Thursday, September 30, 2010

behind the wheel

i'm pretty sure
that i've spent as much time behind the wheel this week
staring at the car in front of me
as i spent last week
lounging in the italian late summer sun.

how is it
that you can know a place so well,
have its customs so well ingrained into you,
its people so familiar,
its cultural nuances such a part of you,
but still experience such severe culture shock
upon return?

my soul suddenly robbed of all
the big city can't offer it.
soon it will find itself once again,
we'll figure out our city lives
and maybe even find a place to put them soon.

in the meantime
i'm punching off the clock
until october 12.

Monday, September 27, 2010

the best of (our) tuscany

i know i'm so lucky to have him.
of course, for more reasons than one.
but when he indulges me
when i demand that he stop the car, turn around,
drive back 200 meters and let me hop out
while the family waits
and i take snapshots for five minutes,
i'm reminded of how lucky i am.

it just ate away at me,
that some of the most gorgeous views i have ever seen
were as we were on our way out of tuscany.
the rain fell all night, thunder and all
(which meant four of us in one bed),
and when we drove out of there at dawn,
with the morning light
breaking through the clouds
and spreading itself over those rolling hills,
there was a misty fog
that had settled into those little valleys,
over the farmland and the vineyards,
postcard perfect around every bend.
and the fact that my camera was already packed away
(with a full memory card)
and we were rushing to catch a flight
just gnawed at my desire
to photograph away.
i was relegated
to taking snapshots with my mind,
and to being glad that those were some of my last memories
of that blessed place.

and now,
i share with you
some of the best of (our) tuscany.

Friday, September 24, 2010

the end

two unfortunate things happened tonight.

the first:
my 4GB memory card maxed out
in my camera.
that's 2027 photographs.
it was very ironic that it happened tonight,

the second:
my endless summer
just came to an end.

moscow and all its humdrum
and energy await us,
along with that life we've got to sort out
(firstly, find a home).
milla said to me yesterday,
"mom, but moscow's really dirty.
shouldn't we go to another country?
what about england next?"
"wish we could babes,
but you were supposed to be in school
a month ago."

this long summer
is ending with a short night,
covered in rain.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

pool days

we have fallen back into the "schedule"
we had in france,
that is,
every other day we are out exploring.

and that means
that every other day,
we are hanging around here,
surrounded by vineyards, olive groves,
and the hunting reserve just behind us.
and this place has one bonus
over our place in france:
a pool.

and though i wouldn't exactly call our time there
"lazy and carefree relaxation"
(impossible alone with 3 children under 5)

we usually have the place to ourselves
and the weather couldn't be better.

even this little guy
loves splashing his chubby thighs
in that cold water.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

leaning tower

as we stood there
under giotto's bell tower in florence,
dwarfed by the basilica towering over us,
she told me she wanted to climb up it.
i looked at the line
formed outside, filing into the doorway
at the bottom of that monolith,
and saw up at the front
a sign in very plain lettering:
414 stairs.
oh avi, i'm quite sure you could do it
but how would we haul the stroller up?
it was a disappointment for sure,
but she was soon distracted
by our entering the largest brick dome
ever constructed.

and so it was two weeks later
that we were headed back to pisa,
this time not just to catch the sun
setting on the piazza dei miracoli
and be awed by our first sight of the leaning tower
as we found a place for dinner,
but to actually see the piazza.
now the girls have a flick they love,
and it's called little einsteins.
and these little einsteins
fly around in their rocket ship--
and make some stops in italy.
and so when we were making our way back
to the leaning tower,
avi was intent on climbing that thing.
i gave her the same line about the stroller,
(although i was a bit disappointed myself)
but she wasn't having it.
"the little einsteins just ran up it!"
i saw how intent she was,
and thought we may just be able to pull it off,
and so i threw the baby bjorn into the stroller.
we talked about it all the way
to the ticket office.
and as the girls stood and watched a video
about the construction of the tower,
i read through the ticket prices
and the rules.
blast those rules.
climbing the leaning tower of pisa
was strictly prohibited
for children under the age of 8.
i told milla first,
who took it very well,
especially when i told her
that the first thing we'd do
when she turned 8
was go straight to the tower.
but avi?
like i said, avi was intent.
and for the next half hour,
the entire piazza dei miracoli
could hear my avi wailing,
"i want to go on the leaning tower of pisa!"
and though i couldn't help but chuckle a little
at the slight humor in our plight,
it was still devastating
that that darn tower had the power
to break my little girl's heart.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

little toads

and now
i'll tell you about
my internet setup these days.

it's called
a spotty wi-fi signal
that i can only catch 30 feet from the house
under the perfectly ripe fig trees.
and because i have no computer battery,
i had to buy an orange extension cord
that i string all the way out there.
and because it's such a pain,
i usually only do it late at night
when the little ones are down.

