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

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

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Very Shallow Post, Indeed

It seems that I've come across more than a few "hairy" posts lately . . .

Laura and her can of Aqua-Net and SET TO GO curlers . . .
Kim whose new cut and color made her Monday a week ago . . .
My hair woes . . . here . . . here . . . and here . . . and . . . okay, enough already. I think you get the picture.

And so today, this is what Makes My Monday . . . a little box of hair color.

Now go visit Cheryl and her laundry list of things that make her Monday . . . all surrounding a weekend visit to Great Wolf Lodge. And I bet she has great hair, too.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A letter to our Priest

(a letter to our pastor in preparation for our son's Confirmation in the fall)

Dear Father,

A little over fourteen years ago our son, Nicholas, was born. We loved him from the moment of his existence, and we set about to care for this precious gift from God.

We cuddled and loved him; we fed and rocked him; we helped him take his first steps.

But caring for our son’s physical needs was the easy part. What about his spiritual growth? How would we teach our son to believe in God? Pray with faith? Help a stranger? Have a generous heart? Be a good citizen? Stand up for what is right?

We felt more than a little overwhelmed because we realized we weren’t just raising a child . . . we were raising a soul.

Having our son baptized was the first step in fostering his spiritual growth. As his parents we made this decision for him, entrusting our son to God and to a faith family that would be an extension of our own.

Catholic school, First Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation, alter serving, volunteering . . . all these things helped him become the person he is today.

Now our son is about to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. He is becoming a young man and is starting to make his own decisions.

Through the years we have done our best to provide him with the spiritual tools needed to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, but with Confirmation, we must now step aside and let him be guided by the Holy Spirit. We will always be there for him, but the Holy Spirit will be his guide and his strength as he grows in faith and makes his way into the world as an adult.

He is ready.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Want to go to Italy?

Because I think everyone should have the chance to visit Italy at least once, today I am sharing with you the chance to do so with the Olive Garden win a trip to Italy contest. They have daily winners of a $25 gift certificate, and the grand prize is a eight day guided trip for two to Rome, Florence and Olive Garden's Culinary Institute of Tuscany. You can enter daily from now until April 12th.

I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart because by sharing this with all of you . . . it limits my chances of winning.

AND, if you heard it here and you win . . . you have to take me with you.

Now go and enter. BUONA FORTUNA!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A PG-13 Conversation with Nonna

My mother came over last night to watch the little guy. Jonathan was with my husband at a golf match, and I had to take Nicholas to a meeting at school.

As I was getting ready, I overheard the following conversation between my 14 year old and my mother:

Nonna: So, where are you going?
Nicholas: We're going to Family Honor at the school.
Nonna: You're such a good student. What award are you going to get?
Nicholas: Uh, Nonna, I don't think you understand . . .

pause, pause, pause

Nicholas: You see, Family Honor is about sexuality.

Nonna was speechless . . . only because she was laughing so hard.

Then she started asking a million questions . . . and then my son was the one who was speechless.

There are just some things you don't talk to Nonna about.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Makes my Monday: Celebrating in (Italian) Style

Faith, family and friends . . . mixed with a little bocce, a little Italian music, and a whole lot of food . . . all these things make my Monday.

This past weekend we had my parents and three families over for a traditional celebration of the Feast Day of St. Joseph.

Ten adults and nine children gathered around the table and stood behind their chairs.

Then each of the nine children (oldest to youngest) read something about this feast day.

1. The Feast Day of St. Joseph is an important celebration in southern Italy. According to legend, a great drought in Sicily led to a wide-spread famine, and in desperation the people prayed to St. Joseph asking for rain.

2. In their prayers, they promised that if He would send them rain, they would prepare a large feast to honor him. The rain did come, and the people of Sicily named San Giuseppe their Patron Saint.

3. The fava bean was the crop which saved the population from starvation, and even today it is considered good luck. It is believed that the pantry that contains even a single fava bean will never be bare, and it is a reminder of God’s provisions through the intercession of St. Joseph.

4. Today, during this feast day celebration, it is traditional to invite family and friends to share a meal together. It is also a time to give to the poor.

5. Part of the celebration includes an altar to St. Joseph, typically constructed with three tiers representing the Trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Notice that here, instead of three tiers, we have three tables.

6. The altar is decorated with candles, food, flowers, and bread.

7. Saint Joseph is considered the patron saint of fathers, carpenters, social justice, engineers, families, fathers, house hunters, and laborers.

8. His symbols are: carpenter’s tools such as saw, hammer, and nails; Bible, branch, sandals, and an old man holding the infant Jesus.

