Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Imports and Exports

Do you know what I have been fantasizing about for the past 3 weeks (ever since this little adventure novel we're living took an abrupt and fascinating twist toward home)?

Super Target.

No but seriously, there's more to life in American than vapid consumerism, and I know that now. And there's more to life here in bella Roma than sipping cappuccinos and taking in the sights (and smells) of a summer in full swing. But all things considered, I'll gladly swap one for the other.

I have been so blessed during this time here in Rome. And as I may have mentioned here once or twenty-seven times before, I've also been challenged and stretched and tested beyond my level of comfort. As I sit and type this, the shades drawn and the AC cranked against July's last stand, I'm still being tested. Because I just said goodbye to my cleaning lady for the last time and I'm really, really going to miss her. And not just because she does my dishes for me once a week. Okay, mostly for that. But she is also a huge sweetheart. And deep cleans my entire house in 2 hours for only 20 Euros.

That, my friends, is a luxury that I never knew I was missing out on. And one I've actually come to rely on quite a bit. And even though it is, for some reason, far more humbling and feels much more ostentations to admit "I have housecleaning help" than "I hired a babysitter for the morning," I think it's one Euro-luxury that I'm going to try my darndest to replicate, Stateside. Because while I am uniquely qualified to take care of my own children (not that I am opposed to a night off now and then. Hell no I'm not), anyone can clean my bathroom...and I'm happy to pay them to do it, if the budget permits.

Another thing I'm refusing to settle for upon our repatriation? Bad coffee. And you know what qualifies as bad coffee? Anything that you can't drink black, or with a bit of sugar. And if you have to pump flavor of some sort into it to help it go down? Fail. So yes, basically, I've become a huge coffee snob. Espresso for me, or a double cappuccino if the weather permits. Starbucks, we had a good run, but my forays back into your arms during our air-capades last month showed me the light: you don't taste that great.

I'll still be lining up for my annual first-of-Fall pumpkin spice latte, though. Because I still have a heart.

Finally, I'm really going to miss our beautiful church ... and the roughly 803 other beautiful churches around the city. This one in particular:

But all the rest of them, too. It's a beautiful thing to be able to stumble into the most beautiful church you've ever seen, just because you took a slightly different way home from the grocery store. But it's also a really beautiful thing to be able to drive to the grocery store. And to have it not be the size of a Circle K. So.

Italy, you've been good to us. Hard, but good. I'll miss the friends we've made, the espresso habit I've developed, and the subconscious hope that anytime I'm walking near Vatican City, I might stumble across Papa Francesco out for a surprise and unexpected public appearance. But I'm ready.

I'm ready to come home.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Little News...

Because I'd be remiss if I didn't announce it to you, my lovely long suffering readers. Thanks for all the lent ears during the great laundry wars of 2013...things are looking bright for the Uebbing family.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Church for Gay People

Hint: it's also a church for alcoholics. And for recovering bulimics. And for former (or current) pornography addicts. For liars, cheaters, shoplifters, and drug users. In short: it's a church for humanity.

Pope Francis made an unexpected gift of his time and did a little Q & A with the lucky group of journalists accompanying him home on the papal flight from World Youth Day in Rio this morning, and inevitably, the question of homosexuality came up.

The Pope reiterated the Church's teaching on homosexuality, clearly stated and lovingly (one hopes in all cases) implemented:

If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says they should not be marginalized because of this (orientation) but that they must be integrated into society." 

Did you catch that? The Pope isn't judging gay people. The Pope isn't judging any of the rest of us poor, sinning schmucks either, people who are trying - and failing - day after day to live a Christlike life and do His will in our lives. 

Did the Holy Father invite people to practice homosexuality? By no means. Did he infer that gay 'marriages' would soon be performed in Catholic parishes around the globe? Nope. He simply stated the eternal Christian truth which is preached for all people and for all time: if you are searching for the Lord in earnest, you will find him. And you will be welcomed. 

Too many Christians have been branded by a media eager to demonize and divide as 'intolerant' or 'bigoted' because of their rejection of homosexuality. But the rejection of homosexuality must never be confused with the rejection of homosexual persons. No person is unwelcome to Christ, or to His Church. We are all of us sinners, found wanting, and in need of His mercy.

Does this mean the Church will ever stop calling people to repentance? Definitely not.

Will the same Church ever embrace sinful behaviors in her children in order to assuage their misguided notions  of happiness? Never. 

