murder babies with scissors in America and get away with it. At least not forever.
We're coming for you next, Planned Parenthood.

Justice has been served.

Potty Training

Business casual + bohemian artsy

Wearing a tie. I pray he means business this time.

Gazing into a brighter, dryer future.
Any tips? Tricks? Suggestions? Pamphlets on colleges with potty training exemptions? I'm all ears and Thomas the Train undies over here.

Friday, May 10, 2013

7 Quick Steaks

Whole Family Whole30, Week One: in the books.

Lessons learned:

1. Protein is your your friend. It's your best friend, actually. It's your dearest bff, the one who will support you steadfastly while you're wildly cycling between highs and lows, and who will be there for every single meal whether or not you want it to. Especially when you don't want it to, actually. Almonds, avocados, cashews, meat, meat, fish, meat, eggs, more meat...when this thing is finished, I'm going vegetarian for a week to recover from the sheer horror of having to handle raw flesh every single day. But, my children are eating things I'd never dreamed they might. And doing so without complaint (almost) for the very simple fact that there's nothing else in the house to offer then in concession to their complaints. So, they've very quickly adjusted to eating what they've been served. (Note: I am still giving them dairy, because they're little growing dudes, and I don't practice the cow-milk-is-evil religion.
Last night's basil coconut curry. I'd tell you it's just as good without rice, but I'd be a liar.
2. Sugar cravings induce weirder dreams than drugs do. I'm making some assumptions, on this one, admittedly, but last night's marathon REM episode featured a detailed trick-or-treat scavenger hunt of mini Snickers bars hidden by my little brother Patrick all over the front yard of my parent's-house-but-not-their-house-just-in-this-dream-house. Some of the Snickers were intact and in wrappers, some were crushed up into ice cream topping, but my mission was the same: find and eat. The next course for the evening was a vivid and detailed dream about fluffy, perfectly-porous pancakes saturated with pure maple syrup and eaten on the balcony of the condo from our Hawaiian honeymoon. People, I've got a problem.

3. Alcohol. Don't miss it that much. What? So surprising, this one, especially given the respective ages of my children. And we're dabbling (or should I say dribbling?) in potty training right now. But I'm fine without it. And sleeping so much more soundly than after a glass of wine.

4. Breakfast. Somebody just kill me now. No carbs and no cream in my coffee = a study in eggs and misery. Every morning when Dave asks how I'd like my eggs cooked, it feels like he's offering me the option to take both kids to church alone for a 3 hour Holy Week liturgy in Latin at dinnertime, or  travel solo with them on an over-booked United Airlines flight with a 5 hour layover in Atlanta. Um, neither. So I usually end up with over medium.

5. Clothing: feeling looser. In fact, I totally cheated big time and stepped on the scale yesterday after Dave commented on how loosely my expensive Walmart pajama pants were fitting, and I'm down 5 lbs. Um, that's crazy. Because I ate my weight in cashews on Wednesday, and because it's been 5 days. (Note: you are not supposed to weigh yourself or take measurements during the Whole30, because it's a cleaaaaaanse, not a diiiiiiet, got it?) Which leads me to my next point...

6. Cheating. Confession: this week I've snuck: 1 vanilla yogurt, 1 gluten-free snack cake (stolen from my 2 year-old during his naptime, no less) and 1 bowl of gluten free cornflakes. Technically, this disqualifies me from the Whole30 experience, according to their self-appointed guidelines. But, but, I know myself well enough to know that if I admit defeat now, I'll spiral into a McDonad's-fueled tailspin of french fries and Coke, and it won't be pretty.

So imagine my surprise when I was able to very calmly identify the infraction to myself and then...move on. It was like having a healthy, grown-up relationship with food. My internal dialogue went something like this: 'Oh, I just ate that yogurt because it seemed like it would be really satisfying. I wasn't supposed to, according to the guidelines of this program, but that's okay, because now I'll go back to eating the way I've committed to.' When usually it would be all: 'Yogurt was ILLEGAL, and now I am DOOMED and it doesn't matter what I eat because I ruined it now I'm going to finish a whole box of cereal BY MY SELF BECAUSE I'M SCREWED.'

