Friday, May 13, 2011

Still Waters Run Deep

In honor of Gianluca's mother, Roberta, I'm writing a blog post as my gift to her. Tomorrow is her birthday. Happy Birthday Roberta!

Max, Gianluca, Mason, Calum, Ty and Patrick at May Faire.

Picking out his tux with his friend Francesco, who is from Italy, of course.

Our Superbowl party.

Working hard pulling weeds for AFS National Day of Service.

True brothers. Earth Corps volunteer day for National Day of Service. We pulled out a long of blackberry vines!
AFS National Day of Service Crew

Easter dinner at Costas Opa. It was different....
Auntie Karyn loves G!

Helping Mason celebrate turning 16!

I realize I haven't written on this blog in a ridiculously long period of time and I've been asking myself why. I'd like to say that we've just been too busy and I haven't had time, but that's certainly not true. I think initially it was fun to write down all the different activities that we did with Gianluca, but somewhere along the way he became a true member of our family and we settled into a comfortable routine. Honestly, there is nothing exciting to write about our routine, so I think that's why I haven't written. Not really a good excuse, but I think it helps explain it.

Now that G is about to head home to Italy I've been thinking about his year with us. Gianluca is such an easy going guy, just like all his AFS paperwork said he was. He was NOT lying about it! He's one of the most relaxed and easy-breezy people I have ever met. It's really a wonderful trait in a person and I admire him for it.

Mason and I were talking in the car about things this morning and I realized that this year has been a year of relative calm. I love my Noah, but I think he and I will readily admit that we get into our fair share of tiffs about the most ridiculous stuff. So I asked myself what has made the difference. It didn't take me long to figure it out. If I ask G to help me with ANYTHING he helps. He doesn't hesitate, he just does it. He's so incredibly helpful. I realized that what I need from Noah and Mason is just a little more yes and willingness to help. Mason has certainly stepped it up lately and is lending a hand around the house more, and for that I am grateful. Gianluca has been an excellent role model for Mason and I think the two of them have truly become brothers. It has been lovely to watch. So, long story short, Noah when you get home, if you want to avoid tiffs with me, try a yes now and then and I think we will be fine.

Gianluca is about to go to his senior prom in a week. He's got his tux picked out and a date to boot! I'm looking forward to seeing him all dressed up with his black tux and pink tie! I've never met his date but I've seen pictures and she's adorable. I'm sure they will have a great time out with their friends on this special night. Prom is a big deal here in the US and I'm glad that he's getting a chance to experience it.

This year has brought about a lot of growth for Gianluca. He has learned that vegetables won't kill him and he's eaten quite a lot of different kinds of veggies. He's also eaten a lot of ethnic food that he had never tried before. He's become a fan of Indian and Thai food, and developed a fondness for sushi. He took on the responsibility of making dinner one night a week and did it so well. We love his homemade pizza and will continue to make it ourselves after he leaves. He's very independent, but this is something he already was when he came. He's kayaked and hiked. He's been a true adventurer. He gets to try his luck at camping here a week or so with his AFS group. He's pushed himself in areas that he's willing to risk and he's maintained boundaries in areas that he does not want to risk. I respect those choices. I think what has impressed me the most is his decision to make this a drug and alcohol free year. To my knowledge he's had a dry year in that respect and he did it with great ease. I have never had to worry about his safety. He makes wise choices. His feet are planted solidly on the ground.

It's been a big year having Noah, Ilaria and Kali out of the country. The children lost their beloved grandfather Fred on the heels of losing their other grandfather, my father, Stan. In many ways it has been a somber year and I hope Gianluca has not suffered because of it. He's never complained about a thing (except maybe the bees that infested his bedroom for two months of this year--something understandable). In some ways I am saddened by the fact that G never got to meet my father, a man I think he would have really connected with. I'm so grateful that he met Fred and honestly G put a special effort into getting to know Fred, something that really touched me. Gianluca has been surrounded by a sea of aunties and grandmothers with a sprinkle of uncle thrown in the mix. He's done well with all these women around him. One thing I know well about Gianluca is that he values family. It's very important to him. He comes from an incredibly warm family in Italy and he's shared that love of family with us this year.

I think what I'd like to thank Gianluca most for is just putting up with me in general. My humor can be tough to take and I think it's fair to say that I have teased him incessantly this year. I told him recently that I have teased him so much only because I love him. I also told him that he's given me a lot of material to work with! He's been a trooper and I'm hoping he doesn't feel like I was too hard on him. Gianluca, honestly I think you are perfect in every way. I wouldn't change a THING about you! And every time I see a "happle" (apple), I'll think of you.

