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

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Don't Forget the Ranch Dressing

Dear Santa,

I thought you might be tired of cookies, so I made you a Nutella sandwich. I also thought you would like some lemonade instead of milk. The carrots are for the reindeer, and this year I added some Ranch dressing because I heard on the history channel that reindeer like Ranch dressing.

Merry Christmas!

Love,
Timothy




P.S. Thank you for sending me an elf this year. He had a lot of fun, as you can see.





Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ixnay on Hamburger Helper

Once upon a time, when my husband and I were newlyweds and I was still learning my way around a kitchen, I fixed Hamburger Helper for dinner.

That was in 1990.

Tonight, 24 years later, something came over me and I fixed two boxes of Hamburger Helper for dinner.

Everyone hated it.

They hated the smell, the taste, the consistency. They thought it tasted fake.

Do people really eat this stuff? they asked.

Then the boys sang my praises. They were grateful for grilled panini, homemade tortellini, tuna spaghetti, minestrone ... the list went on.

And as I basked in the glow of their compliments, I was thinking that I should have fixed Hamburger Helper for them a long time ago.



Walking in Torre Annunziata outside of Naples, Italy
Summer 2010

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Finding God in Target

Yesterday morning I dropped my husband off at the airport. I then had a small errand to do at a store that didn't open until 10, and since it didn't make sense to go all the way home only to come back out later, I had some time to kill. I thought about going to morning Mass, but again, it was too early. But hey! What do you know? Target was open.

Thirty minutes later an elderly black woman was ringing me up at the register.

"Wait!" she said as I pulled out my credit card. "I have a $5 dollar coupon which will give you some extra savings.

"Oh my," I replied. "Thank you! My husband will love you."

She laughed.

"Love is what it's all about," she said as she handed me my bag. "You know ... I get a Bible verse sent to my phone every day."

"What was today's verse?" I asked.

She hadn't checked yet. There was no one behind me in line, so I put down my bag and she pulled out her purse. We huddled over her phone.

Truthfully, I don't remember the specific verse, but somehow I felt we were living it.

Someone came up to the line, so I picked up my bag to leave.

"Merry Christmas and God bless," we said in unison and on cue, which had us both smiling.

As I walked out of the store I glanced at my watch. If I hurried, I would make it to morning Mass ... it seemed like the perfect thing to do.


Cortona, Italy

Friday, December 9, 2011

Christmas Inflatables ... Art or Not?

I am a romantic at heart, so for me Christmas is ...

a snowy mountain cabin nestled in the forest,
the shop windows in mid-town Manhatten,
midnight Mass in a small chapel nestled in the Alps,
and window wreaths and candle lights.

I'm all about this ...


(our house Christmas 2008 ... and yes, Virginia, it does occasionally snow in Georgia)

and not so much this.



Imagine my surprise when several years ago the boys asked why we couldn't get a giant Santa for our front yard. And not just any Santa ... a GIANT Santa ... with moving parts! And a Santa in a snow globe would be even better!

After I stopped hyperventilating I resorted to stall tactics. We'll see and Let me think about it held them off for several years.

Then one December, older and wiser, they brought up the subject again and would not let it go. They begged, they pleaded, they pointed out all the OTHER houses which had fun holiday inflatables. They were making me feel like the Grinch.

In exasperation I finally laid it on the line, No inflatables ... they're tacky!

Unfortunately I made this pronouncement in the presence of my entire family, which resulted in a great deal of teasing. I basically ignored them.

On Christmas Day everyone gathered at our house for lunch. There was a lot of commotion. In hindsight I now realize there seemed to be some sneaking around and that some people were grinning like idiots (most notably my brother-in-law), but at the time I had no idea that anything was going down. So, when I was called outside to the front yard to come and see something, I went.

And THIS was in my FRONT yard.



Everyone was laughing so hard that neighbors poked their heads out to see what was going on.

Okay, okay. The joke was on me. The festive Christmas penguins on a bright blue sled didn't exactly go with my window wreaths, but I had to agree they were pretty darn cute.

Now, I'm sure you're dying to know if the Christmas penguins have graced our yard in the years since.

