Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Musings of an Italian-American Catholic wife, mother, and writer

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bocce in the Sand

Balls of red, green, yellow and blue
We are divided into two teams of two.
Sweating, laughing, and getting tanned
We get ready to play Bocce in the sand.

Nonno and Bia aim to win the game
but Jonathan and Nicholas aim the same.
Il pallino is cast with the toss of a hand
the battle begins of Bocce in the sand.

At first it's close, the excitement is growing
with each Bocce ball they are throwing.
The teams are determined to each withstand
the drama enfolding during Bocce in the sand.

But with skill, dexterity, and a little grace
Nonno and Bia soon take first place.
People watching thought it was grand
and cheered for the champions ... of Bocce in the sand.

~from the files of very bad poetry by Bia

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Cursing Nonna

This afternoon we will be meeting my parents for a week-long vacation at Myrtle Beach. The boys are excited; they love vacationing with Nonna and Nonno for a host of reasons, some of which include the fact that Nonno and Nonna always side with them, that Nonno will sometimes break out in a funny song from his childhood about a whisky river and a duck, and that Nonna curses.

That's right ... curses. But it's not what you think.

You see, my Mom, who is always the first one up, will immediately make a cappuccino. She is not quiet about it: cabinet doors are slammed, microwave is whirring, refrigerator is opened and closed, milk frother is humming ... there is a definite process to making a cappuccino, and it is not a quiet one.

The funny thing is that Nonna thinks she is being quiet (and that's funny as in ironic and not funny as in ha, ha ... remember, it's early).

Anyway,fifteen minutes later she then goes outside to sit on the patio or balcony and, holding her steaming cappuccino in both hands, she will say her morning prayers.

Or does she? A few years ago the boys heard her whispering in the early morning, and the cursing legend was born.

The boys think it's terribly funny that the same Nonna who goes to Mass every single day, may actually be muttering curses over her morning cappuccino. What is she really whispering? It's a question they bring up every vacation and, for some reason, when they try and spy on her the whispers get louder and louder.

A singing Nonno and a cursing Nonna ... vacations are never dull.

Nonna & Nonno during our Mad Hatter Dinner - Myrtle Beach 8/09

Friday, May 27, 2011

7 quick takes: the bad joke at the end

1. One of my greatest joys in life is walking out on my back deck and picking fresh basil. It's insane the amount of basil I use.

2. Today is the last day of school. Some Moms cry because kids will be home all summer, but I cry in relief that this month is finally, finally over. Graduation, recitals, reports, parties, presentations ... all finished. Enough said.

3. This week, exactly one year ago, we were doing our final packing for our family trip to Italy. I am feeling a little nostalgic for this...

and this...

and let's not forget this.

4. This summer I am working on a special writing project. Please, every once in a while ask me how it's going ... I need the pressure to stay on task.

5. Whenever things get hectic around here, my exercise routine goes out the window. But today … no more.

6. So, there was once this Italian Nonna who spoke very broken English. One of the things that always confused everyone was that she pronounced Tuesday and Thursday the same way: Thoosday.

One day she announces that her sister is visiting on Thoosday.

Her grown son says with a grin, Which Thoosday are you talking about … Tuesday or Thursday?

She gives him the eye.

The one next to Wednesday, stupido! And she whacks him on the head.

7. We are headed to Myrtle Beach on Monday. And just so there's no confusion ... that’s the Monday next to Thoosday.

Go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for more quick takes!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Boys ... About as Uncomplicated as You Can Get

Now that our recent graduate has all this freedom, he and a few friends decide to get a group together to go and see an afternoon movie. After a flurry of phone calls, and once the dust settles, the group consists of three guys and three girls.

Even numbers ... very clever.

To kill time before leaving, Jonathan and his two buddies play some serious basketball in our driveway. They play hard for almost an hour, and then pile into the car smelling like ... well, like boys who have been playing basketball in 95 degree weather in the middle of the afternoon. Not serious body odor, but ...

Okay. They smell like dogs.

On the other hand, I am sure that the girls (and correct me if I am wrong) have spent at least two hours calling each other, planning outfits, taking showers, and styling their hair.

