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

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

Friday, April 29, 2011

7 quick takes: a boy who spits, a date, and an early bird

1. Lost front tooth. Don't get too close ... he spits.

2. Last week, just before they wheeled my husband into surgery, we heard a little girl tell the following joke as she was being wheeled into surgery: Q: Why did the chicken cross the playground? A: To get to the other slide. Maybe we were simply nervous, but for some reason we thought it was incredibly funny ...

3. This year the Easter Bunny brought the boys their own Cuponk games. They are a HUGE hit. HUGE. Ping Pong balls are flying everywhere ... bouncing off ceiling fans, down the stairs, and even on my forehead. That is one smart Bunny.

4. Did you give up sweets for Lent? Go here for thoughts on continuing along those lines ...

5. Because my husband has been housebound for over a week, tomorrow we are getting out: first the bookstore, then lunch at P.F. Chang's. Dates during the week are the best.

6. Today is my nephew's birthday. Christopher is my all-time favorite nephew because he reads my blog and thinks his Auntie Bia (that's me) is funny. He is also handsome, responsible, and smart. Buon Compleanno, Christopher!

7. In case you haven't noticed the time ... it's just after four in the morning. Yes, I got up to watch the Royal Wedding. Now, if you'll excuse me I'm off to make a cup of tea.

For more fun Quick Takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary. She has been hosting a series of guest posts on the Our Father, Word by Word.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sacred Spaces in our "domestic church"

The Christian home is the place where children receive the first proclamation of the faith. For this reason the family home is rightly called "the domestic church," a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity. (CCC, no. 1666)

My husband and I both come from big, closely-knit families, so we grew up with the sense that family is everything; however, it wasn't until we started a family of our own did we realize the awesome responsibility we had of not just raising children, but of raising souls.

And because we are raising souls, we are very aware that we are building a "domestic church"; by making our house a home, we try to make it reflect who we are as a Catholic family. One of the ways we accomplish this is by creating sacred spaces. Following are some of the things we do in our family to create and support these sacred spaces in our domestic church.

The Sign of the Cross

There is a crucifix, icon, or some image of the Holy Family in almost every room. The boys have religious statues on their nightstands, and, like Cathy, there are small crucifixes over the light switches in some of our rooms. Besides serving as visual reminders of our faith, sometimes they even serve as an opening for conversation. There have been a few times when a visitor's comment on an icon led to a discussion on religion.


A central prayer station

In addition to the visual reminders scattered throughout our home, I wanted a central location that would serve as the "central station", or gathering place for family prayer. For us, that would be the kitchen table. We spend most of our time at that table . . . not only during mealtimes, but with homework, boardgames, scrapbooking, etc. So when it is time for family prayer, or the rosary, or Stations of the Cross we gather around the table. I keep the boys' devotionals there so they can read them while eating breakfast, and the center of the table reflects what is going on throughout the liturgical year: advent wreath , Easter tree, and an icon of a saint on All Saints Day are just a few examples.

A Family Ritual

One of the easiest ways to begin family prayer time is to have a ritual, some ceremonial way in which to begin. We begin every prayer time by lighting what our boys have come to call the Jesus candle. Lighting a candle is one of the oldest rituals known to man, one that lends solemnity to any occasion. It's also a sign that prayer time has begun, and by dimming the lights the single flame serves to create a sacred place around an ordinary kitchen table.

the Jesus candle

A prayer basket

As the boys started getting older, we began noticing that there was a lot of scrambling to get ready for prayers. This scrambling inevitably resulted in arguments, goofiness, or even delay tactics, so to try and avoid this last minute running around I created the prayer basket. Everything we need for our family prayer time is in that basket: rosaries, Stations of the Cross, prayer books, The Lives of the Saints for Boys, etc. Now when there is the call to prayer, all we have to do is scoop up the prayer basket and a box of matches for the Jesus candle and we're set!

our prayer basket
Welcome Home

Finally, I hope that by creating these sacred spaces our home resonates with that sense of "coming home" you experience when walking into a church. As a stay-at-home mom, I consider it part of my job description to create an environment of peace, well-being, and comfort. When my boys come home from school and when my husband comes home from work, I want them to walk in the door and experience that sense of "coming home". One of the nicest compliments I ever received was when someone told me that coming into our home was like getting a giant hug. In my efforts to create a "domestic church" atmosphere, there are a few additional things that help nurture us physically, mentally, and spiritually.