Look. I'm not a total Grinch. OF COURSE we put up our inflatable penguins ...

only they're in the backyard.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Wreath 2011 (in 7 easy steps)

One of my personal traditions this time of year is to come up with a unique Advent wreath. This year I was inspired by two things: a piece of driftwood I found on the beach in Hilton Head over Thanksgiving, and the desire to incorporate some artwork into the wreath. And just so you know, not all my creations are wreath-shaped and I rarely use purple and pink candles.


THE SUPPLIES:

~a piece of wood or driftwood

~4 pillar candles and a decorative angel, or cross, or even a 5th candle (I used an angel)

~4 lengths of ribbon (three purple, one pink)

~length of burlap garland

~assorted greenery

~old Christmas cards

~inexpensive frames


THE ASSEMBLY IN SEVEN EASY STEPS:

~1~ Wrap a length of ribbon around each of the pillar candles so you have three purple and one pink.

~2~ Place candles down the length of the wood, with the decorative angel in the middle.

~3~ Add greenery

~4~ Weave burlap ribbon around the greenery and candles.

~5~ Cut out scenes of Advent from old Christmas cards (I used scenes depicting the Wise Men, the Shepherds, Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, the Angels singing Gloria and, most importantly, the Nativity).

~6~ Place Advent scenes in small frames (I purchased mine from a craft store).

~7~ Stand the frames in front of each pillar, with the framed nativity scene in front of the angel.


THE RESULT:








THE SYMBOLISM BEHIND AN ADVENT WREATH:

evergreens = everlasting life
holly = crown of thorns
pine cones/nuts/pods = life and resurrection
four candles = four weeks of Advent
color purple = prayer, penance, preparatory sacrifices, royalty
color pink = rejoicing
circle (from a wreath; I used a length of wood instead) = eternity of God; God's never ending love
wood = the manger; the cross
Progressive lighting of candles = expection and hope surrounding Christ's birth


P.S. You can see some of my past Advent wreaths here and here.


*FOR MORE FUN IN SEVENS, VISIT JEN OVER AT CONVERSION DIARY FOR 7 QUICK TAKES FRIDAY.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Can I bottle his innocence?

Last week our little guy was getting his flu shot when Plop! his tooth fell out. I'm not sure if the two were related, but there you have it.

The next morning he came downstairs and showed me what the Tooth Fairy left under his pillow.

"Wow! A two dollar bill!" I said. "The Tooth Fairy is very generous!"

(I ALWAYS compliment the Tooth Fairy ... and the Easter Bunny ... AND Santa.)

"Tell me, though," I continued. "Did you hear anything during the night?"

(For some reason, I always want to know these things.)

"No, I didn't see anything," he admitted. "But I did hear wings flapping!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Simplifying Christmas

Last Christmas, around mid-December, I got sick.

For the first time in my life I was having stomach/digestive problems, and the symptoms became so bothersome that, on the day after Christmas, I went to my doctor. A week later I returned for blood tests, an abdomen scan and a referral to a gastroenterologist, but nothing definitive was discovered.

"Maria," said my doctor finally. "I just think your body is out of whack."

I remember sitting there and just letting her words sink in. Could it be this simple? I thought back to the past couple of weeks in which I had hosted two dinner parties for 30-35 people; decorated every room in the house; set up three Christmas trees; shopped, wrapped, and mailed packages; cooked, baked, and entertained house guests. I had been busy, sure, but it was fun! I was organized! I had felt on top of things.

But my doctor's words forced me to be honest with myself, and the truth was I fell into an exhausted heap every evening, had problems dragging myself out of bed in the morning, ate on the run (and ate badly), prayed on the run (and prayed badly), and totally neglected my exercise routine.

My doctor was right. So I made some immediate changes, but the damage was such that it took a good three months before I felt like my normal self.

I learned my lesson, and I was determined not to go to that place again.

So this past Thanksgiving I did a lot of soul searching. I asked myself some hard questions. I thought of ways I could create a Little House on the Prairie Christmas instead of a Biltmore one. I thought about what I wanted the spirit of our home to feel like this Advent season.

