Thursday, October 18, 2018

Zoe vs. Sicily. Part IV: The Injury Report, or, Dio Mio, I Twisted My Ankle, Quick, Apply Gelato!

We've now reached the final chapter of our trip to Sicily. Our story began with Zoe claiming grievous injury on the rocky beaches of Isola Bella. Next, she suffered heat, boredom, and dehydration along with an awkward anatomy lesson at the Valley of the Temples. Finally, she quite enjoyed the barbaric puppets we saw in Palermo.
On our last day in Sicily, we went to Mondello Beach, which might be the most beautiful beach I've ever been to.


This is saying something. Not because I'm well-traveled but because (beach-lovers, get ready to riot) I hate the beach. (*ducks to avoid metaphoric tomatoes)
Apologies to sun-worshipers, but I am not a beach person. Ten reasons, 1 through 9 being the sun. 
For as long as I can remember the sun and I have been locked in mortal combat, a battle I'm losing, which is probably for the best considering plants, life on Earth,etc., rely on its stupid light and warmth.
Reason 10 is sand. Not a fan.
However, Mondello Beach, though it had those 10 things, made me forget them; that's how beautiful it was. 
First of all, no rocks. So Zoe was happy, though she had to be convinced and still wore her water shoes when she went in, having not gotten over her suffering at Isola Bella.
Second, the water was clear, and so BLUE.
Third, you could wade out 100 feet and still the water only came to your waist, or Zoe's chest, another truth she resisted.
In fact, the water was so accommodating, our group decided to play a game of Keep Up with a beach ball.
Which is when I injured myself.
Though I didn't realize it for a while.
At one point I jumped to keep the ball in the air and when I came down, what felt like a rubber-band snapping happened in my right ankle. 
But after I stretched a few times it seemed better. In fact, I was walking fine. A while later I took Zoe to the bathroom, where she complained about the heavy doors and the wet floors, and then I took her to the food stand for lunch, where she complained about the selection and I bought for her what she said she would like and bought for myself what I thought she'd actually like, and we returned to our beach chairs where she rejected her lunch after one bite and claimed mine. All proceeding as expected, and my foot bore up well.
Until it was time to leave. I stood up and when I put pressure on my right foot I felt an excruciating pain.
How would I get myself back to the bus stop?
More concerning, how would I get to the gelateria, which was past the bus stop, to try "the best gelato ever," according to some of our family members who'd already made the trip.
Because I am a strong woman, whose strength can be rallied by even sub-par gelato, I made my way there, slowly, passing the bus stop, pressing on. Heroes don't wear capes. Because if they are wise they will have removed their capes in order to hold more gelato. 
Was the gelato the best ever? I'll just say this: they had four different kinds of pistachio. Zoe had chocolate. Her usual. She gave me a thumbs-up and a bite. So it was all worth it, I thought, as I hobbled and grimaced my way back to the bus stop.
Back at the hotel, I put my foot up and applied ice, and Zoe comforted me by watching cartoons in Italian.

In case you couldn't see my poor foot above,
here's how Zoe comforted me in my time of need.


Luckily it was our last night, so I just had to get home, a journey that was to take about seventeen hours because we had a stopover in Munich. 
We'd  stopped over in Frankfurt on our way to Sicily, and, you know that stereotype about Germans being very organized? Not so with their airports. Recalling the hike through the whole Frankfurt airport ten days before, we decided I should make use of a wheelchair, along with all the "perks" that went with that. A van would take me to Customs where I'd be on a special line. I took Zoe with me because I had her passport. Plus, I figured it would be easier than the Husband having to schlepp her with him. (The Husband couldn't come with us because this was against the rules according to the German Flughafensicherheit!!)
If I thought it was embarrassing being rolled through an airport in a wheelchair with my foot wrapped in an Ace bandage, not to worry, there was more embarrassment in store.
After Customs, there was another Flughafensicherheit! checkpoint, and there, the Sicherheitsbeamte Frau! said, in a perfect tone of Teutonic accusation, "You know you are earmarked for special security check?"
No, why would I know that? Was that even a question? Didn't I just see you stamp my boarding pass with the special Sicherheitskontrolle! stamp yourself?
So I had to go in a separate area, along with Zoe, to be scanned, chair, child, and all. Zoe looked worried, and I wanted to make a girl-bomb joke yet I sensed it would not be welcome by any of the parties present. However, one of the guards, also seeing the look on Zoe's face, smiled and said, "You are dangerous!" And we all chuckled, except for the Sicherheitsbeamte Frau! who swabbed my backpack and said she had to run a chemical test.
That came out clear so we were sent on to our gate, bypassing the shopping and food, which, naturally, gave Zoe more to complain about because the vending machines were out of water and recognizable food items---the remaining snacks were a bag of Dinkelchens and some Fritts, whatever they were.

