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

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

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Life and Times of a Bibliophile

A while back Lisa passed on a book meme which has been sitting in my drafts folder for some time now. It seems that every time I thought of a book, I would change it in a couple of days. I love books, and having to pick is hard! But, here it it quickly because it may change tomorrow!
  • One book that changed your life: every book I've ever read. There really is no other answer. It seems any book I read changes me...some in big ways, some in little ways.

  • One book that you have read more than once: Christy by Catherine Marshall. As a teacher, that book has always been so inspirational to me.

  • One book you'd want on a desert island: like everyone, definitely the Bible. However, I would also need some kind of survival guide (a book, that is, and not Crocodile Dundee). I am a city girl and have no idea how to catch a fish, pitch a tent, or start a fire. On second thought...maybe I will take Crocodile Dundee!!

  • One book that made you laugh: One for the Money series by Janet Evanovich. They are a quick read (perfect for the beach), you really don't have to concentrate too closely (perfect for Moms who are constantly interrupted), and they are laugh-out-loud funny!
  • One book that made you cry: just one? Happy endings, sad endings...they all make me cry! But, okay, one that really made me cry was Tuesdays with Morrie. I also have to mention Piccoli Come Bambini, which is the story of Sandro, written by his wife.
  • One book you wish had been written: The Secret to a Clean Bathroom in a Household of Boys.

  • One book you wish had never been written: any of the I Spy books. I still get googly eyes from trying to find all the hidden items, and my toddler won't turn the page until ALL the items have been located. Of course, the Where's Waldo books present a problem, too.

  • One book you are currently reading: Where the Heart Is by Deborah Smith.

  • One book you've been meaning to read: Story of a Soul. So many of you have mentioned this book that I've been feeling left out.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Official...

Well, the time has come. I know that it has already happened to many of my friends, and that many of you have even written about it, but somehow I had hoped to be spared. But no...

I have officially been declared an Uncool Mom.

So, there you have it.

I am uncool.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Tuesdays with Nonna

This evening, and for the next two months of Tuesdays, my 13 year old son will be taking "Beginning Italian" at our local university.

And the best part?

The classes are taught by my Mom, his Nonna.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The candle

I always had the best times with my Italian Nonna. When I spent the weekend with her, or visited during the summer, I loved accompanying her on her daily shopping rounds. It was a beautiful experience shopping in small stores with owners who knew my Nonna by name and who were delighted that her little nipote americana could speak Italian. Often I was given little gifts: a chunk of cheese, a small roll, a piece of candy.

At some point during our walk from store to store, we always stopped in the church to light a candle. Speaking softly Nonna would give me cento lire to drop into the money box, and then she let me select a candle and light it. Together we knelt, and while I couldn't hear what she was actually saying, I could hear her whispering as she prayed.

It's a memory that surrounds me like a warm, comforting blanket.

Memories of those special times came back to me the other night as we were preparing to recite the rosary together as a family. Before prayers we have one particular candle that we always light. It is made of rusty iron in the shape of a cross, with a small niche for a votive candle.

That night, as I pulled out a box of matches, my middle son's eyes lit up. He wanted to try and light the candle. On his first attempt, the matchstick snapped in half. On the second attempt there was a spark, but it startled him and he dropped everything. Finally, finally the match came to life, but he was holding it wrong and the flames singed his knuckles.

Then my oldest son stepped forward to show him how it was done. HE knew how to do it because HE'S an altar server and can light candles like a pro. He rolled up his sleeves, and with a dramatic flair produced a flame. Unfortunately, he was gripping the match too close to the end, and was forced to toss the flame into the sink before it burned his fingers.

As I watched my sons fumble with lighting the candle, I realized that on some subconscious level I was trying to re-create for my sons the feeling I had as a little girl.

There is beauty in the solemnity of lighting a candle, and despite their goofiness that particular evening, I do think they get it. When we gather for prayer, someone (without being told) gets the candle and sets it in the middle of the kitchen table. Only then are we ready.

Who knew that a tender childhood tradition with my Nonna would one day become part of our family's ritual of beginning prayer time with a candle.

Now, whether or not we actually succeed in lighting it is an entirely different matter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Feeling special

A quiet afternoon and I am sitting in a chair, reading and enjoying a cappuccino. My middle son starts teasing his three year old brother by pointing to me and saying:

"That's my Mom."

My toddler gets incensed and yells back, "Uh, uh! That's my Mom!"

It goes back and forth like this.
I smile.
It's nice to be fought over.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The best laid plans . . .