And because I work better with a plan, I came up with one.

Simplifying Christmas

~Bring the decor "home" Is all this decorating for our benefit, or for others? The question got me thinking. So this year we are decorating in ways that are meaningful to our family. Inside, we will focus our decorating only in the family room/kitchen. This is the heart of our home. This is where we gather. This is where we pray, and laugh, and eat. This is where we will set up our Christmas tree.

Outside, the window wreaths and candles will go up, only because Joe and I discovered that the boys said this one of their favorite things about Christmas. They love coming home after dark to see the windows lit up, and we love it that this memory has already taken hold in their hearts.

~Decorate with purpose In bringing the decor "home", I also wanted it to reflect our faith. So the first thing we did was set up an Advent wreath to help us mirror the journey of the Magi as they followed the star, of Mary and Joseph as they traveled to Bethlehem, and of the shepherds as they left their fields to visit the Christ Child. Then, although I have many nativities, we are setting up only one. We will gather around it for nighttime prayers and, on Christmas Eve, we will read the story of the nativity and sing Silent Night.

~Music with meaning Secular songs are fine (who doesn't love Snoopy and the Red Baron or a round robin of Jingle Bells?), but I will be more conscious of playing sacred carols/hymns (especially at home) and of learning the stories behind some of them. For example, did you know the story behind this beloved carol?

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve in 1818, in a tiny village in the Austrian Alps, a Catholic priest named Joseph Mohr wrote some heartwarming words that he was hoping to use during the midnight Mass. Since the church pipe organ was broken and couldn’t be repaired in time, the church organist Franz Gruber wrote a simple tune, thereby setting Mohr’s words to music for a tenor, a bass, and two guitars. That very evening during midnight Mass, Silent Night was heard for the first time. It wasn’t until 1850 – almost 30 years later – that the poet and composer even knew that their song had traveled out of their remote village and that Silent Night had become one of the most beloved Christmas carols ever written.

~Food for thought Which for me, means no baking. What? No baking? Believe me, we receive plenty of goodies from our neighbors, and this time of year cookies, fudge bars, and Panettone will find a way into our home. So instead of baking, I will cook healthy, hearty meals. Stews, soups, homemade breads ... comfort foods which satisfy, relax, and make our house smell like a home.

~Shop from home Online shopping will keep me from going to a store during lunchtime or to the mall on weekends. It's hard to be spiritually focused when you're elbowing your way through a crowd, fighting traffic, or being bombarded with commercialism.

~Charity in action As a family, we will look for ways to give of ourselves ... both in big ways (cleaning out our closets and donating items to Catholic Social Services, working at the Soup Kitchen, visiting a family in need) and in small ones (bringing goodies to the workers at tree lots on Christmas Eve, leaving an extra tip for a harried waiter, offering the UPS man a cup of hot chocolate).

And this, quite simply, is our plan for celebrating the holidays.

We're keeping it simple.

We're making it sacred.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Once upon a time there was a stranger ...

Dear ~~~ Family,

You don’t know me and we have never met. But allow me to tell you a story …

Three years ago I drove to Columbia, SC to attend my sister’s baby shower. With me was my youngest son, who was four years old at the time.

When we left my sister’s to return home, an SUV of teens coming back from the lake entered a traffic circle at high speed and plowed into our van. The impact was shocking, and when the two vehicles finally came to a rest there were tire marks, debris, and broken glass spread over two lanes.

While my son and I were shaken, neither we nor the occupants of the SUV were injured.

When I dialed 911 and the operator requested the location, I was at a total loss; my sister’s family had recently moved to this area, and I didn’t even know the name of the street I was on. Suddenly, a driver pulled up behind me, parked, and got out of the car to see if we were okay. I handed him my cell phone, and he gave the operator all the information. Afterwards, he picked up car parts from the middle of the street (a bumper, a side view mirror, two hubcaps), and before I could thank him for his help he drove off.

It was a very hot afternoon, and as my son and I stood in the shade waiting for the police, this same man returned. He said he had noticed from our license plate that we were from out of state and thought that we could probably use this … and he handed me a bag with inside several juice boxes, some Oreo cookies, and two Diet Cokes.

