the swings
My kids have swim lessons once a week through their school. A bus picks them up around lunchtime and takes them to the local pool, the same pool where I swim. I like to arrange my schedule so I am there for lap swim while they are having their lesson, and now that I am finally swimming again, I managed to be there last week when they showed up with their classmates.

I spotted Six immediately, but could not find Nine. Where was he? I looked and looked, and as a group of older kids meandered over to the deep pool where I was standing, about to dive in, a friend of Nine’s said ciao, and I said ciao, and that was when I realized that the person next to him, the young man nearly a head taller than this boy, with shoulders almost as broad as my own, that stranger was my son.

His growth, at times, is shocking, and also I am so proud of it, like when, as a new mother, I’d relish the moment when the Polish pediatrician put him on the scales and delighted in how much weight he had gained. I had helped do that! The interminable nursing! It was not in vain!

Now it’s interminable grocery shopping, food preparation, cleaning up, then starting over again.

One night last week, tears came to Nine’s eyes when I cruelly told him the kitchen was closed. It’s after nine o’clock for crying out loud! Then I felt bad: he had eaten all his dinner and there had only been one course. The reason he’d wandered off after dinner was to clean his room, like I’d asked. So I made my starving manchild a couple of extra-large crepes with Nutella, and while I stood at the stove, he hugged me so hard I thought, pretty soon, maybe next time he does that, he’ll lift me off the ground.

We wear the same size shoe and trade shirts and jackets. I recently appropriated the brand new “fancy” shirt I had forced him to wear to Christmas lunch with the relatives this one time only, please. It had been languishing, unworn and unwanted at the bottom of his sweatwhirt drawer since he’d gently informed me that Christmas is the only day he’ll wear what I want. By the time next Christmas comes around he’ll have long outgrown it anyway.

He’s a good kid but increasingly he reminds me of a teenager. He ignores me! He makes fun of me! Whenever I am striving to be stern and serious, he pulls an even sterner, more serious face, and very gravely and very slowly says yeeeeeesssss. I laugh every time. No one makes me feel as stupid as my offspring.

He had his best friends over for a sleepover this weekend, the same group of boys he played with in preschool. I can barely remember what they were like back then; the new versions of these boys are so big and bright, they have replaced my memories of their younger selves. They still play with Legos, but they also say bad words, tell bad jokes, finish off an entire pizza and let rip a belch to laughter and cheers.

With each year that passes, I am more aware that I will be a mother to two men for so much of my life, and I will have been a mother to two little boys for almost no time at all.

Posted in nostalgia, The boys | 6 Comments

ten days to ten

The due date for my eldest son was ten years ago today. April 10, 2005!

He made his appearance ten days later (even now he likes to take his time) but every year I remember the quiver of anticipation this day held in 2005.

Posted in The boys | 2 Comments


rome2015 133

Posted in picture taking, Travel | 4 Comments


rome marathon

The kids and I left Friday after school on the train. It is a quick ride down now that we have the Frecciargento, the “Silver Arrow”, and my younger son kept thinking we’d get to see the famous soccer players who pretend to be running the train in the commercial for it. He looked up so expectantly when the ticket controller came by.

Rome is easily my favorite Italian city, not that I know it very well, but I wish I did! It is a bustling city and yet it is laid-back, with such big buildings, yet huge, open spaces and so much light, light, light!

Except the day of the marathon, when it rained.

The boys were going to do the 5k family run with their dad while I ran the marathon, but he changed his mind when he got up and looked outside at the weather. So I said goodbye and headed out on my own, and luckily by 8:30 it wasn’t raining quite so hard. I got to the start a little late because I’d thought I could just jog over to the Colosseum and line up, but there were about 15,400 of us, and not enough space for something quite so simple, and when I got there the staff sent me running back and all the way around the tomb of the unknown soldier, almost to the Bocca della Verità and then back towards the Colosseum, oops!

It really is something starting a marathon in the middle of the Forum, and Rome is magical, even on a dark and rainy morning in the middle of March. I was glad I did it, despite the lack of training, despite how incredibly LONG it seemed at times.

When the rain let up, my ex and the boys decided to come see me along the route – and so just around the 13th km, when I was starting to feel a little tired and was wondering why on earth I’d thought it would be all right to attempt a marathon with not even one long run under my belt, I heard a voice I knew shout, “MOMMY!” and I looked up, and there they were! That got me going again.

I saw them again around the 37th, with only five kilometers to go, and by then I knew I’d be fine and finish easily in under 4 hours.

The way the Rome route is set up makes it very easy for your family and friends to see you multiple times in certain sections, and so after I saw them the second time, I wondered if they wouldn’t make it to the finish before I did. The final kilometers were along narrower streets in the center, with cheers the whole way – it was wonderful! At the 39th, there was a hill that knocked a lot of people out, and at the end of the hill was a dark tunnel, which was just depressing to have looming up ahead. Once we got out of that, though, it was almost over, one more kilometer and then we circled Piazza del Popolo, which was probably the most breathtaking moment of the marathon. It had stopped raining and it almost seemed like the sun might come out (it didn’t). I got my final wind right there, and the last km and a half was a breeze.

