The Bet

A’s best friend, Ettore, became the proud papa’ of a girl today. Aida was born in Venice, Italy, and although I don’t have any information other than a text announcing her entrance into the world, I’m sure she is a breathtaking little free spirit. How else would you describe the offspring of a freelance photographer and a belly dancer?

Now, about A and Ettore. They’ve been best friends since they were born exactly four months apart in the same hospital. Ettore was born on April 20, 1974, and A came along on August 20 of the same year.

Their connection is almost cosmic. In kindergarten, if one went to school and saw the other one was home sick, he would run back home. It was no use being in school if your other half was at home.

In fifth grade, their teacher called a parent-teacher conference, saying the two boys’ connection was “unnatural” and that they should be separated. (Way to go, small-town Italy, for marking two little BFFs as potential gays.) A’s mom told the teacher that there was no way those two boys would be separated. Go mama.

Ettore was the reason A and I met fifteen years ago. I was living in the same apartment with Ettore in Venice, when A and five other friends from their hometown came to visit for Carnival. A and I met, and the rest is, well, us.

They do crazy things for one another. During one visit to Italy, we barely got to see Ettore and his wife, Camilla. Leaving to come back to California, we had a crazy early morning flight, and had just gone through security at around 5am when A heard Ettore calling him from behind the security line. He’d gotten up at the crack of dawn to come have a last coffee with us and say goodbye.

When we moved to the U.S., I think leaving Ettore was more difficult for A than anything else.

So the news that Ettore had joined the joyful tribe of fathers left A a little giddy today. At dinner, he said, “Just watch. Our little one will be born on April 28.”

Me: “Huh?”

A: “April 28. You’ll see. The two girls will be separated by exactly two months, like Ettore and I were separated by four.”

Without thinking, I said, “If she’s born on April 28, we’ll move back to Italy. Because at that point, you and Ettore really are meant to be together.”

Honestly, if it happens, it means their connection is truly cosmic.

Here’s to you, Aida. Let’s see if your little American counterpart is exactly two months behind.

Thanksgiving in April

The other day I was walking to work when a bus drove by, the side of it practically screaming the new spring Gap ad with the following slogan: “Be Bright.”

The ad made me think of the Christmas cards we sent out a couple of years ago (which said “Be Merry, Be Bright”), which then made me think of the holidays, and then my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving. Then it made me think of one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving: reading all those blogs in which bloggers state why they are thankful.

I made a mental note of writing a thankful post for Thanksgiving, and then reminded myself that I would never remember. So I figured I would just do it now. If you can have Christmas in July, why not Thanksgiving in April?

Here goes.

Every weekend, I am thankful that I have a husband who is much, much cleaner than I am. He won’t rest until the bathrooms are cleaned, the house is vacuumed, and the wood floors are Swiffered. It makes me feel slightly guilty for not being so neat, but at least someone will keep me honest–and keep the house from being a complete hovel.

Even though P gets more colds than _______ [insert name of person you know who gets the most colds], I’m eternally grateful that the only health issue I have to deal with are sniffling noses and coughing. Knock on wood, tocca ferro, etc.

I’m so thankful that my parents live nearby, so all those sniffling noses don’t force us to decide whether to skip work or send a sick child to preschool.

I’m excited that close friends are having (or have just had) kids, so P will have playmates outside of her circle of friends in preschool and beyond.

I eternally grateful that someone (ahem, my mother-in-law) finally taught me how to fold fitted sheets, so our linen closet doesn’t look like a bulging mess.

I thank my lucky stars for fantastic friends near and far, especially when they do incredibly generous things like treating us to a hotel stay in Seattle.

I’m grateful that what I thought was a catastrophe a few years ago (being laid off during the height of the economic downturn) actually turned out to be a blessing, leading to a second career as a writer. Things like this will give me perspective when I’m in a funk or generally down on myself.

I’m beyond thankful that the second career in writing gives me the ability to work from home twice a week, saving me from a commute and giving me more time to spend with P.

I’m ecstatic that despite the responsibilities of a family, a job, and a new obsession with the Game of Thrones books, I have some time to jot down a few thoughts once in a while and have people like you read them.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving. Tell me what you’re thankful for this spring.

The Vacation Edition

We just came back from one of the best vacations ever, visiting the in-laws in the Olde Country. It was one of those vacation when you think…I totally want to move here. Until you slap yourself and think, wait, I already did that.

Anyway, I wanted to do a brief run-down of the 2.5 weeks, so here it is before I forget all the good bits.

The Good

  • Family. P’s complete love for her cousins, especially my 15 year-old, super cute, super patient nephew. She followed him around like a little disciple, and he patiently let her. They watched cartoons together, played with PlayDo, read books, and of course, played soccer. It was beautiful to watch.
  • Sorrento. It’s good to have friends in high places, or friends who have houses in Sorrento. P outdid herself by eating an adult-sized Neapolitan pizza. The original is still be best.
  • Venice. Again, it’s good to have friends in high places, or friends who rent boats for you when you visit Venice. I lived in Venice for a year, so I know my way around the city by foot, but seeing the city from the water is another thing in itself.
  • Beautiful weather. The reason we decided to go at the beginning of March was that last year, when we visited for Christmas, the average temperature during our stay was around 30 degrees. There’s nothing worse than flying across the world to then sit at home for three weeks. This year, it was nice enough that we took a few bike rides along the river that runs through the town A is from.
  • Beautiful food. And wine. I mean, we were in Italy…need I say more?
  • The politics. My brother-in-law is running to be the mayor of their little town. Rather surreal, but very cool.
  • The language. At the start of the trip, P was still mostly conversing in English, even though she was understanding everything in Italian. Her poor grandparents were learning random words in English (including monkey and book, two very important words in P’s repertoire). By the end of the trip, she was definitely talking more in Italian, a habit she has continued on our return.  There was even a funny language moment: when we were in Sorrento, our friend was teaching his daughter to call to a dog in the local Neapolitan dialect. “Vien a qa! Vien a qa!” he kept saying, so the dog would come to him. A week later, we were at dinner again in Northern Italy, and the hosts had an adorable little dog. All of a sudden, P started saying, “Vien a qa! Vien a qa!” Because obviously all dogs in Italy speak Neapolitan.