7. Stable blood sugar levels = non-crazy mommy. I've found myself much more receptive to my children's needs and possessing a much higher tolerance for their varies and sundry missteps and misbehaviors  throughout the day. Since I can no longer eat (or drink) my feelings at naptime, I have resorted to actually feeling them, evaluating them for evidence of truth, and then reacting accordingly. For example, I might have said, on Wednesday,'Oh Joey, you just coated the bathroom in urine because you insisted on picking up your own potty to dump it out? Okay, here's a bottle of cleaning spray and some baby wipes. Get to work.' Instead of early enforcing an early nap time and then inhaling a bag of taco chips to lift my pee-soaked spirits.

So there it is, folks, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can't believe we have 24 more days of this insanity...but, but...I'm curious and hopeful to see what lies ahead.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cinque Preferiti

See what I did there? 'Cause I parle Italiano. Sort of.

1. Working Han Solo in a coffee bar (doesn't that just have SUCH a nicer ring than shop? And it's true: there's a veritable bounty of booze on display along with the most fabulous espresso you'll ever put to your lips. Italy: 1, Starbucks: 0.) What about my kids? Oh, they're at the park down the street with their NANNY. Who is a sweet Romanian lady (read: not a gypsy. They're not all gypsies, despite what many native Italians believe) named Cristina who has graciously agreed to come to mi casa every Wednesday morning and party with my wolf cubs for 4 hours. I.have.arrived.

My love.
2. Ke$ha is bumping on the speakers right now. Italy is a lot of things, but it's not prodigious in the pop music production. Or at least if it is, they prefer the soothing sounds of Pink, Mackelmore, and the Lumineers to any of their own native sons. So e'rrwhere I go, I can get down with my 14-year-old interior self. But don't think I'm not thinking about Kendra's wise insights the whole time. There's definitely something to be said for too much of a good mediocre-at-best thing.

3. Papa Francesco's latest charge to adult Christians: stop being teenagers for life. Gosh I love his frankness, his Latin American-ness, and his way with analogies. Also, see point #2 for the way I'm directly disregarding this advice. Also, doesn't hurt that my talented husband wrote this piece.

4. This song. Thanks to Bonnie for feeding my ongoing pop addiction and pointing me in the direction of every song I've 'discovered' over the past year. Truly, I don't think I've discovered a single new piece of music without her recommendation.

5. This amazing flight auction site. A buddy from college (the Boulder years, not the Steubie years) is behind this brilliant and legit flight bidding site. And y'all, we just booked 3 round trip tickets from Denver to Jacksonville, FL in June for $88 a piece. So for under $300 bucks, my whole family - even the lap baby - is flying a couple thousand miles for less than it would cost to hitchhike and subsist on fast food for the duration. Incredible. Plus, they booked us on an actual airline (Delta) and with reasonable departure/arrival times (leave at 9 am, arrive at 2 pm). Nailed it. Orbitz, you're dead to me. I'm booking all forthcoming domestic travel via (Now Eric, pretty please expand into the global market ASAP. K thanks.)

Go see the lovely Grace who is on Spring Break in the Big Easy and still sober enough to guest host for Hallie. Such a grown up, that Grace.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Bratwursts and Warriors

Okay, let the record show, had this little experiment not been published on the www yesterday, I would have climbed into Joey's noontime dessert bowl of gluten free cornflakes. Climbed in and opened wide.

I don't really even like cornflakes. But I am drowning in vegetables, and they sounded like an appetizing alternative.

Dave assured me that once I got over my 'Italian meat phobia' born of a single isolated incident which may or may not have involved horse meat, I'd feel a lot better. And as I sit here eating my THIRD smallish bowl of homemade paleo beef stew, (how obnoxious do I sound? Punch yourself, Jenny) I'm beginning to think he was right.

But I thought the cravings wouldn't start till day 4 or 6. So maybe I'll be fully converted and adjusted by then?

Anyway, on to more exciting things, like the pictures from last night's swearing in ceremony of the newest members of the Swiss Guard (the Pope's exclusive, private security force, dating back to Pope Clement VII) and the subsequent fully-catered Swiss banquet reception in the antechamber of Paul VI hall inside Vatican City. We be rollin'.