The Church does not dictate morality; she reveals what is inherently true, good, and beautiful. 

Homosexual behavior is not deemed 'sinful' because the Church says so; the Church says so because the behavior is inherently damaging to the human person. As is all sin. The teachings of Jesus Christ are not arbitrary, but are rather deeply informed with the most intimate knowledge of the human person. He knows what makes us tick, because He made us. And neither He nor his Bride are ever, ever going to recommend a behavior that is harmful to us. 

That's why the Church will never change Her teachings on contraception. She'll never jump on board with Planned Parenthood and endorse the concept of 'therapeutic abortions.' And there are never going to be a special set of readings for use at 'same sex wedding' Masses. 

Because He loves us too much.

And because homosexual behavior, for all the noise being made by Hollywood and the media, is fundamentally damaging to the human person.

The Pope was not speaking some sort of secret code and green lighting gay 'marriage' with his statement to the press today. Though it will surely be misconstrued in many circles as such. He was simply reiterating the words of Christ, spoken 2,000 years ago, and spoken still today. 

Come to me, you who are burdened, I will give you rest. Forget what you've done, where you've been, what you've seen...and come to me. And be at peace. I made you. I alone know what can fulfill the desires of your heart. Do not seek the world's happiness; the world did not make you, and cannot know what you are made for. Only I can tell you that.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Life's a Beach

5 days out of 7.... that's not bad, right? That's like a solid C. I'll take it.

It has been HOT here in Rome. Like too hot to leave the house between noon and 6 pm. And pretty much too hot to do much of anything else, the rest of the hours, aside from wandering up and down the shady side of the street eating gelato and drinking regular Coke. I have become a disgusting sugar addict in these past 8 months, and I've had mornings where I'll happily slurp down a cappuccino con zuccharo, a cornetto con nutella, AND still eat nothing but fruit and flavored iced tea for lunch. Gestational diabetes, here I come.

We took a day trip to Santa Marinella on Friday, which involved lots of train riding, stair climbing, toddler coaxing and sand scraping...but it also involved 90 glorious minutes of being submerged up to our ribcages in the gentle waters of the Mediterranean. Joey sort of has zero fear of the water now, and happily took off paddling in a borrowed (stollen?) water ring for 'those boats over there Mommy, imma be right back.' 

Okay, el Capitan. But dipping your head under water every 4 minutes and pretending to drown isn't helping your campaign to convince me that you know how to swim.

JP, on the other hand, was happier scrambling on the shore right where the 'waves' (this was a very protected and idyllic bay with practically zero chop) hit the sand, playing with beach toys and occasionally allowing himself to be perched, semi-submerged, in my lap. Eventually we all got burnt to hell, despite our careful re-application of sunblock and the hottest modest swimsuits on the beach. So home we went. JP spiked a fever on the train and he has been in and out of febrile madness for the last 48 hours. So, I think it's safe to say he's a 'mountains' guy.

Speaking of beachwear (we were, weren't we?) Europeans have a muuuuuuch looser definition of age-appropriate and definitely have a different take on modesty. What I found disturbing as hell 3 months ago I am now utterly accustomed to, and, in fact, I don't think there's really anything all that wrong with dressing like you're going to the beach when you're at the beach.

Plus, I really don't know how to say this tactfully, so I'll say it the way I say everything else: there is something incredibly refreshing about seeing women with less-than-perfect (read: real) bodies rocking bikinis. Am I about to bust out my 2-piece circa 2008? Mmmm, probably not, but only because I have theeeee worst stretch marks on all of God's green earth, and I would never ever feel comfortable flashing them up and down the sand.

But the cellulite on my legs? Oh, it turns out every other woman over the age of 30 pretty much has that, too. And the less-than-toned midsection that looks like it has borne children because it has...yep, everyone else has got one of those, too. So the conclusion I've arrived at is this: bikinis, the great equalizers! And the men don't look that hot, either. And they couldn't care less! What a refreshing change from the country club scene where only nipped/tucked Marilyn rocks the teeny weenie while the rest of us schlump around in tankinis and skorts that I wouldn't have been caught dead wearing in the 5th grade. Made of Lycra. Oh for the love...

Anyway, Euro're growing on me.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Try to Be Here

These days are so long, and they're so similar that sometimes - more often than I care to admit, really - I lift my head and look around on a Thursday afternoon and wonder how it isn't Monday still. Didn't we do all this on Monday already? Has the sun really risen and set three times since then? Have my legs been shaved this week?