Juices boxes, Oreo cookies, Diet Cokes … and just like that I was reminded of how, in spite of bad things that happen, there is also such goodness in this world.

I later learned his name was Chaz, and over the years I would tell this story to demonstrate the tremendous love, healing and power that can be found in reaching out to a stranger.

No, you don’t know me and we have never met. But once upon a time I briefly met Chaz, and although I heard today that he no longer is with us on this earth, please know that he will forever be in corner of my heart where cherished memories are stored.

God bless,
Maria



*I will be mailing this letter today to Chaz' family.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Where a Bishop Walks

There is a saying my Nonna used to quote: pulire dove cammina il vescovo (to clean where the bishop walks). It refers to the days when a priest visited parishioners in their homes, thus warranting a serious house cleaning in anticipation of their visit; the level of cleaning, however, was directly related to the type of priest who was visiting.

For example, a visit from the parish priest meant a deep, thorough house cleaning. The priest, who was responsible for the spiritual well-being of his parishioners, felt it his duty to poke around and make sure everything was good. So, homes were buffed, shined, mopped, and dusted because a clean home reflected a clean soul.

On the other hand,  a bishop's visit meant cleaning would be more cursory in nature. A bishop's importance meant that his visit would be short, he would sit in the main room, and he was above poking around; basically, you cleaned only where the bishop would go . . . no deep cleaning involved.

Pulire dove cammina il vescovo, then, is a tongue-in-cheek reminder to do only what is necessary. And sometimes that's more than enough.

So, why am I telling you this today?

Because in the past three weeks I've cleaned our house as if expecting a visit from the bishop, which means that if you visit me don't look too hard or poke around too much.

Just walk a bishop's walk.

Friday, November 4, 2011

7 quick takes: seeing red, the color orange, and my husband makes me happy

~1~ SEEING RED ...
one rusty bistro set + two coats of fire engine red spray paint = pop of color in the back yard.



~2~ AND SPEAKING OF COLOR ...
nothing says autumn like the color orange.



~3~ HEAVEN ON EARTH ...
would you believe Home Depot or Lowes? I can wander the aisles for hours looking at hinges, door knobs, paint colors, or kitchen tiles. Really, I'd rather go to either of those places than the mall. And don't ask me to choose, I like them both.






~4~ BLEACH STORY ...
Last Saturday I was standing at the top of the stairs holding a bottle of bleach. Somehow the bottle slipped from my hands, and it bounced end over end down eighteen steps while I watched in horror. Halfway down the top burst open, and bleach splashed on the steps, walls, railings and, when it landed at the bottom, on the oriental rug by the front door and the silk curtains in the dining room. Oh, the mess. Oh, the fumes!



~5~ HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW ...
or, in other words ... to cut or not to cut? That is the question.



~6~ MUSIC TO MY EARS ...
"You know," said my husband one morning at breakfast. "In about a year I should have enough frequent flyer miles for us all to go to Italy again."



~7~ AND SPEAKING OF ITALY ...
this iconic photo makes me smile.


American Girl in Italy

Thanks, Jen, for hosting. You can visit her at Conversion Diary where you can read about reusable toilet paper. What???!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Rules for Being Sick



There are rules? For being sick?

With my boys, the answer is yes.

When the school nurse called me for the upteenth time last week about Timothy "not feeling too good", I knew it was time to lay down the law with our little guy because, having gone through this with his two older brothers, I now know when I'm being played.

So, unless you

-are vomitting,
-have a fever,
-or experiencing diarrhea ...

Mom WILL NOT come pick you up from school.

See? There really are rules for being sick.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Sugar Bowl

Mrs. Castellucci came to visit her son Anthony, who lived with a female roommate, Maria.

During the course of the meal, his mother couldn't help but notice how pretty Anthony's roommate was. As she watched the two interact, she started to wonder if there was more between Anthony and Maria than met the eye.

“Mamma, I know what you must be thinking,” Anthony volunteered. “But I can assure you, Maria and I are just roommates.”