Gianluca is such an amazing guy with so many complex gifts. I admire the fact that he can just go out and run for three hours! He's methodical about most things and enjoys his alone time, something that I value as well. I think I would say that with him, still waters run deep. He's a great thinker and philosopher. I'm excited to see what he does for a profession when he gets out of school. He says finance or something, but I would challenge him to consider teaching. I think he'd be a gifted teacher.

I know that G's family is looking forward to having him back and I'd say he's just about ready for that transition. He has done beautifully this year, he's so adaptable. I look forward to hearing his stories of return and the ways he sees this year impacting him back at home.

Well, that will do it for now. I realize this is a very random post and for that I'm sorry. Just stream of consciousness coming out of a week of illness on my part. At least I finally got something written down!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Parenting 101

This past month we said goodbye to Grandpa Fred who fought a brave fight against ALS and died with such grace and beauty. This year I have seen the loss of both of my fathers and the loss is great.
The Michaelmas dragon bread. Gianluca got to experience his first Michealmas.
Gianluca tried his first sushi for Miku's birthday party this month. He liked it!
Gianluca's first jack-o-lantern. He did a great job!
Lucy and Mason with their respective pumpkins. Nice job!

This weekend has posed for me a new challenge in that it was the first time that Gianluca was knowingly invited to a party with alcohol. I appreciate that he was honest with me about what the specifics of the party were and I told him that I had to think about it. In the end, after consulting with about twenty different "experts" I told him no, of course. For me, the responsibility of caring for someone else's child is quite daunting. Gianluca's parents are trusting me to keep him safe, and this was the first time where I really feel like I was tested. Gianluca wasn't too happy about my answer but in the end he accepted it. I reminded him that he did not come here to party. He came here to learn about our culture and attend American school. He came here to expand his family.

As a reward for his honesty, my friends Andrea and Scott decided they would treat Gianluca and Mason to Go-cart racing and a meal at Red Robin. It was a gracious gesture and they too wanted Gianluca to know that they were proud of his honesty. I've been working on honesty with him, and just general opening up and sharing. He's a pretty quiet and private kind of person and sharing is not something he does readily. He has acknowledged this, but he also has made great efforts to share with me what he is feeling. I appreciate this because I know it is a struggle for him. He can articulate that back home he does not readily share with his parents, but that he'd like to work on it. He really loves his family. As he grows older it will serve him well to be able to express his feelings, so I think this is the great gift of his year abroad. I want him to also see that he can trust adults, that we have his best interests at heart, and that we really are interested in what is going on in his life.

One of the other AFSers calls me a "helicopter mom". If I am perceived as someone who pays attention and is right there in the middle of the action, then I'm okay with being a helicopter mom. I'd rather be right there, invested in my kids. They don't have to like it. It's not my job to be their best friend!

The other big issue that has come up is dating. While I am completely comfortable with Gianluca dating I realize that we have different values. Because I teach sexual education courses to adolescents I am acutely aware of the importance of strong values around sexuality. I want Gianluca to think about the girls that he is dating and value them. I want him to consider how his actions affect the girl he is dating. I want him to be gentle and loving and respectful. He says he wants to just date many girls and have no girlfriend per se. I'm not really sure that is true, because in actuality I think he is a really kind and considerate young man. But all of this has caused me to pause and ask him why he is really here in the US. If he is here to drink and go to parties, and to randomly date girls he will soon discover that I can't support that vision. It is my hope that by the end of the year his priorities will have shifted and he will have gleaned something far greater from his experience in the US and with our family. I am confident that will happen. Eight months from now when we look back he will see that what he got from his experience is far different than what he had originally anticipated.

I'm looking forward to the journey.

Oh, and hey I got a job!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

Gianluca said goodbye to Hiroko who was just with us for three weeks. We had a great time with her and we were sad to send her home to Japan.
Mason managed to give me a smile even though he had the stomach flu at this particular moment. What a trooper!
Gianluca has a standing tradition of taking photos with glasses. This is his newest entry.
We went to John and Katrina's house for one of their fantastic parties. Fun was had by all!
Gianluca whipping Connor at table tennis. Connor is really good, but G was just a tad better.
Tennis champ in action!
Making brownies with sister Miku. Gianluca loves anything sweet and brownies are no exception!