The only hair styling going on with the guys is them sticking their faces right next to the air conditioning vents to cool off.

Hey guys, I say as I drive. You know, before you meet girls at the movies maybe it's not such a good idea to get quite so sweaty.

They are thinking about this, I can tell. One even sniffs his armpit.

Without saying anything, I pull out a packet of Lemon Scented Wet Ones and they begin seriously wiping faces, arms, legs, and even their hair. They don't have a comb (I was NOT going to give them mine), so they use their fingers to, basically, not improve matters whatsoever.

A few minutes later I watch them walk into the theater: one has a giant hole in his sneaker partially covered with duct tape, the other is wearing shorts with a shirt that doesn't match, and the last one's hair is sticking straight up on one side.

They are joking, laughing, more than a little goofy, and very loveable.

Amazingly, they smell like lemons.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I Had a Dream and it Made Me Mad

Yesterday afternoon I was on the internet when I stumbled across a trailer for the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice. It was the scene in which Mr. Darcy proposes to Elizabeth; they are standing in the rain, the proposal is insulting, Elizabeth gets mad, then Mr. Darcy gets mad, and the entire scene is just, oh, I don't know, delicious.

Anyway, it triggered a dream last night. For those of you who don't already know this about me, I have vivid dreams. I dream in technicolor; in fact, if my dreams were on television, it would be one with a wide screen, high definition, and 3-D capabilities.

My dream began at this point: I am in a small restaurant with a group of people I have known a long time. Also in the group is a French man who, everyone knew, liked me most ardently (word from the P & P trailer). There was a sense of excitement in the air because he was returning to France in two weeks, and everyone knew he was going to say something to me very soon.

One by one all my friends leave until it is just the two of us. There is a candle glowing on the table. He seems nervous, which makes me nervous, and my heart starts pounding. He takes my hand and (remember, I have vivid dreams) his hands are cold.

Maria, he says with his French accent. You know how I feel. Here, look what I have.

By now I am really nervous as he reaches behind him and pulls out ... a large manila envelope. He opens it, pulls out a stack of papers and hands them to me.

It is important to know one another, he says, gesturing to the stack.

Not really understanding, I look at the papers. Typed neatly, page after page, are questions such as What is your favorite color? What goals do you have? Do you like to cook?

I get a sinking feeling and I am more than just a little sad. I continue to look through the questions, not saying anything, as he talks and talks. When he finishes, I tap the papers into a neat stack, stand up, and hand them back.

This is an application. I am not applying for a job, I say. Then I slowly walk out of the restaurant and out of my dream.

I wake up and I am mad.

Most ... ardently ... mad.

Friday, May 20, 2011

7 quick takes: Stream of Consciousness Edition

1. Yesterday I saw something interesting: a woman approached a crosswalk, pushed the button, and then waited for the light to turn green. She waited and waited. There were no cars in sight. She pushed the button again. Five minutes passed. Now, maybe it's just me, but I would have crossed that street in a New York minute. How about you?

2. And because of the Italian in me, I probably would have crossed that street even if there had been a red light and even if there had been cars. Ever try to cross a street in Rome? It's a free for all.

3. Speaking of cars in Rome, I love how they parallel park.

4. Today my son is going with his 8th grade class to Carowinds Amusement Park. These are the snacks he's bringing for the bus drive: Haribo Gummy Bears, Cola Gummies, Slim Jims, and a bottled water.

5. Haribo Gummy Bears are my all time favorite candy, and chocolate covered raisins are not far behind.

6. The only time I ever eat chocolate covered raisins is when I go to the movies. I get a box, and then tell myself that I will not eat a single one until after the movie starts. But I don't listen to myself very well ... I always finish the entire box before the previews are even over.

7. Then again, sometimes I don't get the chocolate covered raisins at all because I smuggle in my own snacks. Really? Yes, yes I do. I have been known to pack into my largest purse an entire bag of microwave popcorn, a bottled water, and two paper towels; of course, I am terribly aware of the popcorn smell that is wafting from me when I purchase the ticket, but I haven't been stopped yet.

Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary for some more quick takes fun.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Modesty for Boys? You Bet!