My ex and the kids said it looked like I was sprinting the last bit uphill towards the finish line, and just after they shouted my name from the bleachers and I waved, the man I was passing gave me a dirty look. HA!

The end was great, but the race was long and hard. I took it pretty easy and still I definitely felt the lack of training. The beginning and the end were exhilarating, but the 22 miles in between were rough. I don’t know if I would do it again without proper preparation; it is not fun.

That said, you forget the pain immediately. As I crossed the finish, I realized I was going to cry a little – it had been such a long race, but I finished so well, and having my kids there for the first time had made it very special. I was choking myself up as I thought about it, and one of the paramedics just after the finish, in a thick Roman accent, asked, “Tutto bene?” and out popped my biggest smile and a loud, “SI’!”

I am really glad I did it. My arm was fine, and my legs were fine immediately afterwards – we had a fun lunch at a great little place in Campo de’ Fiori afterwards and then went sightseeing for the rest of the afternoon, and wandered around in the evening until we found the perfect place for dinner. We spent the following morning at the Colosseum and the Forum. It was a beautiful, sunny day, of course. Then the boys and I headed back home on the train in the afternoon, and my legs were perfectly fine.

Posted in running, Travel | 7 Comments

running again

There is a predictable pattern to this blog and, I suppose, my days: whenever I am not running as much as I’d like to be, I start complaining about other aspects of my life. I am so tired, wah! Work is so hard, parenting is so thankless, wahhh! Nobody loves me, WAHHH! It’s kind of like PMS. Actually, it’s exactly like PMS: I even feel fat and unattractive.

But now that I am back to running, I can stop feeling sorry for myself and write about running again. Click away if that’s not what you came here for, no hard feelings.

My Aunt Patti asked me about upcoming races and running in the comments to another post, so here we go (Hi, Aunt Patti! I am so sorry about your toe.)

First things first: I had a check-up today at the hospital, including x-rays. The break has healed under the plate and the bone has hardened. Most of the pain is gone but I still cannot move my arm very well. Today the doctor asked me to raise both my arms and I held them as high as I could. I was hoping for a “Good” but instead got a clearing of the throat and “Continue with the physical therapy.” He made no mention of the physical therapist’s tape on my shoulder to relieve some of the stress of running and I certainly wasn’t about to bring it up.

I have been gradually ramping up my runs. Ok, so maybe it hasn’t been so gradual. Regardless, I am still nowhere near where I was the day before I fell and broke my arm. My training was just about to start peaking then! I felt fantastic! Not so much now.

On the bright side, my first week back, i.e. last week, I managed about 35 miles and this week I will hit at least 40, which is about my usual. Today I ran 10 miles without any pain (or Ibruprofen!) and Sunday morning I will attempt a half marathon that I had signed up for in January.

Originally I’d had high hopes for this race, but they have been significantly downsized to aspiring to a fairly painless finish in as far under two hours as possible. It is kind of a test.

If it goes well, I’ll run the Rome marathon. If it doesn’t, who am I kidding?, we all know I’ll run the Rome marathon anyway.

Posted in running | 2 Comments

divorce weary

Not long after I got home from the hospital my lawyer’s secretary called me. I wasn’t sure why; things that are so obvious to Italians are sometimes not clear to me at all. Dutifully, I went to the appointment and as she ushered me into her office, she explained I was there to read and sign the final divorce agreement.

I read it over, and there weren’t too many surprises. I probably could have picked nits but I was tired and ready for it to be over. February had worn me down, and so had the winter months of infrequent, dull negotiations in which we trudged to a point where everyone had given up enough that an agreement could be reached. Besides, after my ex had been so helpful and generous while I was in the hospital, it seemed pretty tacky to drag the painful process out over something as trivial as what time he needs to have the kids home on a Sunday night and how often they are to talk with him on Skype.

My lawyer always says we are the easiest couple she has seen, which makes me wonder. If an easy divorce is this wearying, what must a difficult one be like?

Or does she say the same thing to everyone?

No matter, I signed. I was glad to be done, although we won’t officially be divorced until closer to the end of the year. It takes so long here: after three years of legal separation we became eligible to file for divorce. It is now close to four years since we split and we have a few more months to wait until a hearing is held, when a judge will ask us if we agree to the terms of the agreement, we say yes and go home and wait for the ruling, which should come no earlier than September.

In her office, my lawyer checked that I had initialled each page of the agreement, then she put it in a thick manilla folder on which someone had written our last names, mine and his, together, but separated by two backslashes //. I felt a little heavy in the chest when she closed the folder. Oh. So that’s it.