Group shot.
I drank zero glasses of the beautiful champagne and ate 1 whole, naked bratwurst dipped in special limited edition Swiss Guard mustard. When I saw grown men in suits pocketing the tubes of stuff stacked on the buffets, I figured I'd best snap a few up for our home collection, too.

The ceremony itself was a little long for a 1 and 2.5 year old to handle at dinnertime, but it was super cool when they actually came to the swearing of the oath. They marched up to their commandant one by one and aggressively grasped a horizontally-held flag before throwing their right hands up in this awesome thumb-index-middle-finger salute. Three for the Trinity. And then they screamed their oaths in German (or French, depending on where in Switzerland they hailed from.) And it was terrifying. And awesome. And guess what? They pack semi-automatics under those fancy striped pantaloons. So don't mess with Switzerland.
He'd be sad to hear it, I'm sure, but I think this wee little one is adorable.

Receiving line after the ceremony.

Clump of monsignores. Off camera: the President of Switzerland. (What? I didn't know what I was shooting at.)
Basically in my Gap last-season nautically striped dress and worn black flats, I was underdressed for this crowd...except for the large numbers of guests - family members of the new guards, no less - who inexplicably showed up in culots (sp?) and Tevas. One woman was rocking a fanny pack. The guy photo bombing the men of the cloth, pictured above, was only a giournalista, so his hip-hugging denim can be forgiven. But damn, a fanny pack?
Sometimes you just gotta text.
Anyway, the boys liked it a lot and a little, respective to their corraspondant ages, and Joey (loudly) inquired many, many times during lulls in the program 'What those warriors DOING, Daddy?!'

Joey and his Italian bff Isabel, admiring the halibards from their respective journalist/daddy perches.
Also, there were beer tents. On day one of the worst-country-in-the-world-to-pull-this-off Whole30. Touche, Italy.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Whole Family Whole30

Oh hey, is that a bandwagon? Let me just (huff...grunt...oooop, there we go.)

So breaking news: I'm kind of fat. Not in an obese kind of way, mind you, but in more of a had-2-kids-really-close-together-and-now-drinks-accordingly fashion.

I've always struggled with my weight, from the chubbiest days of 4th grade through the hellish wasteland of middle school and straight on via 4 varsity sports and an aggressive eating disorder in high school and a very, very devoted beer pong habit in college. And then there were those strange and magical 3 years of grad school + my first 'real world' job where I ran 5 half marathons ... and now there's motherhood.

I've been everywhere from a size 4 to a size 14, and while I look okaaaaay right now, I definitely look like the only American mom at the playground. Which is weird because...actually, never mind. But the point is this: I'm too fluffy for my own good. And Dave is in the same boat. Not the motherhood part, but the fluffy part.

And here's the other thing; we're not tourists here, but we sometimes act like it. Actually, we often act like it. We live just outside Vatican City, and Dave actually walks across St. Peter's Square every morning for his commute. It's beautiful. And it's packed with tourists and pilgrims from 9 am to 7 pm on any given day. And guess what they're doing? I mean besides stopping dead in their tracks on a crowded city sidewalk and getting bodyslammed by a double stroller. They're eating. And they're drinking. Gelato, cappuchinos, panini, biscotti, pizza, Peroni, vino...all manner of tasty food and beverage are being thrown back. And so we're all like, 'yeah, let's have a gelato!' or 'it's 2 pm and we live in Italy...time for some alcohol!'

But it turns out you can't live like a tourist. Because tourists eventually go home and start acting like normal, responsible grownups after their 2 weeks are up. And their regular lives probably don't include daily happy hours on the piazza with gelato nightcaps. And while we're not that bad about it, we definitely have room for massive improvement. Because oh my gosh, if we're going to be logging 2-3 miles on foot on a normal day and doing these ridiculous crossfit workouts, we may as well look like it.

Enter the Whole30. I was introduced to the concept of a whole foods 'cleanse' via my sweet friend Lucy, who is an amazingly talented photographer (and my best friend's little sister) who actually shot our wedding in her early professional days, and did a million dollar job for the price of a couch and a plane ticket.

Keep looking back there will never look the same.
Love this girl. She's also a new mama to sweet baby Edith and was struggling with some of the same body image issues, so last month she and her husband rocked out a Whole30 and I mean what?!! WHAT??!