About a week later, Maria came to Anthony and said, “Ever since your mother came to dinner, I've been unable to find the silver sugar bowl. You don't suppose she took it, do you?”

So Anthony sat down and wrote his mother an email.

Cara Mamma,
I'm not saying that you did take the sugar bowl from my house, and I'm not saying that you did not take it. But the fact remains that it has been missing ever since you were here for dinner.
Love, Anthony


Several days later, Anthony received a response from his Mamma.

Dear Son,
I'm not saying that you do sleep with Maria, and I'm not saying that you do not sleep with her. But the fact remains that if she were sleeping in her OWN bed, she would have found the sugar bowl by now.
Love, Mamma







*thanks, Cathy M., for sending this to me!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Do Saints Wear Sneakers?

When we vacationed in Italy a few years ago, one of the highlights of our stay in Tuscany included a visit to La Verna, a Franciscan Monastery nestled in the forest at the top of a high mountain. This monastery was where St. Francis of Assisi traveled for spiritual rest and discernment, and it is there that he received the stigmata.

Displayed in the main basilica is St Francis' robe, and I can't even begin to describe how emotional this was for all of us.

Outside, and down a steep flight of stone steps, is the cave where St. Francis slept. Cold, damp and dark, the cave contains a stone slab bed with a small depression on one end where St. Francis rested his head.

It is a holy place, so a chain prevents visitors from venturing too close.

And here, in this precise spot, is where Jonathan chose to leave evidence of his visit.

In his eagerness to see where St. Francis slept, Jonathan jumped over the chain to get a better look. After we grabbed him and hauled him back over, we stared in collective disbelief at the distinct footprint of a sneaker he had left in the damp earth near St. Francis' bed.

What to do? We couldn't reach far enough over the chain to brush out the footprint, we couldn't step over because we would leave even more footprints, and we didn't feel it would be right to get mad at our son in front of St. Francis. So, with a heartfelt prayer/apology to St. Francis, we left things as they were.

Which means Jonathan's footprint may still be there today.











Monday, October 31, 2011

Where's the Candy?

Exactly one month ago our membership at Sam's Club was expiring, so Joe and I went one last time to stock up. After a serious discussion, we decided to go ahead and purchase two bags of candy ... each one weighing over five pounds. The plan was to simply hide the candy until Halloween.

So, over ten pounds of candy was secretly stashed in a galavanized tin on a high shelf in the laundry room.



The only problem with hiding the candy was that I knew where it was. So, yes, one rainy day I was cleaning the house and an image of a box of DOTS popped into my mind. I was cleaning toilets, I was making beds, I was making dinner ... I deserved a treat!

So, I climbed on a kitchen stool and poked a teeny, tiny hole in one corner of the bag. The hole was big enough to pull out a box of DOTS ... and a tootsie roll, and a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and an Almond Joy.

And because I'm smart, I hid the wrappers. No clues left behind.

Then, this past past Saturday I pull down the tin only to discover this ...





Over ten pounds of candy down to five. EVERYONE (with the exception of sweet, innocent Timothy) was guilty. Next Halloween we're purchasing candy one hour prior to trick-or-treating.

Next year, someone please remind me.



P.S. There's more ...

1. Want to know what NOT to eat for Halloween? Click here.

2. Our favorite Halloween costume? Mona Lisa and Leonardo DaVinci



Shaggy and Velma,
Mona Lisa, Da Vinci.
We are all adults?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Stay Tuned ...

What's up this week?

MONDAY: Just in time for Halloween ... an empty bag of candy

TUESDAY: Recognizing Saints

WEDNESDAY: A "Naughty" Italian Joke

THURSDAY: Vomit, Fever, Diarrhea ... You are NOT sick

FRIDAY: A Bleach story, Heaven on Earth, and Seeing Red ... in 7 Quick Takes

SATURDAY: A Bishop's Walk

SUNDAY: Before and After ... The Story of a Wardrobe

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

...and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Dear Jonathan,

For your Confirmation, we wanted to give you seven books representing the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. As you read these books, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal his gifts so they will help you to grow in your faith.