They don't notice. They don't seem to have any real sense of the passage of time. Joey goes wild with satisfaction when I acquiesce to his demand for a bedtime "two minutes later than John Paul's." Sure, kid, whatever gets you through to quitting time.

But they don't have a real grasp on 'hurry up' or 'slow down' ... and they sure as hell don't have a handle on 'Mommy needs five minutes more on the phone, please go restart Curious George and teach yourself how to read.'

I am bad at slowing down. I'm also bad at surrendering to the pace of a toddler driven day, marked by periods of intense involvement with a wooden train set and periodic fraternal sparring over said vehicles. One more drink. Hold me. I want up on your bed. I don't want to go potty. I just peed on the floor. Don't get my hair wet. Hold me. Don't look at me. Et cetera. 

I don't know whether this is a terrible thing to admit, but I hate reading aloud to my children. I hate reading aloud, period. To revisit the same Curious George (why is that monkey such a fixture in my life?) story over and over again is a special kind of hell for me. It's definitely a death to self. But it's an unwilling death, not freely given. I feel acutely that my life is taken from me, in these moments, rather than freely surrendered. And that sucks. Because I want to love my children better than that. I want to give them the best of me, and to give it willingly.

I want to want to sit cross-legged on the floor reading the same book over and over again and marveling over his delight with the cadence of the story. But those moments are fleeting, and the feelings they invoke are unsustainable. Most of the time I'm lucky to keep myself from swearing in front of them or raising my voice to a full-on yell. I try to kiss them often, and squeeze their fat little thighs while telling them how precious they are. But I also spend way too much time on the computer while they're awake. I say terrible things about their behavior while I'm on the phone with my mom (who always admonishes me) and to my sister (who sympathizes with me).

In short, I'm failing them. Every day. I'm also serving them the best I know how... most of the time. I'm trying to teach them to love Jesus: we go to Mass and I sweat and wrestle and threaten and coax. And I pray that something is soaking down deep into their little hearts, and that it will grow and bloom. Today we took Aunt Claire to St. Peter's and we stumbled into Mass on the St. Joseph's altar, in Italian. Against all better judgement we stepped behind the velvet rope and joined in. Because it had just started and I needed the Sacrament today, just like Christy wrote about.

They both fought me most of the time, escaping from the pew, flirting with nuns, running away from me and climbing into the stately wooden confessional and kicking sandaled feet gleefully against the penitent's kneeler. In short, they were toddlers. As we were leaving the basilica, threading our way through massive crowds of sweating tourists, Claire asked 'was that normal?' And I could only laugh.

Oh yes, it was normal. It was every day. And it was awful. And yet, completely what I expected. These years are hard. They're fleeting and precious and something I'll ponder in my heart when I'm 50 years old, I know...but they're hard. And I'm just trying to live in them, to be in them, to not constantly try to escape from them. Because I know, if my vocation is here, then my salvation is here. And I mean that in the least saccharine way possible. I firmly believe these children will get me closer to Heaven than any other thing on this earth. And yet, I want to run from them. Often.

I hope if the internet is still a thing 10 or 15 years from now and they happen to stumble onto something I've written about this time in our lives together, they'll see how loved they were, in spite of the insanity and proliferation of bodily fluids. More importantly, I hope they'll remember a sweet, patient Mommy who didn't mind reading one more story or getting one more glass of water at bedtime, rather than the yelling, un-showered Mommy who is threatening to lock herself in the bathroom with a laptop and a bottle of red wine until Daddy gets home.

I hope they know how much I love them. And I hope they don't feel ignored or hurried or slighted or a million other emotions I unwittingly inflict on them on a daily basis.

I hope I can learn to be here. Because, in the words of one of my favorite saints, "We have only today. Let us begin."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Raindrops on Roses, etc.

Just 5 of my current favorite things, featured by Hallie via Grace. Thankfully, since I've been utterly spent for cohesive content today, I can keep my daily streak alive.

The best.
Today was the loveliest day I've had in Rome in ... maybe ever? Dave's sweet younger sister is here, taking a breather from her exotic life as a tropical disease specialist in Cambodia, and she is rapidly rocketing to the top of my roster of preferred Uebbings. Not only did she remain utterly calm when Joey peed his pants in a Vatican bike shed this morning (that's another story for another day... like maybe his wedding day), but she later did my dishes for me while I banged out some work during nap times. So I'm keeping her.