I just returned from Atlanta on a trip that a good friend and I had been planning for a couple of months. Our husbands watched the kids, and with Marriott points we were able to reserve a room in downtown Atlanta for free. We planned a fun-filled itinerary:

Saturday morning drive to Atlanta
visit Margaret Mitchell house and take tour
check-in at Downtown Marriott
have dinner at CNN Center
Barry Manilow concert at 8 p.m.
return home Sunday, early afternoon

But Saturday morning as we were driving to Atlanta, it started snowing. Really snowing. In fact, soon we were almost the only ones on the interstate, and as we approached Atlanta the weather was getting worse. We decided to check-in first, leave our car, and then take a taxi to continue with our itinerary. Here's what happened:

Margaret Mitchell house . . . closed due to weather.
Barry Manilow concert . . . postponed due to weather.

Well, okay then. We had a free weekend with neither husband nor children, we were in Atlanta, and we would have fun . . . even if it meant going to Plan B or even Plan C.

So, instead of the Margaret Mitchell house, we went to the High Museum where we wandered through three floors of breathtaking art. Instead of Barry Manilow, we got tickets to The Shakespeare Tavern and saw one of the best Shakespeare performances I have ever seen. And walking around downtown, we huddled under our umbrellas laughing hysterically at the craziness of it all. No, we did absolutely nothing on our itinerary, but absolutely everything worked out anyway.

And the best thing? Since the concert was not cancelled, but rather postponed, we will have to return to Atlanta again in a few weeks. Oh, darn!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Putting Faith in Family Night

As a family, we do many things together. We eat our meals together, we play together, we attend mass together, we pray the rosary, we have great vacations. But even with all this togetherness, my husband and I decided early on to have an official Family Night . . . one night that was all about the celebration of family togetherness. We wanted the boys, when they are older and living away from home, to have fond memories of these fun Friday nights when they were growing up.

And we've had some great family nights. Sometimes they simply involved popcorn and a movie, while other times it was Sonic burgers followed by flag football at a park. We've played board games, had picnics on the living room floor in the winter, or simply went on a pajama run (hopping in the car to go to the Dairy Queen drive-thru while wearing our pajamas!).

Last year, however, as we were facing the Lenten season, we decided to include a spiritual side to these nights . . . to add faith to the fun in our Family Nights. We also wanted to have the two older boys become more involved in planning these nights.

So we decided to try this: Every Friday would be Family Night, to be planned by a different member of the family each week (excluding our toddler, of course). And these family nights had to include three elements:
  • a devotion: this could include a preparation for next Sunday's gospel, the rosary, Stations of the Cross, or a favorite Bible reading. By starting our family nights with a prayer or devotion, hopefully our sons are learning the importance of beginning an activity (whether work or play) with prayer, of offering whatever it is they're doing to God and asking for His blessing. They are also learning how to lead in prayer. We want our sons to be able to pray extemporaneously and to be comfortable in leading others in prayer.

  • a meal: whoever plans family night has to think of a family meal. Of course, the boys still need my help, but they get to make the all important decision of what we were going to have for dinner. It goes without saying that hot dogs, pizza, or tacos are popular choices.

  • an activity: this is always the easiest part, but we've noticed that ever since the boys have been involved in the planning, we've done some very different things. One night my middle son organized a scavenger hunt in the house, complete with clues and riddles. Another time my older son gave everyone $3 (from his own savings) and had us draw names. Then we all went to Target and had to buy something in secret for that person. We all came home and exchanged the "gifts" amid a lot of laughter and fun!

We started doing our family nights this way as a Lenten act, but they've been so successful that we've just continued them in this fashion. And here's what we've discovered: praying beforehand sets a spiritual tone that extends through the meal and activity; the boys like to be in charge and have some great ideas; they are getting good at leading in prayer; and we really, really look forward to these nights.

Food, family fun, and most important of all, faith...all three bundled into one happy package, working together to create lasting memories.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Italian for Dummies!

Okay, so you want to speak Italian? Read the following story of The Three Bears with a heavy Italian accent and see if you understand what you're saying. I'll get you started with the first couple of lines: Once upon a time was three bears; mamma bear, pappa bear, and baby bear. Live in country near forest. Nice house, no mortgage. One day pappa, mamma, and baby go beach, hurry and forget to lock the door.

Now you try...(BTW, the last word in the story is city hall)

Di Tri Berrese

Uans appona taim uas tri berrese; mamma berre, pappa berre, e beibi berre. Live inna contri nire foresta. Naise aus, no mugheggia. Uanna dei pappa, mamma, e beibi go bice, orie e furghetta locche di dorra.

