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

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

Friday, May 30, 2008

Good News, Bad News, then Great News

Hello. You are probably surprised to see me since we are supposed to be at the beach. Well . . .

Good News: We got everything packed last night . . . I was Miss Organization.

Bad News: Our four-year-old got up five times during the night to throw up.

Good News: Today is the last day of school for our two older boys.

Bad News, Bad News: Our little one is still throwing up; departure for the beach postponed until tomorrow.

Good News: The two older boys are going on ahead with my parents.

Bad News: My husband and I will stay here.

Good News: We'll rent a movie, get take-out, and spend some quality time with our little one.

Great News: Tomorrow, when we finally head to the beach, it will be a quiet, peaceful drive with only one child in the car.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.
The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
-Winston Churchill

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Traveling with Kids

With summer here (my boys get out this Friday) and a vacation just around the corner (we leave this Friday for the beach) I wanted to share two great ideas for involving your children during a family vacation:

The Scavenger Hunt

Two years ago my husband and I took our boys on their first trip to Italy. Because I wanted this trip to be both memorable and educational, I prepared a scavenger hunt highlighting some of the things I knew we would be seeing. The night before the trip I gave them each a list of 25 items to look for and a disposable camera. Some of the items on the list were obvious: someone eating a gelato; a tower that leans; a square with a fountain in the middle; a sign written in Italian; a vespa. Some weren't so obvious: a lion carved in stone (lion: symbol of Venice and found everywhere in that city); a love letter to Juliet (the wall near Juliet's balcony is plastered with love letters asking for advice).

They loved the scavenger hunt and took it very seriously. Once we returned home they put their list and their photos in a small album . . . a wonderful memento of our trip.

Postcard Journals

On this same family trip, I wanted the boys to record in some way what they were seeing and learning. I knew, however, that a traditional journal was just not the way to go. Instead, the boys sent postcards . . . to themselves!! After a day spent sightseeing the boys would select a postcard and write some highlights of the day. A postcard was perfect because they had a picture of what they saw, and the limited space on the back kept their journaling down to a few sentences.

The best part was that a few days after returning home the postcards started arriving, and the boys would get so excited to receive mail. Their postcards were also incredibly funny:

Dear Me: This postcard shows the day when we went to Collodi . . . a park all about Pinocchio. When I saw the spitting whale, monstro, my eyeballs were popping out of my ears.

Dear Wonderful Self: I went to Poppi and saw Poppi castle. I saw everything from a model of a medieval guy on a battlefield with his guts spilling out, to a real skeleton in the dungeon. This was awesome!

Dear Me: I went to Cortona today. It was so high on the mountain my ears had trouble getting used to the altitude. We sat on the steps pictured on the postcard and ate a panino. The pigeons practically attacked us when I threw a chip on the step.

Dear Me: Today we went to La Verna, a Franciscan monastery. We saw the real cloak that St. Francis wore. My favorite was, of course, the gift shop!! (My middle son mentions a gift shop in every. single. postcard.)

Dear Cool Kid (aka me): In Verona I saw a Colosseum and the Piazza Bra - a bra that looks like a pizza. Not really. Anyway I saw Juliet's balcony with all the love letters attached to the wall. By the way, the Piazza Bra is a square named Bra.

Well, I hope this gives you some ideas for a memorable family vacation. Happy summer and safe travels to you!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Straight out of the Movies: Part II

In his comment in yesterday's post, Juan thought that it was indeed possible for a snake to climb up in the minivan's engine and then come slithering out of an air vent while I was driving. Well, then. Since the snake was still somewhere, and since my husband was home on Friday, he gallantly agreed to run carpool that afternoon and to take our little one with him.

And you are not going to believe what happened.

Sure enough, a snake . . . I'M KIDDING. No snake.

But something did happen:

My husband was sitting in the parked van in the in the middle of the carpool lane, right in front of the school. Once all the cars were loaded and the teachers dismissed the lane, my husband (reminder: parked in the middle of the carpool lane) discovered that the van battery was completely and totally dead.

Now, I'm not happy that my husband had to deal with jumper cables, rambunctious, over-helpful boys, and the looks of pity from the entire school as they drove around him in the middle of the carpool lane. Not at all.

I'm just thankful that a cute, little snake worked it out so that I could stay home on that hot, Friday afternoon enjoying a cappuccino without a worry in the world.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Straight out of the Movies

You know that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark in which snakes are oozing out of holes in the wall?

Well, yesterday my husband saw a snake in the garage. A long snake. A fast snake. A smart snake that disappeared into a small hole in the garage wall to escape my husband's bullwhip . . . er, I mean, shovel.

Now I am afraid that this same snake (or a member of his family) will crawl up into the minivan's engine, and that tomorrow when I'm running carpool it will slither out of the air conditioning vent onto my lap.

Is such a thing possible? (Please, please tell me no.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Brothers . . . can't live with them, can't live without them

So, my two oldest boys get into an argument tonight. Listening to them, my husband and I see that they are both wrong, but neither will admit it. It goes on like this. Because they share a room and the argument is getting ridiculous, we separate them by putting them to bed in different bedrooms.

Then, a storm comes.

A ferocious storm. With thunder, lightning, and wind.