Dave bought this book before our London/Denver flight earlier this month, and passed it on to me after he'd finished it and even though I was totally halfhearted in my agreement to give it a whirl, I fell truly, madly, deeply in love and Savage Garden, hold me back, I wish I could un-know it simply so I could re-read and enjoy it all over again. If you like Jane Austen, Downton Abbey, small children, puppies, pastel nail polish, and anything else that is good about the world, well this is the book for you.

This is the banner on my favorite gelateria's homepage. Which is pretty accurate, all things considered.
Gelato. Every day. Because I'm hot and pregnant, and not in the way you'd think. I'm 19 weeks in and 8 lbs. up, which may be a lifetime record and may also be very poor form to mention on the internet. I'll be checking back in at week 29 weighing in at approximately 55 lbs, so stay tuned. 

This palate, purchased during a stopover in the very glamorous South Bend, Indiana. (maybe you've heard of the University Park Mall, Ana?) It's Bare Minerals Ready Eyeshadow 8.0 in The Power Neutrals ($40), which is approximately $35 more than I generally spend on eyeshadow, and frankly, it shows. Almost every day, regardless of how little I've slept or how underdressed I may be, if I swipe this magic potion across my eye lids, my husband purrs his approval. Just trying to keep the magic alive. Plus, it has a chart (don't judge, don't laugh) that instructs me where to put what, and for which occasion. Since I was the eldest girl in our clan and wore Star Wars t-shirts to school until the 8th grade, I may have been just a tad on the late blooming side of the feminine forest. So.


I am in love with my MacBook Air. I got it for work and it is the perfect combo between a tablet and a laptop. I'm not sure of the pricetag, but my boss has some sweet connections and I'm sure he got a deal. I have last year's model and it's fantastical for a million reasons, but mostly the batter life, the screen clarity, the layout, and the 'intuitiveness' that is the Mac interface. I was a skeptic, but now I'm a believer. Whenever I have to type in, I am supremely irritated by how clunky "Joey's" hand-me-down PC is.

Prayers for Hallie as she takes to the friendly skies with half her brood tomorrow. Grace has the virtual fort in her capable hands.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Which I Melt Under the Tuscan Sun

Eh, the Roman sun. Close enough.

Checking in today and doing my duty in posting for a third consecutive day, a feat so incredible it had to be recorded on the internet for all of posterity.

It's really, really flipping hot today. In lieu of sitting around awaiting our errant AC repairman, I made the dubious decision to load up the troops and schlep down to the Vatican hood to crash Daddy's office once again for some reverse-sauna treatments.

Regrettably, this decision was made close to naptime, and so while we were cooler, we were not all a happy bunch. About $60 worth of pasta lunch and 2 hours later, I trundled home with my sweating masses, and we were mere meters from our apartment building when bam - or rather, almost bam - a freaking Fiat making an illegal uturn in a taxi lane almost took us out. A visibly pregnant lady sweating her ass off and pushing 100+ pounds of babies and stroller.

Excuse me!! I politely screamed at the top of my lungs, followed up with a much more predictable you asshole because I am a classy non-Italian speaker, I am.

The non-plussed driver didn't pluss, nor did any of the mildly intrigued passersby. So I grumblingly hauled babies up onto the curb and thundered onward, cursing the Eternal City.

I ducked into our favorite bar to buy 3 consolation popsicles for us to lick our almost-wounds over, and wouldn't you know it, I was a Euro short.

Damn this backasswards country and their tax-evading mafia-protected businesses and their shady debit-card-refusing policies. I just want to buy my kids some freaking ice cream to celebrate being alive and I don't have a witch's coin purse full of freaking gold deblooms on hand, just this suspicious piece of plastic linked directly to my bank account so of COURSE you wouldn't accept payment in such new-fangled form. Damn you, Italy.

But then Carlo, our favorite barista, bought my popsicle.

Italy, I still don't understand you. Charmed at this moment, but who knows what the next one will hold.
These are the bomb, by the way.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Day 2

Oh that title...the creativity is just oozing out of my pores. Truly.

Both my giant exterior babies are screaming their sweaty little heads off right now because 1. our AC units went out last night and 2. It's bedtime. And, you know, they've never been put to bed before. I'm just straining my little ears for the sound of forced vomiting any moment now...