Sadly, the vending machine was out of "Tasty White Children."

However---Wunderbar! and Fantastico!---I did have our Italian chocolate in our carry-on. Faces stuffed with dark chocolate, we waved arrivederci and Auf Wiedersehen! from the plane.
Violent marionettes, punishing sun, and injuries, real or imagined, aside, we'd all had a great time, and I wrote these posts to remind Zoe, when she complains that we're not in Sicily anymore, that though she did have a great time, she's always, always, found something to complain about, and so you could say I've always suffered more.
Veni, vidi, lamentato.

Zoe: 189; Universe: 0

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

   Always bring a towel. Click here to subscribe. 


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Zoe vs. Sicily. Part III: Opera dei Pupi, or, OMG, what an amazing but kind of racist and then suddenly inexplicably violent puppet show!

Buon giorno! If you've been following along, and if not, whatsamattayou?, you've already read Parts I and II of our family trip to Sicily. To catch you up, Zoe encountered rocks of various sizes---in summary, the small ones hurt her; the big ones bored her
The last stop on our trip was Palermo, one of the largest cities in all of Italy and Sicily's capital. Besides visiting the Cathedral and going shopping for jewelry and leather, we'd been told we must take Zoe to see a puppet show.

Opera dei Pupi

This was no ordinary puppet show, this was Sicilian puppetry, Opera dei Pupi, which was distinctive and was supposed to be can't-miss, especially if you had a child with you.
I wasn't sure what to expect but I assumed it would be "cute."
Cute did not come up.
Zoe sat up front, where the children sat, adults in back. There were painted tapestries of dueling knights, so we knew what to expect. Plus, we were handed a playbill explaining what we were about to see in four different languages. Our show was part of the Cycle of Charlemagne, the history of the French Paladins from the time after the Normans conquered Arab Sicily.
And then it began.
First, yes, the puppets were incredibly detailed, from their faces to their costumes to their armor and weaponry. It was in Italian, of course, but when the knights would duel there'd be yelling and stomping and crashing music, and, naturally, they'd be attacking each other, so it's not like a non-native speaker couldn't follow the plot.
The yelling was deafening. Somehow I wasn't surprised. I'd noticed throughout our trip locals having "friendly arguments." Yelling was like breathing there. Angry? Happy? Sad? Yell it!
This wasn't particular to Sicilians though. I was half Italian so I was familiar with this argumentative style of communication. As a child I'd sat around many a dinner table eating a normal amount of pasta, or so I'd think, until one of my aunts would suddenly yell, "Is that all you're eating?" in an accusatory tone, causing me to drop my fork into my cavatelli.
Or, if I'd decided to skip the brasciole: "At least try it! You don't like it!? Since when!?" (Since forever, which is the same amount of time we've been having this conversation.) But all the shouting came from a place of love.
In the puppet opera, the marionettes really were fighting. Over and over again, the Bad Knight was defeating the king's Paladins, and by defeating, I mean he'd knock them down, and then they'd shake it off and be escorted off the stage by an Arab servant.
Here's where the racism came in. The "Arab" puppet had a dark complexion and delivered asides in a snide and sniveling tone and seemed to be either treacherous or the butt of jokes. I didn't understand Italian but I understood "yuck." The husband and I exchanged looks of appalled horror.
Back to the play, where, defeated, the king sent his magician to the underworld---complete with flying demons (one little Italian boy younger than Zoe ran to his mother in the back but Zoe stayed in front, mesmerized and probably cursing the language barrier)---to chat with a demon to find out how to defeat the Bad Knight. 
In the next scene, the king came out to confront the Bad Knight and his minions in a  series of duels.
Understand that, up to this point, the violence had been mild, about a 2. Now we quickly progressed to 50, or, crazy violent.
Whereas before the duels ended with someone fainting then leaving the field, now it was a bloodbath. The king killed puppet after puppet, cutting them in half, flaying off faces, beheadings galore. It was carnage, and puppet bodies piled up till there was no more room on the stage. Until finally: The End.
Um, what? A bit shell-shocked we were late in clapping.
Then, before the children could process the violent spectacle they'd just witnessed, they were invited on stage to take pictures with the marionettes.