Our eleven year old comes running into our bedroom. He doesn't want to sleep alone. It's too scary. Can he sleep with us?

Our thirteen year old comes in. The wind is really howling and the back bedroom is making funny noises. Can he go back to his own bedroom? Please?

So, we tuck them back into their own beds, in the bedroom that they share. They are both grinning ear to ear.

As my husband and I walk out of their bedroom we hear them whispering "I'm sorry" to each other . . .

which makes both of us grin ear to ear.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Finding God in the Mundane

I hope that yesterday's post didn't make it seem as if I was complaining, because I wasn't . . . at least not much. It's just that in the middle of a hectic day of chores, my best friend called to remind me that this time last year we were in Rome. Sigh.

Suddenly, scrubbing the pine pollen off our awnings seemed terribly mundane.

Which is what got me thinking about the book A Man Called Peter by Catherine Marshall (author of Christy and Julie). This book is the true story of her husband, Peter Marshall, who came to this country as a poor, Scottish immigrant and who ultimately became Chaplain of the United States Senate. Peter wrote some truly wonderful sermons, but there is one sermon in particular that I always turn to when faced with the ordinariness of our daily lives.

Peter believed that it was important "to make the distinction between worship and work and play less sharp", and that we should seek God in our kitchen, on the playground, and in our typewriter. He wrote that our lives would have absolutely no meaning if we weren't able to see God in the mundane, day-to-day chores that make up our lives, that sometimes what we need most "is the God of the humdrum . . . the commonplace . . . the everyday."

I especially remembered this sermon when I signed up to work at a summer camp in Savannah, Georgia while in college. I was excited about this job. I enjoyed working with children, and for the first time I would be able to play the guitar during daily mass. But my first few days as a counselor consisted of cleaning the camp to get it ready for the campers . . . a little fact they neglected to mention when I was hired. When I was assigned the task of scrubbing nasty toilets that hadn't been used since the previous summer, I was a bit disgruntled (and that's putting it mildly).

Instead of holding a guitar, I was holding a toilet brush.

After that first day I realized that grumpiness and bad attitude are not only exhausting, but hard work. So the next morning as I faced yet another day of cleaning bathrooms, I remembered Peter Marshall's sermon and decided to try and find God in these dirty, smelly, disgusting camp bathrooms.

So I prayed for the grace to do this job willingly and with a joyful heart. As I prayed, I wandered around the small auditorium next to the bathrooms and found an old record player and one scratchy record: Louis Armstrong singing It's a Wonderful World.

I listened to that record over and over again at full volume. I sang along at full volume. I scrubbed those toilets. And I was happy. . . I had found God in the mundane.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

What a difference a year makes

One year ago today I was standing in front of the Colosseum in Rome . . .

today I was standing in front of this.

One year ago I was marveling at Michelangelo's ceiling in the Sistine Chapel . . .

today I was marveling at how many times I can watch this without going crazy.

One year ago I was eating at Ristorante Quo Vadis on the Appian Way . . .

tonight we set our table with these.

One year ago I was climbing this staircase at the Vatican Museums . . .

this afternoon I was climbing this to scrub the awning over our side door.

One year ago I threw a coin in La Fontana Trevi and made a wish . . .

that one year from today we will all go back.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I have some missionary friends. I know several people studying to become priests. Some friends are deacons. Some are members of religious movements. We even had a sister from Tanzania stay with us last summer (she will return again this June).

I, however, have not been called to the religious life.

But I have been called.

In his document Christifidelis Laici (articles 60-63), John Paul II recognized the role of the lay faithful in the church. While most of us are not called to the religious life, our role as a lay person is still a vocation. As mothers, fathers, teachers, mailmen, store clerks . . . we are out in the world, mingling with society and acting as representatives of our faith. In many ways, we are on the "front lines".

In this document, John Paul II wrote that to be an effective apostle of Christ, there are three specific areas of integrated formation that help form the whole person. These areas are:

spiritual formation: all that affects faith and prayer life and what relates directly to your personal relationship with God

doctrinal or intellectual formation: includes all that helps you to form and expand your mind and intellect, including reading great books and continued faith formation

human formation: deals with your human nature and those things that help you grow humanly or socially, including manners, etiquette, personal habits, nutrition, exercise

Well. It's a good thing I wasn't called to a religious life because I can barely manage these three areas. I lack human formation when I neglect my exercise routine or when I don't reach out to someone; I neglect doctrinal formation when I waste too much time with secular novels and mindless television; oftentimes, too many times, really, I neglect my prayer life.

But I have a vocation, so I am trying to teach myself to step back every once in a while and re-evaluate my life, because I have noticed, in those moments when I have experienced true peace, those times have been marked with a balance of all three areas.

As we approach Pentecost Sunday, which coincides wonderfully with Mother's Day (motherhood . . . now that's a vocation!) I am thankful for the Holy Spirit. Just by asking, gifts such as fortitude (thanks, Lisa), wisdom, counsel, and understanding can help me become that whole person called by God.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Puppy in the House

Yesterday afternoon I ran upstairs to get my book, and when I returned I discovered my 4-year-old licking the foam off the top of my freshly made cappuccino.