Anywho, today was a relatively unremarkable, smolderingly hot summer day here in Rome. It is odd to feel the emptiness of the city, already dwindling in the tourist category, now absent one Holy Father as of 10 am local time. It feels similar to the period from Benedict's abdication to the beginning of the conclave...except obviously not sad. World Youth Day is a joyful reason for Rome to be sede vacante (well, in the physical sense), if you enjoy camping in fields, sweating your ass off and sleeping in the dirt. Or so I've heard. But it makes me so, so happy that Papa gets to go back to his continent and really say 'goodbye' to his part of the world. Isn't God good, for this to all have been planned and scheduled before a Latin American Pope was even a twinkle in anybody's eye? Yeah.

I'm eating pre-popped popcorn and apples with peanut butter for dinner. My kitchen is incendiary and will immediately combust if I flick the gas to the stove on. It's that hot. Therefore, no cooking for days...and days. I did briefly and stupidly heat water for a piping mug of Earl Grey to round out my preggie palate, because nothing says summer evening like hot tea.

I'm so sorry, this is just awful. Let's see, weather, meal planning...what else can I bore you with? Oh, I know, how about more behavior issues with my children. Perfect.

We're experimenting with a week of 'no spanking' with the boys, particularly Joey, and if you are horrified by the thought of corporal punishment, just go ahead and click non-judgementally away right now.

Okay, who's still with me? So confession time: I'm a spanker. Not very hard, and not all the time, but sometimes it feels impossible to communicate with boys any other way...except lately, even that line is cluttered with static. Now JP is kind of little to be spanked, per se, but we do smack his hand if he does something unsafe, like stick various metal items into temptingly-shaped European electrical sockets. And his world grows dark and dim and he collapses into a sorrowful heap of remorse and anguish. It is so sad that I can very rarely follow through on it.

Joey, on the other hand, generally laughs in my face if I raise a hand to his diapered booty. And sometimes he spanks me back when my guard is down, which is 100 kinds of special. So in addition to feeling like crap for spanking my kid, I am also increasingly aware that for this special model of almost-3-year-old, it isn't working.

Yelling doesn't actually work either. Or time outs. Loss of privileges are sort of effective 60% of the time. And eating gelato in front of his face while repeatedly recounting his offenses and reminding him why he can't partake is probably the most effective, but feels truly heinous once the novelty wears off. Plus, my hips. Cooling down from the inside out has consequences, y'all.

Anyway, feel free to consider this one part cry for help, one part confession, and one part trolling for discipline strategies. Whatcha got?

horrifying photobooth session at Daddy's (air conditioned) office this afternoon. Sweet dreams.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Daily Show

Here goes 7 days of .... something.

I'm prepared to bore you with a contiguous week of postings, if only to satisfy the challenge Jen has thrown down. Also, since she's a signed/sealed/delivered author of the genuine variety, I figure any directives she has to issue on writing discipline are worthy of heeding.

This morning we were greeted with a surprised smile by our pastor as we staggered up the steps to 10 am Mass, an entire 30 minutes early and in time for Confession. He remarked on how very un-tanned and un-rested we looked for having returned from an exotic beach vacation, and we in turn congratulated him on his celibate vocation. Plus, he gets to spend next month at the Jersey Shore with other people's kids, so presumably, their nighttime care will not be his concern. And he's actually an Eye-talian American, so he will probably actually get a tan.

We, of pasty white northern European descent, were unable to work up sufficient pigmentation to even sunburn in the 3 cumulative hours spent on the beach this past week. But we did drink Coronas at one point (because I'm a terrible mother), and the public nudity was kept to an all-around minimum. So, win?

I am 18 weeks pregnant with number 3, but still sleeping somewhat happily on my stomach and not gaining all that much weight. Is it weird that this freaks me out? I've also only felt baby move a handful of times, and then I'm like, wait, did I feel that? No, that was nothing...or maybe was it?

I also regularly fantasize about traumatic birth outcomes, fatal illnesses, and awful complications to either my or baby's health, proving that I'm really no more fun as a third time mother than I was as a first timer. Does anyone else suffer from this kind of idiotic anxiety? And should I be feeling more gymnastics at this point since I'm practically a veteran gestater by now?

Anyway, there you have some stream-of-consciousness style posting to satisfy the not very exacting parameters of this blogging challenge.