It is good that the process took so long. I think I might have had doubts or regrets about some of my choices if it hadn’t been so slow and tedious to get to where we are now. I had plenty of time to think things over, turn them this way and that, wonder, then feel the reality of the choice and see how it played out in my life, how it affected the boys, and then wait a little longer, just to be sure.

A friend of mine who does not have children told me she thought I was making a big mistake by having him around so often for holidays and other importants events for the kids. “You’re NOT a family!” she said. “You’re only confusing your children!”

I couldn’t see why she was so upset: my kids seem fine. Confused about what, anyway? She seemed more confused than we are.

Often the expectation is that what comes after love is hate, and that if a couple splits it is because they can’t stand each other anymore. But isn’t life more nuanced than that? Aren’t human beings more complex? It has been my experience that the end of a marriage is long and wearying, and divorce, if you have children, is not the end of your relationship. Until death do you part? HA! They should save that for the birth of your first child.

We are a family – not the one we’d had in mind when we met and fell in love, but a family nonetheless. I’d even argue that in some ways our separation has made us better parents. Whereas before, we saw the boys as these marvelous creatures we had made, now we see ourselves as the deeply flawed parents they inherited, which only makes us try harder to get it right. Neither of us is eager to mess up parenthood the way we did marriage.

That said, I am sick of this divorce. I am sick of thinking about it and I am sick of it being there in my life, like a big unpleasant lump I turn around and bump into. But then, I also kind of dread September when it will all be over. Because: and then what?

Posted in Separation anxiety | 9 Comments

another injury

Well. I broke my arm a few weeks ago. I rarely use my car for a variety of reasons, one of which is that the underground garage where I park it is a pain to get in and out of, on foot and in the car. Most of the scratches and dents on my car are from the first few months we lived here, when I had yet to learn how to navigate around the maze of countless concrete columns in what appears to be either a seemingly random arrangement or some engineer’s cruel joke. And now the garage has left its mark on me! There is a terrifying metal ramp that leads to the garage with a gate and a lock at the end of it, and I have slipped a few times on the metal ramp, but this time it was raining/snowing and my feet slipped out from under me much faster than any time before. I took a pretty bad fall, and was surprised at how much my arm hurt when I tried to get up.

I managed to pull myself together, open the damn gate and park the car amid the columns, without a scratch and using only one hand to shift, maneuver, shift, maneuver, ad nauseum. I got up to my apartment and sat down on the couch, deciding to let myself catch my breath before attempting to remove my coat.

Before long I realized there was no way I was going to get my coat off on my own and something was very wrong with my arm. Dislocated shoulder maybe? I called a taxi and went to the emergency room.

Italy’s least gallant taxi driver drove me to the ER, hitting every bump in the road along the way and didn’t offer to open the car door for me. The line wasn’t too long and I took my place at the end of it. As long as I held my arm firmly against my body and didn’t move, and no one touched me, it was fine. Not even five minutes had gone by when a nurse stepped out of the door next to the front desk, took one look at me, and waved me over. “Come in here,” he said, and I followed him in. “Did you break your arm?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Does it hurt?” he asked.

And I started to cry, because holy shit, it did hurt and didn’t seem to be getting any better.

“Elbow or shoulder?” he asked.

“Just below my shoulder.”

“Let’s take your coat off.”

“Please, no. Just cut it off me.”

“Broken humerus!” he shouted then to someone behind me, and they came over to help get my coat and shirt off, and then they had me sit down and asked me some questions and off I was taken in a high-backed wheelchair for x-rays, then to Orthopedics, where a quirky doctor told me I’d probably need surgery, but first a CAT scan.

“When do you want to do the surgery?” I asked, because I need to pick my kids up from school.

“No, no,” he said, and laughed. “I don’t think you understand. We can’t let you leave. You are going to be admitted. You need surgery right away.”

Another nurse put a brace on me – oh sweet relief! – and wheeled me away for a CAT scan, then back to the doctor who confirmed that I’d be getting a titanium plate in my arm as soon as they could get me on the surgery list.

I called friends to pick my kids up from school, my ex to see if he could come and watch them for a few days, and my clients to tell them SORRY!

The doctors and nurses at the hospital were absolutely wonderful. My friends and my ex were so incredibly helpful. Although I am not one for imposed “rest” and this whole thing has been a big pain in many different ways, at the same time I feel so lucky to live in a country with universal healthcare and in a town where I have made so many wonderful, kind and generous friends. My ex was a huge help. He took a ton of time off from work to stay with the kids at my place and come see me at the hospital, and another good friend took care of the boys at her house for a few days when he had to go back to work. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

Today I get my staples out and find out what kind of rehabilitation I am going to need. Needless to say, swimming is out of the question for awhile, but I am hoping they will give me the go ahead to start running again, very carefully. After nearly three weeks of sitting around eating cookies, my only exercise consisting of long walks in the nearby hills with my arm in a brace, I am starting to disgust myself. It’s time to get back in shape! The Rome marathon is less than a month away!!

Posted in like anyone cares | 13 Comments