9. Now let's bow our heads for the blessing: Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive through Christ our Lord, Amen.



Pasta was the first course, which we sprinkled with a pinch of breadcrumbs to symbolize sawdust as a tribute to St. Joseph, the carpenter.

Then on to the second course . . .

The dinner is all about fellowship and sharing, so all the food is placed on the table and passed around. Bread is torn off in chunks from one of the many loaves scattered around the table.

Dessert was strawberries in lemon juice, biscotti, espresso, and birthday cake. The youngest of the nine children, we celebrated Timothy's 5th birthday . . . again.

Finally, everyone went away with a tiny gift bag containing a handful of fava beans and a prayer card to St. Joseph.

Now, go visit Cheryl for some more Makes My Monday fun.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Only Yesterday

Timothy:
Teemo-Supremo; Baby Bear; McGuffy; McGuffster; Tuffy . . .
he may be five today, but he's still my baby.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Holding out for some Pi

Yesterday afternoon I received an email from a friend saying how much her daughter and her daughter's friend enjoyed my son's Pi songs in Math class.

My son? Sang Pi songs? I knew nothing, and you Moms out there know how you hate to find out something about your son/daughter from someone else.

So, I asked my son who said he made up two Pi songs which the teacher let him sing in front of the class. But when I asked him (nicely, mind you) to sing just one for me, he wouldn't.

Well.

Then I had an idea. In the words of Dr. Seuss and my friend, I had an awful idea. A terrible, awful, clever idea . . . one which I learned from my friend, who offered her daughter more time on facebook to get her to clean the kitchen.

I told him about my email . . . but until he sang me his Pi song I wasn't going to reveal which friend sent it, and whose daughter it was, and which two girls from his Math class were talking about him.

So there.

He sang me his Pi song. It was to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger", and it was really funny. What he lacks in size, he more than makes up for with spunk.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Boys will be Men

Our 8th grader, who is as cute as can be, has been concerned lately. It seems that all the boys have had a growth spurt except for him. All the boys have gotten taller, except for him. All the boys have muscles, except for him.

The fact that Dad is 6'4" brings him no comfort. He wants to be tall now. He want muscles now.

Height we can't help him with, but muscles . . .

So, exactly one month ago my husband put him on a 3-4 times a week weight training program . . . they even took "before" measurements.

Tonight, one month later, they took the "after" measurements.

The results:
biceps increased by 3/8ths of an inch;
neck, by 1/2 inch;
pride (his and Dad's), off the charts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Panda vs. Rocky, Round One

Our four year old, Timothy, got into an argument with his five year old cousin, Thomas, this weekend.

Evidently, they were playing hide-and-seek and Thomas decided he didn't want to be "it". So they argued back and forth about this until Timothy yells, "You're out!" - baseball and hide-and-seek are one and the same, you see.

Well, Thomas was insulted. He took a huge breath, jumped up in the air . . . and landed in a Kung Fu Panda pose.

Timothy, who hasn't seen King Fu Panda but who does have older brothers, took a huge breath, jumped up in the air . . . and landed in a boxer's stance.

So there they were . . . Kung Fu Panda and Rocky Balboa, standing three feet apart staring each other down.

And what was Jonathan, the-family-giggler-who-is-twelve-and-supposed-to-be-supervising, doing?

Rolling in the grass laughing his head off.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I'm Stupid, I know

This past Friday I had a 10:00 appointment for a haircut. So, after the boys left for school I spent 45 minutes washing, blow drying, and styling my hair.

This is what I told myself: I want the stylist to see how I usually fix my hair.

So I went to the salon, where she proceeded to spend 45 minutes washing, cutting, blow drying, and styling my hair.

When I got home this is what I told myself: I love, love, love the haircut, but I do not like the way she styled it.

So, before I picked the boys up from school, I spent 45 minutes washing, blow drying, and re-styling my hair.

This is what I told myself: I had to make sure I could style this new haircut. My sister's baby shower is tomorrow . . . I had to practice.

Later, this is what my husband asked: So, what did you do today?

This is what I told myself: Don't answer that question.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tissue Warning

Today's post is inspired by a series of small events: a friend's post, my Tanzanian sister, and a phone call.

My blogging friend, Kim, recently told the story how two nuns in a nursing home gave her mother a special Christmas present: a box of individually wrapped apples that they had saved from their own lunch trays over a period of weeks. Later, when her mother took them out to lunch, a kind stranger payed their bill.

Speechless? It's that lump in your throat.

This got me thinking about our very own Sister Gaudiosa, a nun from Tanzania who spent part of the last two summers with us. Through her we have a few nun stories of our own.