1. The Gift of Wisdom gives us the desire for the things of God.

2. The Gift of Understanding enables us to know more clearly the mysteries of faith.

3. The Gift of Counsel helps us to see the difference between right and wrong.

4. The Gift of Fortitude strengthens us to do the will of God in all things.

5. The Gift of Knowledge enables us to know oneself and to know God.

6. The Gift of Piety gives us a deep respect for God and for the Church.

7. The Gift of Fear of the Lord enables us to recognize an all powerful God.

Be a gracious receiver of these gifts! St. Teresa of Avila said, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion is to look out to the earth; yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good; and your are the hands by which He is to bless us now.”

Jonathan, allow the Holy Spirit to work in you and watch in amazement as God works through you, with you, and in you.

Bacioni,
Mom and Dad
10-24-11



Jonathan Peter
Confirmed in Christ
10-24-11

When Nicholas was confirmed two years ago we presented him with seven literary classics, each one representing a gift of the Holy Spirit. This would not have worked with Jonathan since he would rather play basketball than read. In the end we looked for sports books, and instead of assigning each one with a gift of the Holy Spirit, he has to look for the gift as he reads. He took Glory Road to school this morning ... I think this just might work!

Jonathan's Books

Brian's Song (William Blinn)
Glory Road (Coach Don Haskins)
Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)
Through My Eyes (Tim Tebow)
Champions of Faith: Catholic Sports Heroes Tell Their Stories (Thomas O'Toole)
Holy Bible (w/ Jonathan's name engraved on the front)

*we are still looking for book #7 ... any suggestions?


Jonathan, Confirmation Candidate; Nicholas, altar server for Confirmation Mass; Timothy, baby brother


Thanks Aunt Laura and Uncle Patrick for being such great Confirmation Sponsors. And Patrick ... you were the youngest Knight by far!!!!


After Mass, cake and presents at home.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Potty Words Make My Wednesday

A seven year old's joke sets the tone for my day ...

"Mom, how do you spell Mississippi?" asks Timothy, as we are driving to school.

"Let's see, M-i-s-s-i-p-p ..." I begin, only to be interrupted.

"Ha! Ha! You said a potty word. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!" laughs Timothy. And he laughs and laughs and laughs.

Apparently I was set up.

He is still laughing when he hops out of the van; on the other hand, I do not laugh because I am too busy mentally preparing myself for a trip to Toys R Us.

Now, before I continue let me just say right here and now that Toys R Us is linked up there with WalMart and Sam's Club in my List of Stores I Absolutely Will Not Enter Unless I Absolutely Have To. NOTHING ever goes well when I enter any of these stores.

This time, however, I survive. I waltz in, find the perfect gift for my two year old nephew, and waltz out. The entire shopping experience takes 10 minutes.

As I am driving away I am congratulating myself. I am even giddy because I have conquered Toys R Us. I think back on Timothy's joke and laugh. I laugh and I laugh.

Then my Mom happens to call, and during the course of the conversation I realize I had purchased a gift for the WRONG NEPHEW!!!!

So, like something out of a nightmare, I drive back to Toys R Us, wait 15 minutes in line to return the gifts, look for a gift for a FOUR YEAR OLD instead of one for a two year old, and then stand in line for ten minutes to purchase the items. I really, really don't like that store; furthermore, they don't even know how to spell.

Things continue to go downhill.

Back at home I make the final arrangements for a beach photo for our Thanksgiving family reunion in Hilton Head. Photographer, date, time, exact beach location ... it's all set up. I confirm everything with the photographer, and just as I am congratulating myself on a job well done it hits me: I just made arrangements to have a photo taken AT THE BEACH.

THE BEACH! What was I thinking? This is a cruel joke because EVERYONE knows how my hair is at the beach. EVERYONE! It's a family joke! Evidently my role on this earth is to make everyone in my family look good. I do all the arranging AND I get to look bad. Great. Just Great.

That's it. I know just what I need ...

"How do you spell cappuccino?" I ask myself, as I turn on the espresso machine.