and i'll tell you what,
the noises and the company that keeps me
after hours
is a bit different from in france.
there it was moths galore,
bats flying overhead,
the cat creeping around in the garden
and of course the snails.
oh, i loved those snails!
here, we've got the same snails,
but also some tiny ones
with a cone-shaped shell.
there are crickets,
and the odd fig falling from above
(which the baby really loves).
the most amazing though, by far,
was the night the fox came out.
and as i sat there quietly doing my thing,
he so curiously sat and watched.
and not only that,
but danced around me
for at least half an hour,
watching me from one spot,
then going a little further off,
then coming closer (within 10 feet!)
and then grabbed a fig,
and went off to eat it under the pines.

but the highlight for the girls,
since they missed that one,
was the treasure i caught for them
just as i was going in one night.
now those lizards are hard to catch,
but a little toad?
piece of cake.
the girls were ecstatic.
we cleaned out that pickle jar
to make a little home for him,
and then went in search of food
when i miraculously discovered another smaller toad,
nestled down in the grass.
now we have "a baby and a mama toad."

and though they've been stealing
the entertainment show
for a few days now,
i fear we're going to have to be humane
and let them go soon,
that is, if they don't start eating
the little grasshoppers we're finding for them.

i just can't catch a fly!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


i guess it was when
i overheard them drawing together,
when milla was directing avi
(as usual)
on how to draw a church,
that i realized their idea of a church
has changed this summer
from what they always knew.

with a medieval church
as the pinnacle of every little town
we've been in on this trip,
the girls have taken to them
and beg me to stop and go in
every one we pass by.
"but look mom, the door is open!"
how can i turn that down?
so we park the car,
we unbuckle everyone,
and we creep in quietly,
little ants under those big vaulted ceilings
across those stone floors
admiring the windows, the statues,
the candles. . .

and so even though
they've attended church
every week of their life
for nearly 4 and 6 years
where there never once was a cross
or a stained glass window,
all of a sudden
when they decide to draw a church
it has a cross on top
and stained glass windows
with pictures of the Savior
and the Virgin Mary on them.

i actually love
that they also see the draw to these
centuries-old places of worship,
with their walls seeped in history
their floors worn uneven,
and their windows and statues
showcasing the talent and the toil
of artisans
with the same reverence and respect
that still floats through
the church today.

and we will keep stopping the car
and stepping in
every chance we get.

Monday, September 13, 2010


after visiting
clos luce,
the final residence of
leonardo da vinci, last year,
we made the final loop this year
by visiting his birthplace,

it's so nice
to be here
after the temperatures have dropped
and the crowds have cleared out.

the girls were fully fascinated
by the models,
recognizing some from clos luce,
and others from their book.

avi stopped in front of every single one,
asking me,
"and what's this one for, mama?"
while i had to quick skim through
the complicated description
and put it onto her level:
"that one's for lifting heavy things too, avi."

and she must have been inspired
by all the scientific and mechanical drawings,
because she went home
to make her own.

this is her version of

Thursday, September 9, 2010


day in florence.
wandering those narrow streets
i reminisced
about the time i was there
14 years ago
with my backpack on.
it was the days of film cameras,
and the only photos i remember taking there
were of the mopeds lined up in a row,
and me eating gelato.
i also made my biggest purchase
of the trip there,
a leather jacket
i'm sure was overpriced,
and oversized in fact.
but i thought it/i was pretty cool.

this time around
i was glad to have my digital camera
(as i am everywhere i go).
i was glad to have a little better clue
about where i was.
i was glad to be able to buy a gelato
without having to deduct it
from my daily allotment of funds,
and glad to be able to tell my girls
about sculptures
and how they are made.

i did have to make the comment to alex,
as i sometimes do,
that it's too bad
the tourists know all the good spots.
sometimes you have to fight the crowds
to see a place worth seeing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

new view

you know,
it's really cool
to drive into a place late at night
and have your surroundings
be left
strictly to the imagination.
then to wake early in the morning
to that sun peeking through
between the shutters,
only to throw them open
and be so pleasantly surprised
by where you've ended up.

and i guess
"ended up"
is sort of how we landed in tuscany,
in that it wasn't so much
in the original summer plans.
but like i said,
we often use the words
"plans" and "ideas" interchangeably.

so why the endless summer?
well, it stems from a sad story,
a story that took place in moscow.
and the story goes
that we were booted from that apartment
we moved into in march,
that one that i loved like my own,
that one i was blissfully happy in,
that one that i had big dreams
and plans for.
our landlord defaulted on her mortgage.
and we got the short end of the stick.

so with our belongings moved to storage,
and a new home yet to be found,
we are putting off the inevitable pain
of going back
and figuring out what's next.
and here?
you could say
that we are delighting
in our homelessness.