And, because why not, some pictures:

You know, just some chocolate-masked egg babies hatching in a cafe window. Wft Europe.

And, their evil master, who may be, dare I hope, an actual Krampus? Lizzie, can you confirm this specimen as such?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

'Once in a Lifetime'

Not always an uplifting phrase.

You know how when you're a teenager and you're not a parent but you're completely sure that someday in a million years or so when you are, you'll do a much better job than yours did?

Well, now I'm the parent. And even though I was thee worst 17 year old in the world, (I mean, I guess I didn't get knocked up, arrested, or married to my high school sweetheart at the tender age of 17, so it could have been worse) I got to go to Ireland and France with my entire family + a couple of dear family friends, and I spent my precious first experience abroad bored, drunk, and generally terribly unhelpful for the entire 13 day ordeal.

Meanwhile, my saintly parents had taken 7 kids on a transatlantic misadventure and had one very, very colicky 20 month old in tow who was absolutely insistent that no-one-but-mommy, not even my father, push his stroller. If he craned his fat little neck to look back and saw anyone but mi madre at the wheel...banshee screams.

I thought about my parents a lot this past 5 days whilst we optimistically traipsed up and down the endless and multitudinous staircases of Amalfi and Atrani, Italia, dragging an umbrella stroller, 2 angry and feverish toddlers, and a big-ass overpacked metal clad suitcase (I'm really sorry, honey) because oh hell, I didn't know we were going to have a washing machine.

And then yesterday morning, blinking blearily at each other over really, really good cappuccinos in the lobby of our emergency-booked (and priced accordingly) hotel, we had the good sense and the very blessed convenience of being able to pull the trigger and say 'enough.' So we went home. 3 days early. From paradise. Because our kids were sick, nobody was getting any sleep, and because we got enough beautiful pictures to prove we were there, and isn't that good enough for this stage of family life?

And now, lying in my air-conditioned Roman apartment and savoring the not-noises of 2 toddlers napping in separate rooms and listening to the traffic go by in the street below, I think this is the best vacation ever.

We had some amazing experiences, swam in the clearest blue water I've ever seen, and ate some delicious calamari that can never hope to be replicated more than 1 mile from the seaside. But mostly we checked temperatures, administered ibuprofen, broke up fights, yelled at bedtimes, and collapsed exhausted into puddles of heat at the end of the day. In other words, it was business as usual.

I don't know why I'm providing all this background except to say, look, being a parent is awesome and gratifying beyond belief and is truly the noblest calling ... and it's also awful a lot of the time. Even in exotic locales. Maybe even more so, given the heightened expectations?

Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing trip born of good timing, an available house-swap, and built up vacation hours, and I'm insanely grateful we took it. But I'm also offering the following photographic evidence with the disclaimer that 'items in photos make appear shinier/more appealing than in reality.'

Ain't that always the truth?

So we broke up fights,

Posed for pretty pictures,
Marveled at the charm,

counted castles,

Persuaded angry babies to stay onboard ferries,

encouraged lots of independent motor skills,

breathed relieved sighs in moments of peace,

and tranquility,

and idyllic views,

and got lots and lots of exercise.

Bribes were offered,

Church steps were ascended,

coffee and gelato were consumed,
and we all lived to tell the tale.
Looking more or less,
like the crass American tourists

That we are.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Girl Walks Into a Bar

No for real, I met my husband in a bar. A Mexican bar. Dreams do come true.

Well okay, it was the Hacienda Colorado, and technically, we were at the hostess stand in front of the bar...but still. I distinctly remember our first conversation happening over giant margaritas.
The night in question. View from Dave's perspective. I'm in the middle.
Let me back that up to the summer of 2008. After 3 long, hard, and gloriously transformative years at FUS in Steubenville (finishing my BA, dabbling in my MA, working for one of my Catholic heroes, learning how to drink responsibly, etc.) I was ready to beat a path DC, specifically, where I had dreams of working on the Hill, for some thinktank, or just being generally awesome and well-paid for it. Strangely enough, those dreams did not materialize, for reasons which I cannot to this day fathom. I mean, a 5-year college graduate with a degree in 'mental health and human services' and zero political experience? Come on.

Midway through that summer, I found myself, with my boss' encouragement, applying for a position with FOCUS at their Denver headquarters. I'd known a few good FOCUS missionaries in my fuzzy days at CU Boulder, and I'd been mightily impressed by them. One resume and a flurry of phone calls later, I found myself on a flight bound for Colorado, still determined that I was going to 'make it' in DC, but willing to give this other opportunity a shot, too.