How beautiful then is modesty and what a gem among virtues it is.
-St. Bernard

Up until recently, whenever the topic of modesty came up -- whether in conversation or out in the blogging world -- I always breathed a sigh of relief that I didn't have girls; in fact, I pretty much ignored the topic.

I was even a little smug about it: I am so lucky to have boys ... at least this is one thing I won't have to worry about.

But I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

The same societal influences which send mixed messages to girls, also affect boys. Victoria's Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, Calvin Klein, and even the outfits on Dancing with the Stars not only influence how girls view themselves, but also how boys view girls.

Yikes. Did my three boys value modesty in girls? Did they see it as a quality to look for when they begin dating?

Now, I appreciate fashion trends; I understand the current style of short skirts, for example, but there is short ... and there is short, and I would venture to guess that most of you know very well what the difference is between the two.

But did my boys?

I began with our sixteen year old. At this age they can be moody (shocking, I know) so I waited until we were leaving his National Honor Society Induction Ceremony (when he was feeling really, really good) to bring up the subject. I even handed him the keys of the car to let him drive us home (sidebar: whenever you want to get your teenage son to talk, let him drive ... it works wonders).

"So, what are your thoughts on modesty?" I asked, just jumping into the subject without any subtlety whatsoever.

"Modesty ... as in how you dress?" he replied.

Well, it wasn't an elegant start, but it was a starting point and during the drive home we talked about body image, respect, and what qalities to look for in a friend and, yes, even in a girlfriend. We used words like virtue, honor, value; we discussed the messages we send with our dress, our posture, our demeanor, and even our manners.

The conversation even segued into modesty of athletic ability, modesty of academic accomplishments, modesty of speech. It was a good discussion, and I am grateful we had it.

And yes, we even spoke about the difference between short and short.

Modesty for boys. Who knew?

One son down, now two to go ...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sometimes Sunday Night Mass Isn't a Good Idea

Timothy, in his own words during Sunday night Mass:

I'm tired.

My stomach hurts.

I'm thirsty.

I need to go to the bathroom.

I can't kneel because of the scab on my knee.

How much longer?

I'm bored.

I'm tired.

Poor little guy ... busy day and a busy weekend. Guess who was in bed half an hour after getting home?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cotton Candy, Bug Juice, and ... a Tattoo??

1. We're back from our overnight trip to Atlanta and let me begin by setting the record straight: no tattoo (see previous post). Sorry folks, my mom would kill me.

2. Phillips Arena before the Hawks game. Everyone attending last night's game received a free t-shirt. Free stuff makes me happy.

3. Although we were seated in the middle tier, our mid-court view was fantastic. The only thing was that I could feel our seats vibrating/shaking whenever people went up and down the stairs. Tizi? I was thinking of you!

4. Cotton Candy. Now you see it ...

5. Now you don't. The elapsed time between photos is less than five minutes ... I think he inhaled the stuff.

6. The first thing we did upon returning home was to stop at a gas station and wash the car front windshield. The 13-year cicadas are still here, and flying cicadas and a car on the interstate ... well, let's just say there was bug juice everywhere.

7. Finally, my favorite thing about Timothy's artwork below is the title: Sheep.

That's it ... not Frolicking Sheep, or Sheep in a Meadow, or even Happy Sheep.

No, just Sheep.


For more quick takes fun, visit Jen at Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rocker Hair, Tattoos, and Playing Hooky

When our eldest graduated from middle school, part of his graduation present was an overnight trip to Atlanta with Mom and Dad. Without his two younger brothers around, he was the center of attention: we checked into our hotel, we dined in a nice restaurant, and - get ready for this - we went to an Aerosmith concert.

Yes, you heard correctly, Aerosmith. With ZZ Top as the opening act.

It was held in an open air arena, and to say that it was blistering hot is putting it mildly. We sweated and we sweated.

But that evening I realized that I wanted rocker hair just like Joe Perry. Hair a tad wild, but stylish and oh! so cool. I came home and talked and talked about Joe Perry's hair until my sister told me that my hair looks like that every time we go to the beach.

Sheesh, thanks a lot, sis.