physically: to appeal to the senses

-smell: cookies baking, bread rising, or soup cooking creates a comforting, welcoming aroma
-taste: a hearty, home-cooked meal after a long commute; iced tea after Saturday morning yard work; muffins on a rainy afternoon
-touch: plenty of pillows, throws, and comfy reading chairs
-sight: in the evening (especially in the fall and winter) turn on a small lamp in every room;
turn on the front porch light as a welcome
-sound: sometimes I have to sneak it in, but playing classical or religious music in the background

mentally: things that quiet us

-providing quiet time for the boys (they do not have to be involved in every sport or attend every party)
-being organized in an effort to counterbalance life's hectic pace
-regularly picking up clutter
-although the pre-dinner hour is hectic, trying to have the boys settled so my husband (who works hard and has a long commute) doesn't have to walk into a messy, noisy household


-praying as a family
-worshiping as a family
-living your faith as a family

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Love: Yesterday and Today

FACT: My mother spoke a little English.
FACT: My father spoke even less Italian.
FACT: Celebrating 45 years of marriage.


Friday, April 15, 2011

7 quick takes: salty tea (bleck), my very own bed and breakfast, a godfather marathon

1. My husband has to have outpatient surgery next Wednesday. Nothing serious, but he will have to take a week off work to recuperate. I'm looking forward to that week ... we have plans to watch ALL the Godfather movies.

2. Yes, our two oldest boys are teens and, yes, they still get Easter baskets. Do you have any good Easter basket ideas? I presented the question on facebook and received the following suggestions: patron saint medals; a catholic/christian t-shirt, ball cap, or cd (Casting Crowns, Third Day); gift cards (iTunes, movies, fast food); gum/candy; books about athletes (Michael Oher's book, I Beat the Odds) ...

How about you ... any ideas to share?

3. Two of my lifelong dreams are to run a quaint Bed & Breakfast, or to own a corner coffee shop. Not sure why I'm mentioning this other than the fact that on the way to Orlando last week I had an eight hour car drive to think about the different types of homemade muffins I would serve.

4. Speaking of vacations, I daydream too much.

5. Tonight I had two saucepans boiling on the stove: one w/ salted water for pasta, and one w/ plain water for iced tea. In my hurry, I dumped the pasta in the unsalted water and poured the salted water (to which I added sugar) in the iced tea pitcher. Bleck, ick, patooey.

6. Holy Week is coming up and I'm trying to plan some family activities to keep it ... well, holy. Some ideas: making a "Palm" Sunday family tree, decorating an Easter candle for Easter Sunday, having a silent Friday night (no television, speaking softly), and re-creating the meal of the Last Supper.

7. Easy summer salad: hearts of romaine, coarsely chopped (it has to be this type of lettuce since the consistency is important); juice of 1/2 lemon (or more to taste); drizzle of extra virgin olive oil; salt to taste; toss and serve. That's it ... a light salad that goes well with anything.

Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary; yesterday she did a post on makeup essentials. Who doesn't like makeup?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I heart Vacations

While vacationing in Orlando last week, every evening we played a card game called Liar. It's a simple game, but because it requires a lot of bluffing it can also be very funny. We're talking side-splitting, roll-on-the-floor, mad-dash-to-the-bathroom laughter.

The game also provided an ongoing joke because sometimes I would win, sometimes Joe, sometimes Nicholas, and sometimes even Timothy ... but never Jonathan. Ever. He made a big production of it: every night he was determined to win, and every night he didn't. It got funnier and funnier.

It's memories like this that makes me love vacations. Sure, we play games at home. We laugh, tell stories and create memories. But there is something about these things happening in a different city, town, or even country that makes them stand out. It's as if our senses are exaggerated. We laugh louder, play harder, and feel more when we're on vacation.

After every vacation I come back a new person because, really, how can I walk in our nation's capital, witness a splendid sunset over the Bay of Naples, or walk with ghosts on Ellis island and not be changed? How can I see the Pope, have a charming conversation with the old man at the mercato in Tuscany, watch a bullfight in Spain, or even meet Mickey Mouse and not be a different person?

As I travel, I pick up seeds of creativity that I bring home to plant and nurture. The geraniums in my terra cotta pots, my new recipe for insalata caprese, the manner in which we entertain, and even the simplicity of our master bedroom are all ideas I picked up during our vacations both here and abroad.

It's a great big world out there ... a beautiful world ... and to experience it means we sometimes have to head into the unknown armed only with a map, some guidebooks, and a spirit of adventure.

And along the way, memories are created and stored.

On the very last night of our vacation, we decided to play Liar again. Even though it was 11 o clock at night and we were all tired, we just had to play one more game - one last game - for old time's sake.

This time we laughed because the joke was on us.

Finally, finally Jonathan won.


Whispering Canyon Cafe
Jonathan, being a good sport with our waiter

Monday, April 11, 2011