Sister told us that on her very first flight over from Tanzania she had to change planes in Germany, and in the process of walking to her new gate she came across her first escalator . . . ever.

She was terrified. She stood to the side, studying it. She approached it, lost her nerve, and backed away again. She didn't know what to do.

Then she heard, "Sister? Do you need help?"

It was a German student, male, in his mid-twenties. When he realized what the problem was, he picked up her bag and took her by the arm.

"Not to worry, Sister. I will help you." And he did. All the way down the escalator, all the way to her gate.

Gulp.

Just this past summer we drove Sister to the airport after her stay with us. Because she was changing schools from New Jersey to Missouri, she had two very heavy suitcases.

When we were helping her check in, the agent said that both suitcases were overweight and she would have to pay extra . . . and it was a pretty hefty fine.

I looked at the agent and said, "Everything she owns in this world is in these two suitcases."

And I knew what I was talking about because I had helped her pack them: habits made from thick, blue material and her shoes. That's about it.

The agent didn't say anything, and my husband got out his wallet to pay the fine.

Except there wasn't one. When the agent took the suitcases he said, "Don't worry, I'll take care of it. Have a safe flight, Sister." And he smiled.

Gulp.

Then, two days ago I received a phone call from Fr. Fortunatus, a Tanzanian priest who has been in our diocese for two years raising money for a school/orphanage in his home diocese in Tanzania. He is the one who brought Sister to us.

He called from the Atlanta airport to personally tell me goodbye one last time before returning to his country. He wanted to thank my husband and me for all that we had done.

Well, really, we have done nothing. We had him over for dinner a few times, and I got the school's PTO to donate some money, but I know I could have done so much more.

His call humbled me because it is him, and Sister Gaudiosa, and others like them who are on the front lines fighting poverty, ignorance, and HIV. They are the ones working to make this world a better place.

They are the ones that need to be thanked.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sharing an Idea

Here's something we did as a family last year for Lent, and the boys got so into it that we are doing again this year.

I printed out black & white drawings of the Stations of the Cross, mounted them on black paper, and taped them across our mantle. Above each station I placed a votive candle.

During family prayer time, each person reads a station, then walks to the mantle and blows out the corresponding candle. At the last station, when the last candle is blown out, we sit in darkness for a couple of minutes in silent contemplation.

On Easter Sunday, we read the 15th station and, instead of blowing out a candle, we light a decorated Easter candle to symbolize Jesus' resurrection and the joy and celebration of the Easter season.

I found that praying the Stations this way encourages active participation; that by lighting candles and then blowing them out we become part of a ritual as old as time itself.

And in case you're wondering where to get those Stations . . . why, click here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Everyone needs a Zio Luciano

I have an Italian Zio (uncle) who is exactly how you would imagine an Italian Zio to be: Luciano is larger than life, funny, generous, and can sing and play the guitar. He loves to eat, loves to cook, and . . . did I mention that he's funny?

Once, when we were about 17 people sitting around a table, he started teasing my mother, Massimilla, the eldest of three sisters. He then announced:

The whole of Christianity would have been different if instead of asking the people "Jesus or Barabbas?" they had asked "Jesus or Massimilla?" . . . I tell you, everyone would have said Jesus and then Christianity would have taken an entirely different course.

I cannot tell you how much we laughed.

Last year when my best friend and I were in Rome we met up with my parents who were passing through on the way to Sicily. One night the four of us took two seminarians studying in Rome out to dinner, and I happened to mention Luciano's joke. The seminarians laughed so hard and so long, which made us laugh, and really, no one could stop.

Luciano also has incredible musical talent. He played the guitar in church, in bands, and even cut his own record. Because of him, I received a guitar in the 6th grade and I still have it and play it to this day.

Yes, everyone should have a Zio Luciano . . . but I'm glad this Zio is mine.

Buon Compleanno, Luciano!

Butterfly Kisses Make My Monday

Our four-year-old has been very generous with his affection lately. When I am working on the laptop, or reading, or in the kitchen cooking he wraps his arms around my neck and gives me a series of very sweet butterfly kisses on my cheek.

Yesterday we had this conversation:

Timothy: I'm going to kiss you. (and he does)

Me: Thank you so much! Now, how about Daddy?

Timothy: No, I can't kiss him . . . he's not a girl.

Me: Hmmm. How about Nicholas and Jonathan?

Timothy: No . . . they're not girls either.

There is a pause.

Timothy: Nope, you're the only girl in the house so you get all my kisses.

And that's what Makes My Monday . . . . kisses all for me.

(Now, go visit Cheryl for some more Makes My Monday fun.)