So here we are back the the good ol’ U. S. of A., and after spending every waking hour with my kids for ten days in Italy (and more non-waking hours than I’d prefer with them since we’ve been home) maybe I’m starting to embrace my boys’ philosophy that everything should be a competition.

So I bring you the showdown: Italy vs America.

— 1 —

JET LAG


This is how my kids sleep after traveling TO Europe:

From our 2009 trip.

This is what my kids look like circa four am for about a week after we get back:

Even though they’re exhausted, whether or not they nap.  They also are only hungry at off times and not at all hungry at mealtimes.

And it doesn’t happen AT ALL on the way there, they just bounce right on to Italian time like they’ve lived there all their lives.

So we’ve been home since late Saturday night and the kids all slept until six am for the first time this morning, hooray!

But, clearly . . .

WIN = Italy

— 2 —

WATER-BASED TECHNOLOGIES


I’m about to talk toilets and laundry.  To spare you a photo of an actual Italian toilet, here’s one the husband took of me as we were trying to decide whether I was cool enough to use this toilet:

I’m thinking probably no, but I went in anyway.

They still seem to favor gravity-based toilets with the big tank hanging over your head, which I just find disconcerting.  And I’m a little uncomfortable with their dual flush options.  You’re supposed to push the littler flush button for number one and the bigger flush button for bigger jobs.  But I’m like, “Hey, that’s none of your business Italian flush pad.”  But maybe that’s just me.

The bigger issue is laundry.  We always stay in houses or apartments because it’s cheaper but also so I can do laundry.  But gracious, doing laundry in Italy is an ordeal.  Jenny has already documented her struggles with it here, but honestly I think she is greatly UNDERSTATING how lousy their laundry technology is.

If, for instance, one of your kids on the first night you are in Sorrento, barfs all over all the sheets and pillow of the queen-size bed she’s sleeping in in this house that is way fancier than you need but was the only house in a twenty mile radius that would fit your whole family, AND a different kid wets a different bed on the same night . . . well, you are out of luck.

Italian washing machines are tiny so it’s going to take many, many loads to wash the sheets, coverlet, mattress pads, and pillow, and its going to take ALL DAY because their “speed wash” setting takes two hours!  And we were lucky enough to have a dryer, which is very rare in Italy.  They all hang laundry to dry, which is quaint and all and fits my old fashioned sensibilities, but sometimes you just need it dry, now!

So even with a dryer we ended up just putting blankets under the kids and hoping for the best and doing one load per night.

WIN = America

— 3 —

CARS


Italy has some adorable tiny cars:

Gus thought he was just the right
size for this “Luigi.”

And adorable tiny firetrucks:

And adorable tiny garbage trucks:

But as far as I can tell, it’s not possible to rent a vehicle for more than nine passengers.  Perhaps if there’s a next time, we’ll just have to rent five smartcars.
Since, that’s lame . . . 
WIN = America
— 4 —
While we’re on the subject of driving . . . 

ROAD SIGNS

So, that’s all cleared up then.
These are on all the traffic islands:

They are meant to indicate that you are not allowed on one side, but you are allowed on the other.  But to me it says: “DON’T GO!  This way.”  Which is confusing.

And boy do they like those blue arrows.  If they’re doing work on the Autostrada they’ll put hundreds of them in a row:

All pointed at oh-so-slightly different angles and all seeming to say, “Hey! Look at this!”  “Hey! Look at this!”  “Hey! Look at this!”  Honestly, how can anyone pay attention to driving?

There’s also this:

Which means: Cows. Up and down.  Of course.

But it sure makes for entertaining drives, so . . .

WIN = Italy


The husband was the one driving and he insists that however diverting the road signs are for passengers, they are lousy for drivers and that I must give the win to . . . 

WIN = America

— 5 —
FOOD SHOPPING

I really loved all the little Italian grocery stores.  They were heavy on produce and meats and cheeses, light on processed foods, and pre-prepared stuff didn’t exist.  Every time I walked in there I felt like I was on a Food Network reality show:  Make Dinner Using ONLY Food!  But I love a challenge, and I feel like that’s how I should cook all the time, so I liked it.
But that’s not where the fun stuff was.  The FUN stuff was down the baby aisle.
I had read that the American habit of starting babies on fruits and vegetables is not the norm in most of the world, since fruits and vegetables are acidic and not protein-rich.  So I wouldn’t have been surprised to see more meat-type baby foods in another country.
But I WAS surprised by the extraordinary selection available.  There were at least four choices each for fish or cheese baby foods:
Because Italian moms are like, “NO, I don’t want THAT kind of fish baby food!”
And OH the selection of meats (yes, that’s a bunny):
I notice that they don’t have a picture of say, a Thanksgiving turkey dinner, with a nice golden brown turkey and some veggies. No, they have a big ol’ ugly turkey just lookin’ at ya.  
That baby’s thinking, “Yum, whatever that thing is I certainly want to eat it.”

And apparently, sometimes Italian babies just must have horsemeat and nothing else will do: 

I like the fresh selections for grownups and I don’t feed my babies baby food anyway, so . . . 
WIN = Italy
— 6 —
CHURCH DECORATIONS

I think we know who’s going to win this one.  But I just found it noteworthy that while my neighborhood church is decorated for Easter with dozens of fresh lilies and hydrangeas, draped with strands of twinkle lights and faux flowers, and bedazzled with yards of gold lamé fabric (including a loincloth on Our Lord that would surely get a thumbs up from Elton John) . . . the beautiful churches of Italy just continue to look beautiful, un-bedazzled.  No need to guild the lily as they say. (But there were some lilies.)

WIN = Italy
— 7 —
BARFINESS
I am currently eight weeks pregnant.  So, if we subtract those two weeks that I wasn’t actually pregnant from that, I’m about 40 days pregnant.  Which means that by this time in my last pregnancy, I had barfed about 50 times.  (Frankie’s temperament was well known to me before he was born.)  
The husband actually remarked a couple of months ago that perhaps it would be wise to “be careful” until after the trip, so I wouldn’t be sick all over Italy.  And that mere suggestion, children, is where babies come from.  At least in this house.
But get this, I wasn’t sick anywhere in Italy.  I was not awesome when certain family members insisted that you could microwave prosciutto to “make” “bacon” (the smell still haunts me) but I never got sick.  And overall I felt pretty darn good because we were so busy.
Now that we are home and I can choose to be lazy it’s a different story.  It’s really remarkable to me how 100% it is.  If I don’t make myself eat because I don’t want to eat and I don’t make myself get out and be active because I don’t want to do stuff, then I feel like death warmed over.  But if I do eat and keep distracted, I’m pretty good.  There’s a lesson in there somewhere about my preferences.
(And I know what is true in my case isn’t necessarily true for someone else, so if laying on the couch makes you feel better, have at it.)
It was way easier to be motivated on vacation though, so . . . 
WIN = Italy  (But clearly, I should just go on vacation for the next month or so, right?  For AMERICA.)


But Italy wins it 4-3 for whatever that means.  Next time I’ll have to factor in legality of homeschooling and the existence of children with siblings and maybe we’ll do better.
But until then, feel free to check in on the rest of our travelouge: Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV
And join me in sending up some prayers for our dear neighbor and almost great-grandma Louise Gantner who passed away while we were gone (we went to her funeral today) and Jen’s new baby Joseph who hopefully is home from the hospital and with his family today!
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!
No, wait, thanks to Grace at Camp Patton for hosting!