Bai enne bai commese Goldilocchese. Sci garra nattingha tu du batte meiche troble. Sci puscia olle fudde daon di maute; no live cromme. Den sci gos appesterrese enne slipse in olle beddse. Bai enne bai commese omme di tri berrese, olle sannebronne enne send inne scius. Dei garra no fudde; dei garra no beddse. En uara dei goine du tu Goldilocchese? Tro erre aute inne strit? Colle pulissemenn?

Deis uas Italien berrese, enne dei slippe onne florre. Goldilocchese stei derre tri deise: dei esch erre tu meiche di beddse, sci runne omme craine tu erre mamma. Uatssiuse? Uara iu goine du? Go compleine sittiole?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Hurray for Boys!

I love boys, I really, really do, and having twelve of them (plus my three) here for my son's thirteenth birthday party was a joy. They are loud, messy, silly, and basically uncomplicated creatures. I like to watch them, and I like to feed them, because they eat with gusto and that warms my Italian heart. (To tell you the truth, I'm a little envious of Kathryn, who has EIGHT sons.) So, the birthday party was a success: the rain ended, there was plenty of food, and even after a rousing game of hide-and-seek in the dark, the neighbors still like us.

I wanted memories of this night, so I asked the boys for a group photo:

So they tried a human pyramid . . .

it didn't work.

Then, they conspired and pointed at something
just when I shot the photo. How do they think
of these things??!!

Finally!! The ONLY way to get a group shot!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oh, Boy(s)!

My oldest son turned 13 this past Wednesday, and since he has now officially become a teenager, he's having a few friends over tonight for a party and to just hang out.

A few friends . . . as in TWELVE.

You know that "rule of thumb" when hosting a Pampered Chef or a Southern Living Party, the one that says send out lots of invitations, then plan on half that amount coming? Well, that rule doesn't apply to teens. Twelve invitations issued, twelve accepted.

And the food. While I've cooked for large groups many, many times, the thought of providing food for twelve growing teenage boys has me just a tad worried. We decided to go with sandwich platters from Subway. One platter feeds 15-20. We're getting two, which is supposed to feed 30-40. Do you think that's enough food? I hope it's enough food. (Mental note: buy more potato chips!)

We have activities planned. Since the party is this evening, we have a glow-in-the-dark basketball (how cool is that?!), a giant flashlight for flashlight tag, and a lighted, over-sized frisbee.

We also pulled down the fussball table from the attic.

Oh, and we also have umbrellas because it has been raining. nonstop. all. morning.

Twelve boys + my 13 year old + my 11 year old + my toddler (let's keep things interesting, shall we?) + my husband = too much testosterone, in my humble opinion. Am I nervous?

Who, me?

But the rustling sounds you hear will be me hiding in the bushes, holding my pretty, pink umbrella, wearing my glow-in-the-dark sports watch (so I'll know when to come out), and enjoying a nice glass of red wine. Cheers!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

You Know You're in Trouble When . . .

. . . you stand at the bottom of the stairs calling your toddler's name, and after a couple seconds of silence he yells down,

"I'm not doing ANYTHING!"

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Contrariness of Toddlers

Coming home one afternoon from a lovely family outing, our toddler, who hadn't had a nap, was tired, cranky, and irritable.

I tried to distract him as we drove over a long bridge: "Oh, look at the beautiful river!" I said. It was one of the wide parts of the river, and was very picturesque.

My toddler leaned forward in his booster seat, pointedly looked out the window, then leaned back with a huff as he declared, "I. don't. see. it."

Sheesh. I told my husband to step on it.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Short and Sweet (to prevent boredom!)

Lisa (one of my favorite bloggers) tagged me a while back for a meme of 8 random facts, and I thought I'd challenge myself (and spare you because, really, I'm not that interesting) by listing them in short, concise sentences. So, here goes...

  1. I love to cook, but hate to bake.
  2. I speak three languages: English, Italian, and Spanish.
  3. My husband and I met at a church spaghetti supper.
  4. When we say the rosary as a family, we always say one decade in Italian in honor of my Nonna.
  5. In my first year as a student teacher one of the students asked me to the prom. (Ick!)
  6. My husband sent me and a friend to Rome, Italy for my 40th birthday while he stayed home to babysit.
  7. The perfect meal for me? Crusty bread, fresh tomatoes, a chunk of cheese, some red wine.
  8. I cried when I saw the Sistine Chapel. Tissue anyone?

I'm supposed to now tag others, so, if you're reading this...