After all the killings, picture time!

Zoe got to touch their armor and swords and the plumage on their helmets, so what was a little blood lust and casual racism if you got to handle a novelty plaything for two minutes?
There's a history lesson in there somewhere but I had no time to think about that either since I had to elbow my way to the front to take a picture of her with a murderous marionette, and if I had to shout to make myself heard so she'd turn my way, that's okay, my yelling came from a place of love.

Zoe: 188; Universe: 0


For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

   No strings attached. Click here to subscribe. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Zoe vs. Sicily. Part II: The Valley of the Temples, or, OMG it's too hot and I'm thirsty and why didn't you bring me a snack?

If you missed it, last week was Part I of my report on our trip to Sicily. Today I present Part II: The Valley of the Temples.

Sicily: The Valley of the Temples

Departing Taormina, with its Stunningly Beautiful yet Extremely Punishing beaches that caused Zoe so much undue suffering, we headed to Palermo, but on the way we stopped at the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, a UNESCO World Heritage site dotted with ancient ruins.
Over the centuries, because of its central location, Sicily had a lot of visitors, by which I mean conquerors, and Agrigento, located in the south of Sicily and only 500 miles from the coast of Africa, hosted a lot of these folks, from the Greeks to Arabs to Romans and Christians. Thus, many of the temples, though originally dedicated to Greek gods were preserved as they were put to use by others.
Admittedly, the day we visited it was hot. Close to 100 degrees. The shade was sparse and gave hardly any relief. Zoe had just fallen asleep in the bus when we arrived, and so she was not feeling well-disposed to appreciate "rocks that used to be buildings." 
I slathered sun tan lotion on her irritable form as she roused herself enough to complain. We made a pit stop at a bathroom, which was not up to her standards, and then got on a line to enter the site which moved too slowly for Zoe and was the longest 30 seconds of her life.
The first ruin we visited was the Temple of Juno, formerly Hera. It was built around 450 B.C. and much of it was destroyed by fire, which is something I just read on the internet, because, though we had a guide, I missed his talk because I was tending to my troublesome offspring---something Hera probably knew a lot about, I mean, who really caused that fire in her temple? Don't ask me, remember, I missed the presentation.
First, Zoe had more to say about the heat, none of it helpful, all of it whiny. Then she told me she was thirsty. I wonder why. I gave her my water, which she finished, and it wasn't enough! Why didn't I bring more?!
Then she realized she was hungry, which is why I'd warned her to eat a full breakfast  earlier, but why listen to your mother?
Well, she countered, why didn't I have a snack? I had no answer to that.
Utterly dejected, she walked away and sat on a rock, her back to the evidence of a once great past now destroyed.

The wearing down of centuries has nothing on
the pain compressed in this moment.

