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.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Gianluca's 17th Birthday Cross Town Scavenger Hunt

The birthday boy.

Hope he made a wish.

Today we had Gianluca's cross town scavenger hunt for his 17th birthday, which is this coming Monday. We had four teams of five, driving in cars around the city, completing tasks. I've only included Gianluca's team because there are so many photos. I think everyone had a great time and Gianluca will hopefully remember this birthday party fondly. I know I had a great time.

One team member had to ask a random stranger for a piggy back ride. Kali stepped up to the challenge and this nice lady helped us out.
Our team in front of Roosevelt High School where Gianluca will attend.
Each team member had to run one lap to form a full mile. Gianluca was fast!
The team had to wrap one team member into a toilet paper mummy and take a photo of a stranger with a dog. This lady was very sweet to help us.
The team in front of a public library. One team member had to register and obtain a library card. Patrik stepped up and now he's a card carrying member of the Seattle Public Library.
Down at Shilshole Bay.
One team member had to eat a banana split with a tasting spoon.
One team member had to buy a flower and give it to a stranger. Gianluca made her day!
Our team at the famous Gum Wall in Pike Place Market

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And He Makes the Varsity Team!

What a great week we have had. On Saturday we drove down 1-5 and made a stop at Mt. St. Helen's to see the volcano. On the trip I had Gianluca, my son Mason, Max from Germany, Gabriel from Brazil and his host brother Rohan, who is also one of Mason's best friends. We had a nice drive down and after seeing the volcano headed south to Portland. In Portland we stayed with one of my dearest friends, Monika, and her family. The five boys enjoyed swimming, playing video games, watching horror films and just generally hanging out together. We took some time to drive out to the Oregon Coast, just south of Cannon Beach at Oswald State Park. We had a lovely afternoon at the beach. On our way out of town on Wednesday we stopped to do some school shopping and had a fairly hilarious time in Target. Mason decided to try on the maternity jeans which was a great source of laughter for us all.

Today Gianluca had his tennis team tryouts for his high school and made the varsity team! I was so PROUD of him. I mean he plays it kind of cool, makes tennis look easy, but seriously, he's an amazing player. The coach was happy to have him and he scored one of only four available spots on the team, beating out some ten or so other players who will now play on the junior varsity team. Very impressive! The only problem was that the coach was speaking so fast that Gianluca didn't really understand that he made the team. I had to explain to him once we got to the call. Once he figured it out he was very happy. He worked really hard today to earn that spot and I'm grateful that he'll have the opportunity to be a part of a team.

Tomorrow we are having a cross town scavenger hunt in cars to celebrate Gianluca's birthday. He'll be 17 on Monday August 30th. We'll take a lot of photos and post them as soon as possible.

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Great First Week

Gianluca has been here one full week and it really has been full of some pretty fun stuff. It's hard to believe he's only been here a week and I am amazed at the difference between the shy young man that I picked up on Saturday and the one who is with us now. Not that he is a different person, it's just that he has really opened up and bonded with our family is a real organic way. It's wonderful to see his big smile. My heart swells when I see it because it tells me he's getting comfortable and trusting us more.

Gianluca is so very similar to my youngest son, Mason, that it's been challenging for them to find common ground and connect. So, last night I asked Gianluca if he'd be willing to go with us to the park and play some tennis with Mason. He was very gracious to do so and I tell you it was HILARIOUS. I laughed so hard, Mason really did try, and of course Gianluca was patient and chased after A LOT of stray balls. I think this simple exercise really did break the ice because it was awkward and laughter was abundant. I think laughter does a great deal to bring people together.

Today Gianluca and I went to take his sports paperwork into his school so that he can try out for tennis next week. We were able to see only a small portion of the school but what we saw was really beautiful. I have never been in this school before and the architecture really impressed me. I have no idea whether the academics are as much to marvel at, but I'll wait to place judgement once Gianluca is actually attending. After going to his school we went down and dropped my car off to get the oil changed and walked down to get a cup of coffee and look in shops at U Village. It was a nice walk. Then we went to AT&T and Gianluca got a simm card for his phone, so he is officially wired! This is great because it gives him more freedom to roam the city and explore. After U Village we went to see a play, "Guys and Dolls", performed by local teens, one of which is a friends son. It was really great. I don't think Gianluca understood much but the music was fun for him and it was a true cultural experience. Tonight I made pesto pasta for dinner and he was so excited. He, for the first time, ate a big helping (actually two) and I was thrilled. I've been a bit worried that he's not eating enough, but now I know it's because I'm probably not making things that he likes. I'm really not a very creative cook, so in that respect I may fail him occasionally, but I'm doing my best.