Wouldn't you know, the interviews went great. And I'd be doing some menial administrative work, yes, and writing grants, which, at the time, I didn't realize would endanger my very soul and suck all the hope and goodness from the world...but I'd also be free to contribute to other projects, and to write various texts and campaigns for my department and others within FOCUS. All I remember hearing was 'get paid to write' so obviously, when they called to offer the job, I accepted.

Back it up to interview weekend, though. My little brother picked my up from the airport and dropped me at a girlfriend's house from college (hi, Diana) where I'd be camping out for 3 days. She and her roomies were gracious enough to host an extra body for the long weekend, and indeed went a further mile by arranging some extra-curricular activities for the Thursday evening before my interviews.

As we were putting on makeup and trying on clothes to go out that night, Diana casually mentioned that she'd asked her boyfriend (now husband) to invite his roommates to meet us at the restaurant we'd be starting at. One in particular, she assured me, was worth meeting. He was an editor. I was a writer. Didn't I think that was interesting?

No, no I did not. Not particularly. Still smarting after yet another failed Steubenville 'I'm discerning my vocation to you/ no, to the priesthood/ no, to you/no, just kidding, to another girl' I was not in dating shape, to say the least. But Diana was insistent that roommate and I would hit it off. So much so, that when her future husband reported back to her with a headcount for the evening, she took matters into her own hands, lest her plans be foiled.

I remember getting to the restaurant and hearing Diana still on the phone with Dave, coaxing him to just  'cancel your plans, you can always drop by that party later' and please come and meet us for dinner. I have no idea what kind of promises she made to him, but he did eventually show up at the restaurant, and I was immediately aware that this was the guy I was supposed to meet. And honestly? Not my type.

But he was really nice. And really easy to talk to. And even though I thought he might be a little bit into one of her other roommates, (he was) he spent at least a half hour talking with me about my upcoming interview (he'd been a FOCUS missionary for 3 years, imagine that!) and was so engrossed in our convo that he even swapped seats with one of the guys to get closer in. (Okay, so maybe he was a little bit into me.)

I don't remember why this seemed like a good idea, but after dinner, we all piled into somebody's early 90's Pontiac and drove downtown to...a Lutheran church. In an old Victorian house in a trendy neighborhood. Because, in the attic every Thursday night: swing dancing!

I don't have a long list of 'things I refuse to do' because hey, for the most part, I'll try anything once. But swing dancing is definitely on that list. Along with playing Settlers of Catan and drinking non-alcoholic cocktails. I'm sorry, life's too short to be intentionally miserable.

Imagine my horror to step into a stifling attic filled with nascent hipsters in saddle shoes showing off their sweet moves and oh, was that a table full of gatorade in the corner for refreshment? Perfect.

I backed slowly into a corner and prayed for some kind of relief, perhaps in the form of a contraband cigarette on the fire escape. Did anyone in our little group smoke? But then there was Dave, coming towards me and, looking almost sheepish, extending his hand with an eyebrow raised. He seemed to be saying 'Hey, why not? We're here, after all.'

Oh what the hell.

I gamely let myself be led out onto the dance floor and steeled myself for a sweaty, awkward 5 minutes of indelicate shuffling and bouncing, because I sweat like a mother and I have no rhythm. None.

No sooner had he put an arm around me then I heard - or maybe felt? I don't know, this part is admittedly really weird, and I had never nor have I ever experienced anything like it since - an interior voice, clear as a bell, telling me:

"You're dancing with your husband."

I'm sorry, what?

I actually stepped back and held him kind of at arm's length for a second, so shocked was I and so disturbed to be hearing voices in the attic of a protestant church while swing dancing.

Uh, God, if that's you...he's not exactly my type. I mean, no offense.

But apparently, the line went dead.

I could go into the rest of the night's details, about how we ended up at a biker bar with a sequin-jumpsuited Elvis impersonator jiving onstage while an ASL translator painstakingly performed the lyrics to a completely hearing crowd (in retrospect, she may have been really drunk, and those may have been her interpretive dance moves), or about how he DIDN'T ask for my number nor did he offer to drive me to the airport in the morning (his roommate did. For which I still give him crap).

