An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

An Italian-American living la dolce vita in the Deep South

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Backyard Football . . . Injury Free

I love the fall season: tumbling leaves, cool weather (finally!), hot chocolate by the fireplace, the excitement of the holidays . . . and then there is football. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it as a sport, and my middle son even plays in a league (Taking a Knee). On Saturday afternoons I love curling up with a book with my husband and sons sprawled around me watching a game. But those backyard football games . . .

We have a great backyard, but we also have trees, and the ten boys who have gathered here aren't wearing helmets and they think they are going to tackle each other. Uh uh, no way. No tackling. Period.

You should hear the wailing protests. We'll be careful! Nobody will get hurt! You'll spoil our fun. How can I be like Paul Posluzny if I can't tackle?! Mmmm. I feel like an ogre, but I don't budge.

But I do have a solution (I've tried the touch football idea but then they shove each other out of bounds straight into our brick house). Look here. I show them a flag football kit. It's really neat, I say. Everyone has a belt with two flags velcroed to it; instead of tackling each other into the trees or shoving each other into the brick house, you grab a flag.

The kids sigh. Okay, they say, in a tone that is very begrudging. But as they secure their belts, I can tell they are more than a little intrigued. In fact, they are having a great time. They play all afternoon and I don't feel like I need to stand by the phone ready to call 911.

And they aren't even annoyed with me. Later my oldest son comes in and asks if I would come out and be all-time quarterback. Wow! I am stunned speechless, but I go outside because, really, how hard can it be to throw a football? At least I know I won't be tackled.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Raising souls

"I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life." (Abraham Lincoln, 1809-1865)

There is no doubt that raising our sons is the hardest thing that my husband and I will ever, ever have to do. At night in bed I often review the events of the day: did I lose my patience too much? was I too lenient? should I have done this instead of that? My husband and I have endless discussions on discipline, on character building, on instilling spiritual growth. Often it seems as if there is never a clear answer; each situation, and yes, even each child, needs to be handled just a little differently.

I remember nursing my first son in the dark and quiet hours of the night when the enormity of the years ahead struck me. Changing diapers, bathing, feeding, rocking . . . taking care of our son's physical needs was the easy part. What about all the things we would have to teach him: to walk; hit a golf ball; spell his name; make his bed; research a paper; fill out an application; drive; get a job?

As important as these things are, what about character and spiritual growth? Imperfect as humans (and thus as parents), how would we teach our son to believe in God; pray with faith; help a stranger; give of oneself; be a good citizen; be strong, and confident, and secure; stand up for what is right? As I sat and rocked my son to sleep that night, I felt overwhelmed . . . we weren't just raising a child, we were raising a soul.

In the midst of those swirling emotions, I soon found a deep comfort in the Blessed Mother and realized that she, more than anyone, understood what it is like to be a mother.

Scripture tells us that Mary was afraid and "deeply disturbed" (Luke 1:29) when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. At the nativity, when the wise men came to pay homage to her son, Mary quietly "kept in mind all these things and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19). Later, when she presented her first born son to the Lord, Simeon warns her of the pain that would come when he says, "a sword will pierce your own soul too" (Luke 2:35). And when Mary found Jesus in the temple after he had been lost for three days, she tells him, "See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you" (Luke 2:48). Joy, worry, pain, uncertainty . . . Mary lived through it all with a deep and abiding faith.

Now that we have three sons ages three, eleven, and twelve, Mary is still here to comfort, guide, and mediate for us. Help is only a prayer away, and that's a good thing, because here is what I am reminded of on a daily basis: raising our sons is, and always will be, the hardest thing my husband and I will ever, ever have to do. It's not supposed to be easy, but with prayer and faith it can be done. It's as simple as that.

Monday, October 22, 2007

In Celebration of Life

Yesterday was my nephew's birthday . . . literally. He was born in the early morning after only an hour and a half of labor (they barely made it to the hospital, which sent my doctor brother into a panic).

Yesterday was also my middle son's birthday, and when my brother called to share the news, he asked for my son Jonathan and told him to announce Ethan's arrival to the family since they now share a birthday. Of course Jonathan's announcement, given in a matter-of-fact-nothing-out-of-the-ordinary kind of way, sent everyone scurrying, scrambling, and racing to grab the phone from him. I mean, really, what was my brother thinking, entrusting such important news to an eleven year old?

