Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Bologna has a first name

Our agenda for the weekend was really remarkably low key. Food. Lots of really good food. Wine. Lots of really good wine. Some retail therapy, maybe, and a bit of culture perhaps. Whatever we happened upon was bound to be good. I don't think any of us even glanced at a guidebook before we set foot on the plane, so relaxed were we about this trip. This was not to be a journey of itineraries and carefully timed meals. We had no need of such travel shackles. For once, we would not be going anywhere or do anything that was stroller accessible, whine inducing, kid-friendly, or bo-ring. And damn, were we giddy about that.

All American expats living in London, we are by virtue of our current circumstances a reasonably well traveled group. Between us, we have shuttled 10 children between the ages of 1 and 7 to virtually every European city, as well as quite a few more far-flung holiday destinations. We've each got the traveling with kids thing down to a science, from the rectal thermometers in our toiletries bags to the ability to say "chicken nuggets" in absolutely any language to playground-divining instincts which would put a homing pigeon to shame. Traveling with children, we all agree, is wonderful and culturally important and absolutely worth the effort. It is also a royal pain in the ass, which is why we all jumped on the opportunity to ditch the little ones leave our offspring to bond with their fathers for the weekend while we spent a few days in Bologna.

Why Bologna? I mentioned the well-traveled thing, right? Once we'd eliminated every place that at least one of us had visited in the past year or so, there weren't really very many places left within a few hours' reach of London. We contemplated some serious second and third tier cities in our search for a destination, before finally deciding that it didn't much matter where we went provided we actually went somewhere. The Northern Italian city of Bologna looked like it would provide just enough sightseeing to keep us busy, but not so many "must see" attractions that we would feel guilty about eschewing them in favor of a glass of wine at some cute little outdoor cafe somewhere. The flight times were convenient and the fares weren't too insane. And of course, there was that fun Oscar Mayer theme song to add a little kitsch to our weekend. Who could say no to O-S-C-A-R?

From the moment we saw the shop located directly next to our hotel, it was clear that we had picked an excellent destination to visit without our children.

"I think I'm seeing a blog post emerging here," Christine muttered to me moments later as I focused my camera on a fountain in Piazza Maggiore.

She was right. Bologna's adult delights were without a doubt worthy of a blog post. But those delights, as it turned out, were not nearly as X rated as my early photos of our trip might have indicated. Instead, the delights of the flesh we encountered in Bologna took the form of food.

Lunches that looked like this:

Shop displays that that looked like this:

Our purchases in Bologna may not have been made at that silly little store next to our hotel, but they made us dizzy with anticipation all the same.

I got bronchitis and felt like hell. Karen's husband got called away to New York on business just as we were leaving Gatwick, resulting in unbelievably complicated last minute child care calisthenics. Both Suzy's husband and Christine's husband managed to lock themselves and their children out of the house while we were gone. But the four of us had a fabulous adults-only weekend in Bologna anyway.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

There's a bee in the bonnet pun to be made here, but I'm still too incoherent to make it

(The Girlfriend Getaway post is coming when I have the time and energy to sort through my photos. But first this...)

"How are you feeling?" my friend Sarah asked sympathetically as she very kindly dropped Evan off at home after school on Monday so that I wouldn't have to leave the house in my sickly state. I sort of groaned and leaned against the door jam limply. "Oh, well then you'll be delighted to see this," she said brightly, handing me a missive from Evan's teachers. I glanced at the sheet and then groaned again.

"Wednesday is Easter Bonnet Day," the note enthusiastically proclaimed. Each child, I read on, must decorate their own bonnet ("remember, any hat will do!") at home and bring it in on Wednesday morning to wear in the school parade. "Your bonnet could look like this," the sheet cheerfully continued, followed by a picture of what an Easter bonnet might look like if the entire team of Project Runway set to work to create the perfect Easter ensemble. "Be creative!" I was dangerously close to audibly weeping as I thanked Sarah, shut the door and crawled back into bed.

I'm not Martha Stewart on the best of days, and these have not been my best days. But Evan needed a hat and a hat he would have. Julia promised to help and I pumped myself up with antibiotics and fever reducers in an effort to rise to the challenge. I was in a delirious enough state by then that I was beginning to see Easter bonnets that didn't really exist, but Evan kept us firmly on course. Together, we would create the perfect bonnet, provided I didn't keel over or cough up a lung first.

We took the "any hat" option very seriously and started with Evan's fireman's helmet. A covering of purple tissue paper, a swig of star garland and an assortment of Easter-themed Hama bead creations later, my boy had a bonnet.

In my feverish state, I actually thought it looked quite fine indeed. Aw, hell, if he forgives me for the purple butterfly costume some day, surely he'll forgive me for this as well...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Things that suck

Here's a fun little pop quiz. Which sucks more:

A. Getting bronchitis and a high fever.
B. Getting bronchitis and a high fever while away on a "I never get to do anything this cool" European getaway weekend with girlfriends.

Too easy? OK, then try Part Two of the fun pop quiz. Which sucks more:

A. Having bronchitis and a high fever.
B. Having bronchitis and a high fever on an airplane that seems unable to regulate its temperature (oh, wait, maybe that was me).
C. Having bronchitis and a high fever when your children have to be delivered to and from school on foot.

I'll leave you to reach your own conclusions. I'm headed back to bed.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


I had the best of intentions for this week, really I did. I was going to accomplish so many things, to channel my energy in such a way that I maximized my time and minimized my to do list.

None of it happened, of course. I was thwarted by the force of nature that is a Cranky Ill Child.

If I owe you a phone call or an email, so sorry for my silence. If you thought that you would see me somewhere this week, I apologize for my absence. If I've promised to get something to you, I hope you weren't in any rush. If you were looking for a blog post from me, I trust you've found more timely reading material elsewhere. If you thought I was actually going to feed your family an Easter dinner after you flew 3,000 miles to see us next weekend, uh... don't get your hopes up for anything spectacular.

My to do list only grew this week and my wheels spun mightily. But my Cranky Ill Child made his way back to quasi-health in time to dazzle the audience with his spellbinding performance in the role of Purple Butterfly #1 (or Purple Butterfly #2, maybe -- it was a little hard to tell) in his school concert.

There's always next week for the to do list.