Anyway, I still smile when I think of that concert and I still smile when I think of Joe Perry. (Shocking!)

But wait, there's more.

In a little over a week our middle son, Jonathan, will be graduating and he, too, will get his overnight trip to Atlanta with Mom and Dad; in fact, we are going tomorrow. This time, though, it won't be a concert but an Atlanta Hawks basketball game.

Our son is over the moon with excitement. He lives and breathes basketball, and the fact that he'll miss school on Friday just makes everything that much sweeter.

But I've been thinking ... basketball.

Basketball players don't have rocker hair, but they do have tattoos. Lots and lots of tattoos.



Let's leave it at that, shall we?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

In His Own Words ...

My nephew, Thomas, on his First Communion experience: The bread tasted like plastic and the wine burned my mouth.

And which one is my nephew? Why, the only one looking at me and not at the professional photographer:)

Friday, May 6, 2011

7 quick takes: a late night, a bad poem and a George Bailey moment

1. Last Saturday: Went to the 6:40 p.m. showing of Water for Elephants and didn't get home until almost midnight. What can I say? Good movie + Applebee's afterwards + six good friends = a serious loss of time

2. Last Sunday: Dinner at Nonna & Nonno's. Sigh. I like when my Mom cooks for me.

3. This past Monday: A George Bailey moment occurred. A woman from the Women's Bible Study I am involved in approached me and, without saying a word, opened her purse and showed my a white hankie folded into a neat square. She had seen my presentation earlier this year in which I had read my article A Hankie for my Pocket (published in the July/August 2010 issue of Canticle Magazine). She said that she now carries that handkerchief as a reminder to keep life simple. She then thanked me for inspiring her ... and I don't even know her name.

4. This past Tuesday: Purchased a plant from Home Depot with peppers, basil, and various other spices. I bought the plant for the basil, but I'm excited about using everything else.

5. This past Wednesday: Hiked 7 miles with a good friend.

6. Yesterday: Shared the following prayer for the last meeting of our Women's Bible Study Group.

In the beginning we gathered to study anew
some lessons from Genesis and from each other, too.
It didn't take long for us all to find out
what those old Patriarchs were all about.

Days of our Lives ... Old Testament style
Murders? Deception? Well, no wonder The Exile.
But we studied The Word and discussed Catholic issues,
And stocked our rooms with boxes of tissues.

For discoveries were made of God's great plan
that started way back when the world just began.
From Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob we learned
how to listen, pray, worship and discern.

So God we gather once more on this day
and hope you'll continue to show us the way.
Give us the grace and the wisdom to see
That wherever you are is where we should be.

~from Bia's files of very bad poetry

7. Today: Off to buy a first communion gift for nephew #2; birthday gifts for nephews #1, #2, #3; a birthday gift for my sister; and a birthday gift for my brother-in-law. Again, what can I say? My sister's ENTIRE family has a birthday this month, and since we're going up for a First Communion ... heck, we'll have one huge celebration.

~for more fun quick takes, visit Jen at Conversion Diary. Today she provided the instructions for a "crazy-powerful water bottle rocket launcher", which my boys are going to LOVE!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Ocean, an Airplane, an America Full of Kisses

Ora vi saluto e vi mando un oceano, un aereo, e un America di baci.
-1966, my zia Tiziana in a letter to us

(And now I say goodbye and send you an ocean, an airplane, and an America full of kisses.)

Exactly one year ago we were three weeks away from our big family vacation to Italy. Although we had planned that trip for a couple of years, the memories of those last few weeks of frantic packing and last minute preparations make me smile. Really, the planning was almost as much fun as the actual trip.

Almost, but not quite.

So it goes without saying that it doesn't take much these days for something to trigger my brain and, before I even realize it, I am traveling on a sea of memories. Last night it was these words from my zia Tiziana, which I discovered scribbled on the bottom of one of Nonna's letters.

Ocean, airplane ... my mind took off.

On that trip, our tickets were purchased with frequent flyer miles and, since Air France was having a special promotion, all five of us were able to fly business class ... a first for us. Champagne upon boarding, reclining seats, toiletry packs (mouthwash, toothpaste, toothbrush, warm socks, ear plugs), plush blankets and pillows ... sigh.