The Bad

  • The too-muchness. For poor P. She met around 100 people (give or take a few) in a span of 17 days. It was a bit too much. P loves people, and is well on her way to becoming a social butterfly. But even she would flip out after a few hours. One night she started talking in her sleep, saying “no bacini! no bacini! (no kisses!)” over and over again. She was even freaked out by her grandmother, who wanted nothing more than hang out with her. Which was the problem…grandma wanted to be there every minute, while P wasn’t sure she wanted to hang out every minute. By the time she felt comfortable enough to stay at home with the grannies, it was time for us to come back to California. Sigh.
  • The jet lag. I had a friend mock me (mock!) for complaining about the jet lag when I would have a fabulous vacation in Italy to show for it. I don’t care where you are, though, when your toddler wakes up at 1am and is completely wired until 5am, you’ll be pretty miserable. Thankfully, she got over it in a couple of days.

The Ugly

  • The soda. Every time we go to Italy, A’s parents have a party that involves a lot of food and a lot of people. This year, the main event was a roasted little boar…yum (this is not the ugly part). I was sitting across from an acquaintance’s wife, who was keeping an eye on her two kids (four year-old son and two year-old daughter). Trying to make small talk, I commented on a dark liquid in her daughter’s sippy cup. “Looks like she’s nipping at the wine!” I said. “Oh no,” she responded, “it’s Pepsi.” Wait, what? Here I was, in the heart of fine dining, eating a roasted boar hunted not too long ago…and a mother is giving her two year-old Pepsi? Really, no words.
  • The doctor. A friend, L (half American, half Italian) and his wife S (from Tonga via New Zealand and the U.S.) moved to Italy not too long ago. S is now magnificently pregnant, ready to bring a half Tongan, quarter American, quarter Italian baby into the world. She was telling me about their experience meeting with a pediatrician. L and S were happy to hear that she was really into holistic healing, all down to earth. Until they heard her talking about American healthcare and children. Apparently, on this side of the ocean ALL children suffer from ADHD and ALL kids are hopped up on Ritalin. Obviously. Again, no words.

So that pretty much sums up the vacation. As with every vacation, it was too short. Thankfully, I’m pretty sure we’ll be back.

Is that Evan Dando?

Until last weekend, I hadn’t slept more than 10 feet away from P since she was born nineteen months ago. But after four months of quasi single parenting, I was long overdue for a mini-break. So for the past three months, I eagerly awaited the July 29-31 weekend, when I would be meeting up in L.A. with four of my bestest friends.

My friends and I go way back. WAY back. I met L & S when we were in seventh grade, and M & E when we were freshmen in high school. We’re now in our early (OK, mid) thirties, so we’ve known each other most of our lives.

We’ve all become happy, healthy, responsible, and interesting adults: L is getting an MBA and works for an NGO, S is a marketing guru who’ll have her second daughter in December, M is in Baltimore doing a post-doc in bio-statistics, and E is headed off on an amazing adventure to teach in Hong Kong for a year.

My most vivid memories of growing up back in the day include going to L.A. Kings games with L, the sense of freedom when S became the first to get her driver’s license and car, sleepovers at E’s house, and watching M inhale ice cream sundaes at Denny’s. And of course, watching the seminal movie of our high school years (OK, maybe I’m a bit partial here), Reality Bites.

The weekend got off to an amazing start with a mini birthday party for E, who ended up making us a delicious dinner of a Barefoot Contessa chicken classic and a wild rice and cherry salad, while S bought amazing pastries at a French bakery in lieu of birthday cake.

Saturday involved an almost two hour hike in Runyon Canyon (is it the only hiking trail in L.A.? Seriously, everyone and their mama was there), an amazing brunch at Aroma Coffee & Tea, a dinner that tested all the senses at The Bazaar, and shmantzy drinks at the Roger Room. (And no celebrity sightings anywhere! The only thumbs down for the weekend.)

I had no idea I was so cool. OK, I’m not; S did all the planning.

But really, for me the best part of the weekend was the downtime in between all the fab activities, when we looked at People and UsWeekly and commented on the awfulness of Amy Winehouse’s death, and of course, watched Reality Bites.

Then we could pretend that we were back in a time when Winona Ryder hadn’t stolen anything, Ethan Hawke was still hot and had yet to break Uma Thurman’s heart, and people knew who Evan Dando was.

So consider this my love letter to MELS. I love you guys. I loved this weekend because it was like a time warp. With the big difference being that we’re much more interesting people now. Which makes the time warp that much sweeter, and hanging out so much more satisfying.