Tomorrow morning we are headed to Portland. We'll be taking Max (from Germany) and Gabriel (from Brazil) as well. It should be quite the experience for me in a car with five teenage boys! I think I can handle it.

All in all, Gianluca's first week has been very successful. I'm really pleased with his progress with English, but more importantly I'm just thrilled that he is such a wonderful young man who we are all quickly coming to love.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

He's a TENNIS player!

Yesterday I bought Gianluca a tennis racket for his birthday. Originally I had planned on giving him snowboarding lessons but when we went to the sporting goods store I realized that he was eyeing the rackets and I asked if he would prefer the racket for his gift and his face lit up! I figured why give him a gift that he MIGHT enjoy when I can give him a gift I KNOW he will enjoy. Those are the best gifts.

When I woke up this morning I called my friend Julie and asked her if her son Julian would like to play tennis with Gianluca and she graciously arranged some court time at her country club and we headed over to Kirkland. It became quickly clear that Gianluca is an AMAZING tennis player. Truly. I love it when my kids excel at something and really embrace it. Watching Gianluca I could see in his whole being that tennis brings him a great deal of joy. As a host parent this is a moment you hope for, a time when you see what brings your new son or daughter satisfaction. We want the same things for our own children but we have been instrumental in helping them discover their passion. With an AFSer it's all new. Like your own children you then are charged with making sure that they can realize their dreams. So clearly Gianluca will play on a tennis team while he is here. That is clear.

We finished up the evening with dinner at Tutta Bella with my friends Geoff and Lisa and their kids, as well as their exchange student, Gabriel, from Brazil. The pizza was excellent and Gianluca was incredibly hungry after two hours of tennis. He earned ever bite of that pizza!

All in all this was a very satisfying day.

Monday, August 16, 2010

A Great Beginning

Gianluca was a professional by the end of the trip. He did amazingly well.

Here he's just getting loaded into the boat and I know he was nervous. You could see it on his face. But he overcame that fear and did it. So proud of him.
Getting started. Jeevan, myself, Kali and Gianluca
What a crazy group!
Gianluca met some new cousins today. He met Calista and Annelyse!

Today marked Gianluca's second full day with us. Our family has packed in so many events these last few weeks of summer and Gianluca has been kind of thrown into the mix. The upside is that he's getting to do some pretty cool stuff right off the bat, which although it may make him tired, I think he's really enjoying it. On Sunday we woke up and made waffles with fresh raspberries and cream, and some bacon. Then we went down to Pike Place Market to look for gifts for Noah's host family in Norway. After that we drove out to see the family at the grandparents house. This was all very overwhelming for Gianluca, I'm sure.

Today was a fabulous day filled with adventure. Today is my sister Karen's 40th birthday and we had the opportunity to go kayaking on Lake Union and Lake Washington. Gianluca had never been kayaking and I could see that it made him nervous. He was willing though, and embraced it. Once out in the water it took almost no time at all for him to be comfortable and learn how to maneuver his boat. He did great and what a rite of passage it was! It was also the first time that Grandma Carol had been kayaking and at 71 she did great! Tonight we picked up another AFSer, Max, and took him with us to Alki Beach to celebrate Karen's birthday with a good old fashioned weenie roast and smores. We saw a beautiful sunset and shared excellent company with friends and family. Gianluca and Max even joined in on a frisbee game with Noah and Mason.

What made me most happy was that I saw a lot more smiles on Gianluca's face. He seemed much more comfortable today and he really accomplished a great thing with his kayaking. I think he's going to have a great year with many new experiences. He's got a healthy curiosity and he is very brave. That's all he needs.