BUT, there was a snag: because airlines release a limited number of free seats, the five of us could not fly together. So, my husband and the two oldest left first, and Timothy and I followed on another Air France flight an hour and a half later. We would meet at the Baggage Claim in Rome.

When we boarded our flight Timothy, who is passionate about planes, was clutching a drawing of our Air France flight. The flight attendant saw it and promised to give it to the pilot later in the evening.

Around midnight the flight attendant woke us up and said the pilot had invited us to come to the cockpit. With everyone still sleeping, we were quietly escorted up the aisle.

Let me just say that was the coolest experience ever. We were flying above the clouds over the Atlantic ocean, and the only thing visible outside the cockpit windows was the breathtaking sight of full moon. It was so beautiful and magical that we were all whispering.

(a copy of the drawing Timothy gave the pilot)

And, last night, because my mind was still making memory connections -- moon, cockpit, dark night -- my mind blasted off to the time we took Nonna to The Kennedy Space Center during one of her summer visits.

After touring the grounds, we watched a documentary set to classical music featuring images of the space program. The end of the documentary showed a series of photos taken from space of the earth, with each photo showing a closer view until, on the very last image, the distinctive boot-shape of Italy was showcased.

My Nonna was moved to tears.

Then - and we couldn't have planned it better - a few days later we were able to watch a space shuttle launch from our condo in New Smyrna Beach. At 3 a.m. we gathered on our second story balcony, listening to the shuttle countdown on the radio and watching the horizon. When the shuttle launched, and we could follow the shuttle's ascent, my Mom and Nonna couldn't contain their enthusiasm:

"OH! Lord bless them. Bless them. Keep them safe!!" shouted my Mom a gazillion times at 3 a.m. from our balcony.

"Maria Santissima! Cielo santo! Che bello! Dio mio!" shouted Nonna. Again, it was 3 a.m., and this was also shouted repeatedly.

The mixture of English and Italian being hurled towards the heavens had the rest of us simultaneously cringing and giggling.

No, it doesn't take much to to trigger these memories ... just an ocean, an airplaine, and an America full of kisses.

Un Abbraccio week 5: An Ocean, and Airplane, an America Full of Kisses

Sunday, May 1, 2011

What's in Your Shopping Cart?

This past Saturday I did my weekly grocery shopping, and as I was checking out the cashier made a comment about all the healthy items I was purchasing: whole grain bread, Ezekiel bread, three different kinds of yogurt, non-sweet breakfast cereals, skim milk, vegetables (bok choy, napa cabbage, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, lettuce), fresh spices (basil, ginger, parsley), fruit (apples, bananas, strawberries, lemons, pears), meat (chicken, turkey breast), Quinoa pasta, olive oil, raisins, cheese (mozzarella, laughing cow), and nuts (cashews and almonds).

Lately I have been very, very conscious about our healthy eating habits. We are not a junk food family; we rarely eat out and prefer, instead, to cook with fresh ingredients. And I have learned that healthy eating is not just what to avoid (something we have no problem with), but also what to include in an overall healthy diet.

So, I have made a conscious effort to serve more more protein and a healthy balance of complex carbohydrates at each meal. Fruits and vegetables are the main source of our vitamins, nutrients and enzymes. And for optimal health we also include healthy fats such as fish, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils.

We've also discovered wonderful new foods and ingredients: fresh ginger, toasted sesame oil, flax seed (for nutty flavor and fiber), and Greek yogurt.

Then, there is nothing like eating fresh foods. I make our own hummus (store versions contain preservatives), trail mix, granola, chicken nuggets, and Chinese food (a new family favorite: Asian noodle bowls). I don't get bagged lettuce (I wash my own), pre-cut fruit (too much handling), or even pre-cut meats. And I prefer to chop/press my own garlic instead of using minced garlic from a jar.

Of course, there are moments. As the cashier was finishing up, she triumphantly rang up a bag of BBQ potato chips and some chocolate chip cookies. I smiled.

Hey, nobody's perfect.

grilled panini and insalata caprese