It looks like she undid childbearing. Not that I'm looking to erase the evidence of my little cuties (and thanks to many, many stretchmark souvenirs, there's zero chance of that ever happening.)

So color me inspired, we're going for it. Plus, Dave is lactose intolerant and Joey is gluten intolerant, so why the hell not put the whole family on the same weird menu and cut my shopping down to 4 food groups?

So day 1. I'm putting it out there so you can virtually hold my hand and ask me in 5 days if I've caved and eaten an entire bag of 'santa fe taco flavor' chips from the local grocery store. (What? They taste like home. MSG tastes like home.) And you can see some of the recipes we're playing around with. This is not going to turn into a food and lifestyle blog or anything of the sort, because my photog skills are just not that good, let's be honest. And my design abilities are even more absent.

I'm not putting up 'before' pictures because, um, hello I still look like this. And it's embarrassing.
 *(okay, fine, here's a 'before' picture...but not the super embarassing wearing spandex-for-maxium-before-and-after-shock-value. That will come later, my friends.)
Behold: A WIWS reject featuring dreamy mom arms and double chin, tourist gut and shapely American thighs. Satisfied?
But maybe look forward to some side-by-sides if this works and I drop like, 7 or 30 lbs in a month. Kidding. Sort of.

This morning found us bright and early buying out the entire market of produce, and then led to hours of chopping, rinsing, cooking and simmering in la cucina. Now I do not relish being in front of the stove, not by a long shot. But ... it felt pretty good to be cooking stuff that is really, really good for my family. And to be making everything from scratch. Because, remember, no Super Target. Just le old agricultural market. So I had to make my own chicken broth. Which was both disgusting and oddly empowering.

On today's menu:

Breakfast: Eggs, sliced fresh coconut and coffee with coconut milk creamer. (And no, I did not make it. It came out of a can from Thailand.)

Lunch: Whole30 chicken salad lettuce wraps, raw green beans, and a handful of cashews

Chicken Salad recipe:
2 grilled chicken breasts, seasoned with pepper and lemon and shredded
2 tbs whole30 approved mayo
1 tsp chopped basil
1 diced crispy pear (translation: not ripe.)
2 stalks celery, chopped
half a small cucumber, diced
2 tbs raisins
3 tbs chopped cashews (any nut will do, but no peanuts. They're (sob) illegal)
1 tbs fresh lemon juice. (am I the last to know that there is no lemon juice in the squeezy yellow lemon bottles? Mind blown.)
sea salt and pepper to taste
Lettuce leaves for wrapping
Dump, mix, fill, enjoy

Dinner: Probably we'll all just stare at eachother and wonder what the hell we were thinking.

Stay tuned....

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sunday at the Castel

This morning our usual morning Mass plans at our parish were drowned in an unexpected spring rainstorm, forcing a last-minute substitution at our actual geographical parish (I'm assuming Rome does it that way) which was an immersion experience par excellence. Anyway, it looks like this:
It's actually a dead ringer for Dave's home parish in South Bend, IN. No offense, mom and dad.
I mean, I guess when St. Peter's Basilica is literally in your line of sight, you just give up, architecturally speaking.

Ugliness aside, the pastor at this parish is great. I think. I've only met him once and he machine gunned Italian at me while asking for my phone number and soliciting promises that we'd come to 3 or 12 events the parish is sponsoring this month for the 'festa di famiglia' or something like that. But he seemed awesome. And he did call me the very next day, I'm pretty sure, though I was so overcome with excitement that the voice on the other end of the line might be the post man delivering our modem that I yelled into the phone I'd be home in 2 minutes before hanging up and bolting down the block from my favorite coffee bar to meet him in the lobby. Nobody was there. Not in 2 minutes, and not in 20. In retrospect, perhaps it had been Fr. Luciano calling...

Anyway, longest tangent ever to say Mass this morning was an absolute circus. The music was good, kind of Steubie-esque in Italian, if that makes sense. And it was First Communion so oh my gosh all those adorable kiddos processing in with their candles, and later bringing up gifts of bread and bottles of Italian wine and cans of ... tuna. Weird.