After a whirlwind of phone calls, after the laughter and the celebration, after everything quieted down and I had a moment to take it all in, the beauty of this event hit me . . .

A new baby. Here. On earth.
What could be more joyous?

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Good Day

This past Thursday I received a phone call from someone I hadn't heard from in a long, long time: the school nurse. Evidently my eldest son was having stomach problems, was very pale, and the nurse felt I should probably come and pick him up. I was more than happy to do so because, you see, I got to be his Mommy again.

Now that my son is twelve years old, he likes to do things by himself. No more quizzing him on spelling words, picking out his clothes, helping him with his reports. I am now "Mom" spoken in a voice that seems to lower by the minute, and I notice that, while he speaks nonstop with his friends, having a conversation with his parents is akin to torture.

But, on Thursday he was all mine! I got to tuck him into bed, plump his pillows, make him tea, and even kiss him on the forehead . . . all without protest. We watched television together, talked about school, and laughed at his three year old brother who was getting more than a little jealous. And later in the afternoon, as I was handing him yet another cup of tea, he thanked me and told me he loved me.

Despite the pesky little stomach problem, it was a good day for both of us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

An Evening Stream of Consciousness

Sitting in a lawn chair, looking at the evening sky . . . these were my thoughts while waiting for my son's football practice to end:

A friend of mine (who is now a Franciscan priest) once told me that clouds are every color except white. Studying the puffy, billowy clouds overhead I saw purple, pink, blue, grey, yellow . . . but no white. Amazing!

I recalled this conversation from Winnie the Pooh: "Why is the sky blue?" asked Piglet. "To give us something to talk about," said Pooh.

"Faith is not believing that God can. It is knowing that God will." This quote popped into my head, probably because I was contemplating the heavens.

Practicing my faith, I thought: "I don't believe that this marathon practice session will end. I know that it will end."

And it did.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Happy Birthday, Damiano!

Today is my cousin Damiano's birthday. Although he is all grown up now and married to wonderful Irene, I do have one particular memory of him that always makes me smile.

One summer he came to spend a month with us. Since I was away at college, I decided to come home one weekend to take Damiano and my brother to Six Flags for the day. We had a wonderful time, and toward the end of the day they both decided to go on every single water ride in the park one more time. The goal: to get thoroughly soaking wet. And they succeeded.

When we walked (or rather, squished) back to our car, they climbed into the back seat to remove their soaking shoes and socks while I packed things away into the trunk. I heard a lot of giggling, and when I closed the trunk those two buffoons had plastered the bottoms of their size 12 water-logged, wrinkled feet to the back of the car window. Not a pretty sight . . . but it was a funny one!

Buon Compleanno Damiano!! And for you, I took this photo in Rome this past May that made me think of you!
"Give me coffee" or Dami's cafe`

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The West Wind . . . in Italy

My Zia Paola shared with me that the West Wind (see previous post) blows just as strongly in Italy; however, I seem to remember my cousins using the following word along with that exaggerated sigh:

"Uffa!" (pronounced ooo-fa) is a word that sounds like a sigh and a sigh that sounds like a word. I hear it a lot when I am with my cousins, and it conveys exactly the same meaning as our west wind.

Now, I am admittedly a little biased with all things Italian, but the breathless "Uffa" sounds, well, actually very nice.

So I think I'll teach my boys how to do the west wind in Italian because, after all, if they're going to indulge in preteen grumpiness, they may as well sound nice in the process!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The West Wind

The west wind has been blowing through our home. You know, the west wind, as in:

Me: "Sweetie, please roll the trash can down the driveway."
Son: "SIGH!"

And that sigh, so exaggerated, so full of preteen angst, so weighed down with the burdens of the world, is what we call in our home . . . THE WEST WIND.

The other day it was blowing more than usual, and in exasperation I finally asked, "Excuse me, is that the west wind I hear?"

After a moment of panicked silence, I hear, "Uh, no, it's just a little breeze blowing in from the southeast."

Hmmmm. Too smart for his own good.