Instead, I'll skip to the part 6 weeks later, where he'd convinced me to be his date to a wedding in which he was the best man, thereby dooming me to ride the party bus to the reception with some scrutinizing bridesmaids and a whole bunch of other very well-dressed strangers.

Young, in love, and eating corn chowder.

As the reception wound down, we ended up wandering a bit into a nearby alpine meadow and there, under a starry sky at 10,000 feet above sea level, la prima baci. Perfecto.

7 months later, this:

And then 8 months after that, this:

And then, you know, a couple of these:

I still hate swing dancing. But gosh, do I love margaritas.

Thanks for the memories, Grace.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Back in the Saddle


Nearly 3 weeks off from stay-at-home mom-ing have left me flabby, exhausted, and a little bit shocked at the brute physicality this job demands. Last night, in a fit of what can only be classified as satanic toddler jet-lag, both boys screamed, alternating their tones and voices, from 8:30 until nearly 1 am. I am still not sure what we finally did to get them to sleep, but I know it involved multiple bedroom re-assignments, a situation involving the AC and a fan, an old laptop spinning Curious George flicks at midnight, and perhaps 5 bottles of milk.

My aching head is telling me that it was either a killer flashback to my first parental rodeo, or I got all kinds of crunk last night. (This baby bump I'm sporting is pointing to A.)
All 6 Senour cousins, in birth order. (We're tapping our next youngest and recently-engaged sister to provide #7, cause Lizzie and I need a b-r-e-a-k.)
I am so grateful we had the time with our friends and families - it was too short, it went too fast, but it was so much fun. And while I can't say why yet, coming back wasn't half as hard as I'd expected. Rome seems almost pleasant in these first few days back on the scene, half asleep in the sweltering summer heat and nearly emptied of tourists. They've all gone to the beaches, and so will we next week, to a charming little town on the Amalfi Coast called Atrani.

What do you think, worth the train ride/bus ride/hike?
While it still doesn't feel like home here, there is a familiar ache as I take in the beauty of Rome, and a realization that our time here, while sometimes difficult and always fraught with Italian bureaucracy, is fleeting. Will my kids remember that we did this? I think Joey will, but I'm sure John Paul will not. Perhaps he'll taste something years and years from now and it will jolt his memory and he will become somehow subconsciously aware that he has eaten octopus before, and that he loved it. Or maybe I'll just have to show them the pictures I really need to start taking again, because cell phone cameras don't really do life justice.

Whatever memories they escape with, I will always see Rome as the place where I became a mother in a fuller, more painful, and more exquisitely demanding sense. Now that I've had a few weeks' worth of love, support, and practical assistance with my blonde wolf cubs, I realize the magnitude of the task of raising them, essentially, alone. I mean obviously Dave is here in the evenings, but all day every day, it's me. No daycare, no gym play area, no mom's groups, no understanding friends with their own cubs willing to swap out for a quick trip sans bambini to the grocery store. I'm on, constantly. And it is almost debilitatingly exhausting. But it has also made me so strong.

We flew, counting our connecting flights, on 12 different airplanes over the past 2.5 weeks. Sometimes JP had his own seat, but usually not, and so he was perched atop my 16 week baby bump for the duration. 6 months ago I could never have done something like that. But I was a younger mom, and a less chiseled mom. And while 'chiseled' is not a word I expected to use in my self-descriptive vocab anytime in the next 1 million years or so, it's perfect for explaining this transformation in what I'm able to do and what I can handle now, as a mom.

Would this have happened if we'd never left the States? I'm sure it could have. I have dear friends whose husbands medical school schedules or demanding jobs require far more of them than what's been asked of me. But I don't know what other circumstances in my life could have made for this perfect training ground to toughen me up, and to ready me for my life-long career in motherhood.

So Italy, for whatever it's worth, thank you. You've been the hard place I've been slamming up against all these long months, and it really has made me stronger. But if you want to add AC onto those trains and buses of yours, I won't turn my nose up.

Stronger, but still not a sadist,

A mom.

Monday, July 8, 2013

26 Hours Later...

We're home in Rome, we've all survived the most whirlwind travel schedule of all time, and the baby just pooped on the floor. I have so much to report and so much to ponder, but first I need a lukewarm shower in our phone booth stall and a cold glass of prosecco on the balcony.

My toddlers are better travelers than your honor student. If I had a car, and I were a bumper sticking kind of gal, that would be my tag.

Ciao for now.