But the spectators. Oh my gosh, if you've ever been to Mass on Christmas or Easter in the States, multiply that effect by about a thousand and you have an idea of what a sacramental event in Italy looks like. Weddings or First Communions, it doesn't matter, it will bring out the second-cousins-twice-removed who have been to church exactly twice in their lifetimes, and they may or may not bring their pocket chihuahuas in their dog purses.

We are talking stilletos everywhere. Fishnet stockings. Dudes wandering in and out of the sanctuary to smoke cigarettes. Children racing up and down the aisles (oh, wait, those were my own unchurched heathens...) and some of the nicest and the scariest outfits you will ever seen in a religious service. Armani suit? Check. Shredded daisy dukes layered over tribal print leggings with 4 inch platform heels? Check.

Anyway, we were more irreverent than the whole crowd combined since we bolted after Communion, and didn't even go back inside after we finished our cigs.

Later on once the weather cleared up we redeemed our Lord's Day with a leisurely stroll through throngs and throngs of tourists and pilgrims alike and headed to our favorite park, at the base of Castel San'tangelo.

It's one of the nicest playgrounds in Rome, which means there is hardly any graffiti, the equipment is in good shape, and there is soft rubber padding underneath that is mostly intact.

I have about a million adorable pictures of the boys and lucky for you, Blogger is tired tonight so all you get is this unsuspecting park-goer posing in front of the jungle gym. But dig those Roman pine trees in the background.

Friday, May 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes on the Decline of Western Civilization

Hell of a week, y'all. Can't say I've been particularly proud to be an American while reading/covering the news from home this week. Are you sick of seeing this on Facebook/Twitter/blogs yet? Well me too. But the truth must be revealed, even (and perhaps especially) when it's ugly. Because the only way to defeat evil, ultimately, is to expose it to the Light.

Is the news morbid, depressing, and defeating at times? Hell yes it is. But you know what? You might assume that everyone is already aware of this or that depressing/horrifying/shocking/infuriating situation, but you'd be wrong. The reason things like Kermit Gosnell murdering hundreds of breathing, born human babies and getting paid for it in a licensed 'medical' facility continue to happen is because people aren't aware, or if they are, their consciences aren't sufficiently formed to feel horror at the scope of evil we're dealing with.

And that's where we come in. To bring the message of the Gospel, yes. But also to denounce the anti-Gospel. To stand up in a crowded room and identify something evil as exactly that: evil.

Does that word make you uncomfortable? It should. It is the antithesis of what it means to be fully human, an impoverishment of our God-given nature. And it's real. And it's destroying souls and families and nations today, just as it has for a thousand generations beforehand. But lately, it seems, we've become deaf and dumb to its existence. And suddenly every kind of depravity and attack on the dignity of the human person is re-branded and repackaged as a 'lifestyle choice', a 'deeply personal decision,' or the laudable evidence of 'diversity.'

Lies. Calling something evil 'good' does not alter reality. And committing murder of human beings using surgical instruments doesn't make it medicine.

So hold on to your butts, readers, because we're going to pull back the curtain and look evil in the eye. And we're going to spit in its face and expose it for the rest of the world to see.

1. The Gosnell Trial. Horrifying, mind-numbing, and completely over-saturated by media coverage, at least on my newsfeed. But I inhibit a particular little corner of the internet where I see a lot of coverage of all things bioethics-related. So I trust that there are still plenty of people out there who don't know about the man who systematically murdered hundreds of unborn and born children at his filthy 'medical' facility over a period of decades, employing the assistance of unskilled and untrained staff members and disposing of the bodies (or keeping revolting trophies, as some serial killers are wont to do) in the most inhumane and gruesome manner. Vom now or vom later, the choice is yours.

2. Live Action President Lila Rose's latest undercover video investigations, '#Inhuman'. She is a boss. She is in her early 20's. And she is braver and more intimidating and effective than any single politician or investigative reporter on the planet. Live Action has dropped 3 shocking videos this week. None of them are shocking for what you'll see. There are no gruesome pictures. All of them, however,  are shocking for what you'll hear:

3. The first details the willingness of late-term abortion facilities to murder accidentally-born babies should the procedure fail,

4. The second provides evidence that abortion 'doctors' routinely break federal law in order to deny medical aid or resuscitation to failed abortion victims,

5. The third includes a step-by-step description of how a baby is dismembered inside the uterus (or sometimes outside, after birth) and how the remains are sent out to funeral homes (even though they're not human?) It also has some chilling footage from a Senate hearing in Florida of Planned Parenthood's view of the human person, and of their own perception of their role in the abortion business.