"Let's see, C-a-p-p ..." and I laugh and laugh.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Sounds of Saturday

As I type this I am listening to sounds riding piggyback on the breeze coming through our open kitchen window. The drone of our neighbor's weed eater, the rasping of a rake, and the sputter of a lawn mower are some of the busy sounds I associate with Saturday morning. After a week in which houses are vacant for most of the day, these are the sounds of a neighborhood coming to life.

On Saturday, yards are played in, garages are tinkered in, and homes are lived in.

I always thought of Saturday as making its own kind of music, and in our family it always began in the kitchen with pots rattling and dishes clinking . . . noises which meant our mother was preparing a delicious home cooked breakfast. Apple pancakes sprinkled with cinnamon, waffles dripping with syrup, or homemade raisin bread with honey butter beckoned us to the kitchen, and it was a good way to wake up.

Of course, all that nourishment and comfort food were meant to prepare us for tackling our Saturday Morning Chores, so after breakfast the sounds of industry could be heard in the snapping sheets hanging on the line, the whirring vacuum cleaner, the whispering dust cloth, the swishing washing machine, and even the pounding hammer coming from my father's workbench.

Lunchtime marked the beginning of the second half of our Saturday, a long, glorious afternoon in which we were free to do whatever we wanted. It was a quiet time - peaceful - and even the sounds changed. The air conditioner humming, pages rustling in a book, and a football game droning in the background were softer noises which contrasted starkly with the sounds from earlier in the day. It was a time for napping, or cutting out paper dolls, or curling up with a good book.

Today, as I type this while sitting by an open kitchen window, I realize our Saturday routine hasn't changed very much. Right now Joe and Papa are working in the garage building two Adirondack chairs for our backyard, and I can hear drilling, hammering, and sawing. The older boys are cleaning their room and Timothy is picking up his legos. The sheets have been changed, the dryer has just buzzed, and as soon as I fold the clothes I'll start preparing lunch.

Which means Saturday afternoon is just around the corner . . . and I like the sound of that very, very much.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Italian 101: The Art of the Interrupting




Recently we attended a party at my parents’ house. It was a large gathering of family and friends, and with so many Italians present conversation was both loud and all over the place.

At one point I happened to glance over at my eldest son who was sitting (trapped?) between two Italian Nonne, each of whom asked him question after question between pauses in their own conversation. He had a dazed look on his face.

Uh-oh.

I remembered when I first introduced my husband (we were engaged at the time) to our big Italian community. Complete strangers grabbed him and kissed him; women in aprons shoved heaping plates of food in his direction; men refilled his wine glass before it was even emptied; and everyone fired questions at him so quickly he didn’t have time to answer any of them. He basically ate and nodded. He later confided to me he had wanted to participate in the conversation, but no one stopped talking long enough for him to say anything.

My poor husband. He comes from a polite family in which there are few interruptions and voice levels are moderate, so it’s no wonder he was totally unprepared for my Italian family where conversations overlap, interruptions are the norm, voices get louder and louder, and chaos can reign supreme.

And now, years later, the same thing was happening to my poor son. I knew it was time for a lesson on the art of interrupting, which is crucial in Italian conversation.

I first explained to him the importance of being vigilant for pauses. Even if it may seem as if there is no cessation in speech, there are in fact moments to speak such as when someone takes a sip of wine or takes a bite of food. Seize these opportunities to jump in the conversation, but be quick because other people will also be looking for them.

I also told him how it’s impossible to address the entire group; instead, address the person sitting next to you. Talk fast, though, so they can’t interrupt.

I then pointed out the necessity of going with the flow. With so many people talking at the same time, shifts in the conversation occur at breakneck speed. One minute the topic might be the recipe for Nonna’s minestrone, but the next it’s natural childbirth. Transitions often don’t make sense, and that’s okay.

Finally, I assured him, when all else fails do what a lot of the men in the family do: when you can’t get a word in edgewise . . . sit back, listen and enjoy the show.

You’ll have the best seat in the house.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

I don't know what's more funny ...

(A) That these flag football plays were given to our second grader to learn.



(B) Or that our son took one look at all the X's and O's and said they looked like treasure maps.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shopping 101

*Note: Everything I am thinking appears in italics.