It has been a long time since I've posted, my apologies. I'm trying to adjust to "working" as I'm currently in the middle of my clinical aspect of my MA program. I'm really loving it but it's taking up a lot of my time and by the time I get home I'm pretty darn exhausted. I also had a marathon 6 day migraine last week that was horrific. I'm pleased to say that it has left me.

Gianluca has been doing very well as of late. Part of not posting is just that we have kind of settled into the rhythm of the school year and there really isn't much to report. He's doing very well in school, seems to have no academic issues and is applying himself in every respect. I have fun helping him with his writing. He's a very good writer who just needs a little help with translation. I'm amazed at how things can be translated into words that really make no sense in the English language. Also, it's funny when we run across a word that in Europe means one thing but in the US means something completely different. The best example of this was the other night when G was doing his homework and I found him looking through my pencil basket. He looked up at me and asked "Nina, do you have a rubber?" I had to chuckle because I knew that he more than likely was looking for an eraser. Sure enough he was and I got to explain to him what a rubber is here in the US. We had a good laugh filled with his usual response to things "Really?" He's a curious guy for sure. Thank goodness I saved him the embarrassment of asking for a rubber from someone at school! Whew!

In the evenings after dinner we all enjoy playing Bananagrams. That is a wonderful game for learning English words. I suspect by the end of the year Gianluca will be beating me at this game, but for now I am the champion.

Gianluca has been playing all exhibition matches with his tennis team but is winning almost every one of them. I'm hoping this means the coach will soon allow him to play a REAL match. He's such a good player and that would be nice for him to experience. Still, he enjoys his team and I remain grateful for the opportunity he has had to play a school sport. Tennis will end soon and I'm not sure what sport he will take up. All I know is we will find something to keep him active.

G went to his quarterly AFS retreat last weekend and all the AFSers had a wonderful time. He came back not particularly enamored with camping, but having had a great time with his friends.

Mason has been out of town with his class this week so the house has been a little quiet. This weekend Gianluca will be able to go to a Sounders game with a friend of his choice and I'll be hitting the books for my Logic class. This class is going to be a lot of work!

Coming up on October 16th we will celebrate the wonderful life of my beloved father-in-law, Fred Lanphear. He was such an amazing man and his legacy lives on strong in his family. My children were really blessed to have two such wonderful grandfathers. That they lost both in the same year feels particularly cruel. We miss them both so much.

Mason is excited for ski season to begin but with todays beautiful 76 degree weather it's hard to believe that's around the corner. Seriously, today was just stunning outside!

Gianluca was given money by his parents to buy a computer so we are gearing up to welcome him into the Apple family. It will be his first Mac and I know he's going to love it. What a generous gift from his parents, and I think it will be well used. Thanks Mauro and Roberta!

Well, kind of a boring post but that's all I have. All is well and I'm happy about that.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ben & Jerry's and Cheerleaders!

So, I've discovered two things that Gianluca really loves. Ben & Jerry's and cheerleaders. He can down a pint of ice cream in one sitting and these lovely cheerleaders agreed to take a photo with him at the fair. They were very sweet and he didn't seem to mind. I have to admit it was my idea, and I'm the one who asked them to take the photo, but he was a good sport and jumped in the photo, which I appreciated.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The School Year Begins!

Yesterday Mason and Gianluca had their first day of school. For Mason this was his first year of high school, which is so exciting. I can hardly believe my youngest is in high school. I got a very brief report from him last night saying it was a great day. That's all I really needed to hear, but I can wait to see him tonight to get a more in depth report.

For Gianluca this was obviously his first American high school experience so I was really curious to hear what had happened. Gianluca is a pretty mellow guy, so I wasn't expecting him to jump up and down about his day but we did have some funny discussions about the fact that he still cannot figure out how to open his locker, his decision to just eat the one thing he found on top of his lunch and not actually look in the whole sack to see what was there, and his concerns about his last class of the day, US History. He informed me that his teacher said that they were a 'special' class, and that not much would be required of them. He really didn't like that, he said that he felt that the kids in this class were probably the worst students in the school. He thought perhaps the teacher was not very good. I'm not sure if that is true but I think we may have to reconsider that class. The other classes he says that he likes and he said that people were very friendly. So, first day was good. Today is day two and he woke up very tired. He ate his breakfast, packed up and decided to walk to school. I'm trusting that he made it there on time.