6. Fox News' correspondent on the O'Reilly factor didn't seem to share my opinion of her. Though she didn't seem able to form a coherent sentence, either. And had some weird facial tics going on, so I don't know, maybe she was on something.

7. The FDA's (and the President of the United States) endorsement of statutory rape. The Morning After abortion pill is now available OTC to children as young as 15. Who are, according to federal law and common decency, protected from sexual exploitation by statutory rape laws in every state in our nation. But just in case you get one of them pregnant, no worries, you can easily send her down to Walmart or CVS for a powerful dose of the dangerous and potent drug Levonorgestrel and bam, problem solved. 

I find it deeply ironic and more than a little disturbing that the President is himself father to two teenage daughters. But remember, this is the same man who doesn't want them 'punished with a baby.' Best make the Morning After pill available to teens then, to make certain the cycle of destructive behavior and precocious sexuality our young people are enslaved to continues to spiral out of control. Hell, why not officially endorse it?  

So there you have it. Depressing, disgusting, and oh-so-necessary to share until there is no filthy, darkened corner for this madness to hide in. Mother Teresa, who surely saw more filth and depravity in a day than the average human being could stomach in a lifetime, tells us we must 'be the change we wish to see in the world.' And so we must.

If you're still reading, good on you, solider. Head over the Jen's to have some peace restored.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

5 Favorites

1. This guy.
Dave with baby Joey.
I could go on an on about his intelligence, his sense of urgency and integrity in his work, his fidelity to Christ and His Church, his love for me and for our little ones, his daddy skills, his finely tuned sense of ironic humor and ability to deliver deadpan one-liners to me in the most highly charged and emotionally inappropriate settings...but instead I'll just tell you that the first Halloween after we had children, he accompanied me to a costume party dressed as Antone the Bedroom Intruder (I went as Taylor Swift, the early years, and Joey was Tim Tebow).

I don't have any photographic evidence, but that's probably for the best, because in the wise words of my sister Tia, 'You can never unsee something.'

That, my friends, is a real man.

2. Like St. Joseph, whose feast it is today! I love my husband so much. He is cooking me nachos using impoverished Italian ingredients in our very kitchen right now, and this on his day off. St. Joseph the worker approves.

3. This place. Purveyor of fine imported goods and overpriced American indulgences. Think Betty Crocker brownie mix for around $8 a box. Think largish bottle of Heinz for around $7. Think you wouldn't pay those prices? Come live abroad for a month or four and then see if you'd change your tune for the occasional splurge.

Don't think I didn't enjoy every bite of the $2.50 can of black beans that graced my nachos today.

4. This blog. I haven't seen or heard from Jillian in 2 week's time, but I'm actually seeing definition in my arm flaps and in my legs for the first time since, oh, I don't now, 11th grade track season. Bonus: I got to use both Joey and JP as barbells this past week, since I am working within the confines of a rather (ahem) modest home 'gym' involving zero equipment. And they loved it. Okay Joey was actually really offended that I picked him up and did hang cleans with him, but John Paul smiled vaguely and didn't protest. I am a Crossfit believer!

5. Google calendar. Hi, I'm 9 years late to the party, but whatever. We just mapped out our entire summer schedule including appointments, visitors coming our way, trips we're taking, etc., and it feels ah-mazing to have it all in one place. Plus, I entered all our flight itineraries, booking numbers, directions to hotels, etc. onto each individual trip, ensuring that when we are inevitably stranded in some nameless airport in the Midwest US this summer I can whip out Dave's Blackberry and pull up all the info we forgot to write down somewhere between security in Rome and baggage claim in Chicago. Or Denver. Or DC. You get the point.

I don't know why I never thought to do it before, but I'm feeling awfully clever and modern for having figured it out. Plus, now Obama can track our every movement with complete convenience. Winning!

Thanks for hosting, Hallie!