That is, until a security guard yelled at her. Apparently she was sitting on part of the ruin, which was in danger of further being ruined by her tiny distressed derriere. Dehydrated as she claimed to be, she yet produced copious tears!
Luckily by then a cousin had found a granola bar, which I sneaked her bites of. It was probably okay to eat there but after the yelling I was taking no chances. I wouldn't be responsible for what wholesale destruction those temples would bear witness to if the guard tried to take her granola bar away, which, thank Zeus, did not contain stupid raisins.
After that we walked to the best-preserved of all the ruined temples, Concordia. I don't know much about that one either because we fell behind the group so I could buy Zoe a lemon ice, not her favorite flavor she'd have it known but all they had, and so we missed most of the info. Still, the treat (which she did not share with her mother) restored Zoe somewhat so she could ask a question that had been preying on her mind.
What did it mean when people said someone had big balls? What the heck were balls anyway?
I made a mental note to berate all her cousins again as bad influences. I said it meant guts and or overconfidence. That someone was very daring or showed no concern for consequences.
But why balls? What were they? she insisted.
So yes, dear reader, the sun bearing down mercilessly on my pale skin, sweat running in rivulets down my back, it was time for an anatomy lesson: what things were, who possessed them, and in what arrangement.
And the gods must've been listening, because just then we caught up to our group arrayed in front of a faux-ancient sculpture in the form of Icarus, who flew too high and fell when the sun melted his wings, lying on his naked side, balls-up, as they say. And because I'm a twelve-year-old boy I took the opportunity to complete my anatomy lesson in a probably unnecessarily loud voice, pointing at Icarus's tragic gigantic stone stones.
Behold, balls!
And Zoe, embarrassed, refused to come closer and just kept shouting, "I know."

Behold! A teachable moment.

So everyone learned a lot that day. Afterward, at lunch, there was a wine tasting, and I gave Zoe her first taste of the nectar of the gods.
Because I'm the best mom in any pantheon, which, if anyone asks Zoe, I told her to say: she knows.

Zoe: 187; Universe: 0

Check out my Facebook page tomorrow, September 28, for some big news!

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

   Get some balls! Click here to subscribe. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Zoe vs. Sicily. Part I: Isola Bella, which means "beautiful island, OMG, these rocks are killing me and I have more boo-boos than anyone!"

Sorry, folks, I know it's been a while. I had a lot on my plate. For one thing we were away on vacation, and I'll be sharing a lot about Sicily in the coming weeks, starting with our visit to Isola Bella in Taormina. 

Sicily Part I Isola Bella

This was Zoe's first international trip, and in Sicily she discovered a beautiful, historically rich new world in which she could whine. 
When we came back we were busy with back-to-school things, and then I hurt my back, which I'll be sure to tell you about here as well so you can see where Zoe gets her whining prowess from. Plus, I was really busy at my day job. 
That's right, folks, this blog does not make me any money so I have to work. If that gives you the sads, I want you to right now go to your couches and search for loose change to send me. Just place your quarters and dimes in an envelope addressed to "That Crazy Blogger Lady" and drop it in the mail. The Postmistress knows me.
So we went to Sicily this August, and we spent a few days on the east coast, in Taormina, and then a few days in Palermo, the capital, on the northwest coast.
One of our first trips was to the beach at Isola Bella, which was simply stunning. 

Just like Zoe! Beautiful on the outside, treacherous on the inside!

But also, yes, very rocky. In fact, we'd been warned that a lot of the beaches in Sicily were rocky and we should bring water shoes. Zoe had her water shoes but the rocks, in addition to being plentiful, were slippery so we kept falling down. 
I wanted to take her out to Isola Bella itself, aka the largest rock in the middle of the water. 
Check my thinking here, folks. First, it was there, which meant it must be stood upon. Second, when would we ever be here again? Seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I wanted to go out there with my once-in-a-lifetime child. Making memories, right?
We sure made them! The complaining kind. 
Zoe slipped and fell so much, and I did too, and we scratched our hands and arms and legs on all the rocks. By the time we got to the island she was in a Very Bad Mood and blamed me for Everything Bad That Had Ever Happened to Her. She was especially upset that she had more boo-boos than I did. 
But we'd made it!
She looked around briefly, then asked to go back. 
On our return trip I was instructed to fall and thus get more boo-boos than she had, this being one of the few challenges she did not want to win. 
I looked back at the rocky island and crossed it off my bucket list, my satisfaction tempered by my irritable companion. 
I think she really appreciated the view.

Before. When she still took enough pleasure in life to dab.


Zoe: 186; Universe: 0
If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy this tale of another time I forced Zoe to have fun: Zoe vs. the Renaissance Faire: An Elizabethan Tale of Wonder, Revelry, and No Small Amount of Suffering 

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

   Beware of rocks! Click here to subscribe. 

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Zoe vs. the Worst-Case Scenario: Play Date Edition

What's the worst-case scenario for a play date?