Today is Gianluca's first tennis match and Mason and I are going. I really know nothing about tennis, so it's going to be a challenge for me to understand what the heck is going on. Do they have a scoreboard for tennis?? God, I hope so.

Sunday, September 5, 2010


Jeevan, Gianluca and Kali
I'm really going to miss this beautiful girl. She's going to have such an amazing adventure in Italy!
Yum! Pizza fantastica!

A few nights ago we went over to my sisters house and Gianluca made us homemade pizza as a farewell dinner for Kali, who will be leaving to Italy today for her AFS adventure. I marveled at how he made the crust from scratch like it was nothing. He made it look so easy, so relaxed. He didn't measure anything, just knew how much flour, yeast and salt to pour out onto the cutting board. He then slowly added water and mixed the dough with his hands. It was really quite a beautiful process. When it came time to make the red sauce he was perplexed as to why it was pink. I later found out that the longer you blend the tomatoes, the pinker they become. So, we will work on the sauce part. All in all I thought it was excellent and I was really stuffed at the end of dinner. Gianluca gave it a six out of ten. Part of my frustration with cooking, and why I feel I am particularly good at it, is that I find it difficult. Gianluca showed me that it doesn't have to be complicated to be good. I love what this young man is teaching me.

I've been thinking about hosting and what it really brings to my life. I love hosting for many reasons but I really love the growth that I get to observe over the course of the year. When a student comes to your house they come with their challenges, the things that they need to work on, and it really is a privilege to help them with their journey. For Gianluca his challenges are unique to him and I have seen so much growth just in the three weeks that he has been here. He is learning that he has a great deal of strength and that he is capable of a lot. He's a highly capable person, I already knew that, but he is very brave and willing to risk.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Birthday boy with his waffle!
On Saturday Gianluca got to learn how to play kick ball out at an end of the year party for Mason's class. He even jumped in and played with the parents when they played. I was very impressed. He thinks it's kind of a silly sport but he joined in anyway, which was nice.
Brazil vs. Italy. Italy dominated!!!
Birthday hike in Discovery Park. Beautiful day.
The weather was so beautiful for his birthday yesterday and today is really quite ugly outside. I'm grateful we had such a nice day to celebrate him.

The last week has been full of events. Friday was Gianluca's cross town scavenger hunt to celebrate his birthday, which was a tremendous success. Great fun was had by all. On Saturday we drove out to Arlington for a end of the year party with Mason's class. There were three AFSers there, the same ones I took to Portland so Gianluca had lots of company. I was really impressed when he jumped in to play kick ball with the class and the parents. He's so willing to participate, which is really cool. He's such an easy going guy, which I really love and appreciate. On Sunday we went to the AFS picnic and the weather was pretty bad. Before we went we visited the grandparents in Bothell and introduced Gianluca to Costco. It was great to meet some more of the AFSers at the picnic, and their host families. I think we have a great bunch of kids this year. Everyone seems really engaged and ready for adventure.

It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks since Gianluca arrived. He has been very busy since the beginning. Now this week it's like the wind went out of the sails and there is pretty much nothing to do. Yesterday was his actual birthday and we went over to my sisters and joined with some of the family to make a nice breakfast. Then we went over to Discovery Park for a short hike. He finished his afternoon up with tennis practice and then we came home for dinner. I decided that he needed to see "Role Models" on the eve of his birthday so we went out to the video store to get it. We had ice cream and I was the one laughing as many of the jokes in Role Models are out of context for him. I think he liked the movie however, so that's good. I realize the movie is highly inappropriate but I love the humor in it. What can I say? There is still a teenager inside me.

This week Mason is hiking with his class in the Cascades so it's just Gianluca, Miku and I here at home. Tonight Gianluca is going to a Mariner's game with some friends, which should be interesting. Right now we're watching the US Open, which is something I can honestly say I have never done.

School starts next week, something I know Gianluca is ready for. In the few short weeks he has been here his English has improved tremendously. I think he's going to do well at school.

I start my preceptorship on September 13th at the UW. I'm terrified and at the same time kind of sad to close the chapter on not working and being back in school. I've enjoyed my flexible schedule the last 18 months. The whole 8-5 thing is going to be tough for me.

Noah is settling in finally in Norway and is really having an amazing time. His family there is just what he needs and he really appreciates them. I do as well. We are so fortunate to have them in our lives.