Last Friday our eldest son pulled out a pair of jeans for the first time since last winter with the intention of wearing them on a field trip with his AP Environmental class. The jeans were at least two inches too short.

A few days earlier he had pulled out a dress shirt, tie and khakis, the standard uniform for a school Mass. The shirt sleeves were at least two inches too short.

Please, please, not another shopping trip.

Most of the time I am used to the fact that I am surrounded by boys; stinky clothes, footballs in the house, mind boggling appetites, toilet seats, caveman tendencies . . . all these things I take in stride. But it always takes a shopping trip to remind me that, yes, I am surrounded by boys and that, yes, Purgatory does exist.

"Shopping? Today?! But that's going to ruin my entire Saturday!" moans Nicholas, who would rather be drawn and quartered than go shopping.

Listen here buddy, ol' pal . . . it's no picnic for me, either.

We go to Kohl's where I leave him in the men's section to look for a pair of jeans. Fifteen minutes later I find him wandering aimlessly. According to him, there were too many selections and he didn't see anything he liked. A wall of jeans, and he finds nothing.

Isn't shopping an inherent skill? He must be missing a gene (ha! a pun!), or something. I mean, really, who needs to be taught how to shop? Well, obviously my son. Shopping 101 ... let the class begin.

We find a pair of jeans and two dress shirts but, just to be sure, I insist he step into the torture chamber known as the dressing room. He is grumbling the entire time; according to him, it's a lot smarter to try everything on at home and just return anything that doesn't fit.

Smarter for me to get this done right here and now because I'm not coming back with you. Ever.

He actually likes picking out two ties and is even a little adventurous in his selections. Progress?

A cute 17-year old girl is at the register.

"Wow, you must have a lot of nice places to go," she says to Nicholas, while folding his shirts and coordinating ties.

Nicholas laughs and says it's just a wardrobe update. She asks what school he goes to, what grade he's in, they talk about the friends they have in common . . . yadda, yadda, yadda.

When we walk out of the store Nicholas is grinning; in fact, he's happy. An hour and a half of shopping, and he's happy?

Shopping 101 . . . CLASS CANCELLED.

I don't think I'll be needed anymore.


Page 109: Girls

Friday, September 23, 2011

And He Comes Bearing Gifts (a 7 quick takes post)

Oh where, oh where have I been?

Not here, obviously. I've been neglecting this little space, and I've missed it. And you.

But here, in 7 quick takes, I'll bring you up to speed what has been going on around here ...

~1~ Monday: Joe left for California. While I don't mind that he has to travel occasionally (hello? fequent flyer miles! hello? Marriott points!), this time when I dropped him off at the airport I was a little bummed. Joe: sunny California, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Hollywood. Me: rainy Augusta, carpooling, afternoon practices, cooking, laundry, deadlines.

~2~ Tuesday: Went with the little guy to our school's Book Fair. He wanted a Captain Underpants book. I said no. He wanted a boxing poster. Again, it was a no. We finally settled on a book on animals that came with a DVD. But his mind was still on the boxing poster . . .

Sigh. Now he is in training.




Doesn't he look ferocious?




~3~ Tuesday night: Joe called from California. He explained how the fog along the coast isn't called fog, but marine layer. He told me he saw the Hollywood sign. And the weather? Couldn't be more perfect. Huh. I ignored the pile of laundry waiting to be folded and called my best friend to make a lunch date.

~4~ Wednesday: Met my friend at P.F. Chang's AND I even ordered an appetizer.

~5~ Wednesday night: Joe called from California where it was sunny and beautiful. Here it was raining . . . a lot.

~6~ Thursday afternoon: Jonathan had to serve detention for being tardy to class. Not a big deal, but very inconvenient for Timothy and me since we had to wait for an hour. So, we waited in Dairy Queen. That's a great place to wait.

~7~ Thursday evening: Picked Joe up from the airport. He scooted me out of the driver's seat and handed me a box from the Nordstrom's in Santa Barbara. Joe: smart man. Me: his happy wife.





*Today's post is sponsored by Jen over at Conversion Diary. Go and visit.