Play Date Edition

Three guesses.
The kids don't get along.
No.
The parents don't get along.
No.
How about the wrong kid shows up?
Yes.
Let me back up a bit. First, as my lawyers have advised me to say, There are no "wrong" children. Just wrong situations. Exacerbated by kids acting wrong.
If it hasn't been established by now, I'm an introvert. In fact, here's a meme I made:


Here's another. (I like blue, and personal space.)


So one of the hardest aspects of parenting for me has been the "talking to others" that it requires. Being an "advocate." Speaking up. Asking questions. Plus, if I want Zoe to be more social than her mother I need to learn to make small talk.
I am constantly tested on this front, purposely exposing myself to social interactions until my soul's elbows have blisters from all the rubbing.
I do the best I can but sometimes my reluctance to mix leads to problems. Like cases of mistaken identity. For instance, this weekend's play date, which was like Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" mixed with Mr. Furley's Three's Company
Zoe knows---though I didn't till this weekend---three girls named Kristin.* Actually, and importantly, one's Kirsten (and she's in fourth grade--this is also important!!) and the other Kristin is spelled Krysten, and either that one or the Kristin with the i's pronounces her name Kirsten.
I think.
But Zoe, as has been previously established, is even more of a poor witness than I am an introvert.  
So Zoe wanted to have a play date with Kirsten. Having no idea who anyone is, I gave Zoe's after-care teacher a note to give to Kirsten's mom with my phone number asking if Zoe and her daughter could have a play date. 
With me so far? Sounds so easy. So Kirsten's mom texted me, and we arranged a play date for Saturday.
Come Saturday I'm packing Zoe's bag for the park. The sprinklers are on so I pack a towel, sunscreen, snacks, water, etc., and we're only three minutes late. Then the other mom texts me that she's going to be late because there's bathing suit drama with her daughter. I text back with something like "Ha, been there." See, I can do this! Way to go, me!
As the minutes tick by, Zoe keeps asking me when Kirsten is going to get there, and I keep saying, any minute, and finally, a woman shows up with two little girls. I'm like, hmmm, I thought Zoe told me Kirsten was an only child like her but whatever.
"Look who's here," I say and turn to find Zoe with tears flooding down her face.
Because it's the wrong Kirsten. This is apparently Kristin, a second-grader, from her class. Not to be confused with Krysten, another second-grader, or, more to the point, Kirsten, from fourth grade.
Zoe was inconsolable.
I was embarrassed.
Kristin was super chill, a cool kid that now I want Zoe to be friends with.
And the mom was super chill too, especially considering there was no way to pass Zoe's reaction off as "Yay, she's so happy to see you she had to run away to cry on top of the slide. . . . Y'know, from all the joy."
I had to explain what happened, and again, Kristin and her mom were very gracious.
Then I went over and tried to coax Zoe down from the slide. I said I was sorry but it was an honest mistake by her teacher, and me since I didn't know the kids in her school, and it was hardly a tragedy, and why waste a nice day, etc. It was no go. 
I decided to give her a few minutes and went to be (gasp!) social with the mom and make sure no feelings were hurt. Meanwhile Kristin tried to go play with Zoe, which still wasn't happening.
When I thought it was enough, I went over to Zoe and told her she had two minutes to pull herself together. She knew this little girl and there was no reason she couldn't play with her. Furthermore, how would she feel if she showed up to a play date and the other kid started crying because she was Zoe not Zoey. (The goddammits were silent. Albeit loud in my head.)
To Zoe's credit, two minutes later, she came down from the slide, and two minutes after that, she and Kristin were running off to play in the sprinkler, and Kristin is now my very favorite child with undoubtedly the best-spelled name of all the Kristins, Krystens, or even Kirstens everywhere.
And I went back to chat with the mom and it wasn't so hard. Especially now we had something to talk about.

Zoe: 185; Universe: 0

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent, as if I could even identify them in a lineup.

Hey, want to read something else by yours truly? Head on over to Little Old Lady Comedy for my piece "Vaguebooking from Notable Historical Figures." Enjoy!

For more of Zoe's hijinks, follow me on Facebook and on Twitter at @zoevsuniverse
I need a win here, people. 

   Avoid an embarrassing mistake. Click here to subscribe.