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

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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

That Darn Suki and her Kimono

When it comes to reading and our sons, we could write our own version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: one son likes to read a lot, one likes to read sometimes, and one doesn't like to read at all.

What we have are extremes: our eldest son reads anything and everything; as parents we often found ourselves in the unique situation of having to tell him to stop reading. Our youngest, on the other hand, is the complete and total opposite; he not only doesn't like to read, but considers it a form of torture.

To be sure, he can read. Under duress he will read anything you put in front of him, but if he doesn't find the subject matter interesting his mind wanders, his eyes glaze over, and the complaining (and yes, even tears) begins. Reading one chapter a day (just one!) of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (his summer reading assignment) is the low point of his day, but give him a 45-page instruction manual or an encyclopedia on the solar system and he's good to go.

Reading Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
That smile is totally fake.
You're probably thinking, well, just give him books he likes to read. The problem is that the stories in his school reading book do not capture his attention. At all. Last year there was one story (one story!) which he liked -- Hottest, Coldest, Highest, Deepest -- and during that week we listened to a never-ending stream of facts about the highest mountains, deepest oceans, and smallest animals.

But the week the class read Suki's Kimono just about did him in.

At first I was worried that my son lacked imagination to fully enter into a story, but if there is one thing he has is plenty of imagination. Running through the yard playing GI Joe with the neighbors, organizing a Bike Wash, using every blanket and pillow in the house to build a fort, figuring out how to do something in a different way ... believe me, his mind is always going, going, going. It's just that he likes to read non-fiction. I get that. He has an engineering mind. He likes mechanical things. He's a builder.

The problem is that his grades are dependent on that darn Suki and her kimono.

So this summer, in an attempt to help him get excited about books, I set the very humble goal of reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone together (to put things in perspective, his older brother read this book in the first grade). He reads a page, I read a page. We talk. We discuss. Then we watch the parts in the movie which correspond to what we just read in the book, and we compare the two.

Has it worked? Yes and no. He's still not doing somersaults about reading time, but we're making progress. Any complaining seems to be strictly pro forma -- two minutes, tops -- and then we have fun with it, we really do.

Today's is Harry Potter's birthday. While I had initially planned to use this day to celebrate having finished the book, in actuality we still have a few more chapters to go. But to heck with it. We're celebrating anyway. We're on chapter 11 and that is progress, people, progress I tell you!

And, in my mind, cause to celebrate ... especially since Harry Potter wears a cloak and not a kimono.

today's agenda

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Stockpile

Our guest bedroom has turned into a collection point for all things college related. The next few weeks are going to be crazy busy, so when we think of something that Nicholas will need for when he goes away to college ... into the room it goes.

These are things I think of: hangers (I assume the guys will hang up their clothes. Right? Right?!?) and Clorox wipes (I assume the guys will clean their bathroom on occasion. Right? Right?!?).

This is what the college student thinks of: a portable cooler (I don't even want to know).

And what about the big jug of pretzels and the over-sized bag of Haribo Gummi Bears? Funny you should ask ...

Evidently they're supposed to help with studying.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Learning to be Mary in a Martha World

I love the fall; it is by far my very favorite season. With its arrival comes cool, crisp weather, savory stews with crusty bread, colorful scarves over bulky sweaters, and good books before a roaring fire. I associate everything that is warm and cozy with this season.

During this time of year I have an evening chore that involves walking around the house turning on lamps. Every room in our house contains a small corner lamp so nobody ever walks into a completely dark room. I also turn on the porch light, the garage lights, and a small spotlight illuminating our fall display.

When my husband and boys come home just as its getting dark, I want our home to be one giant hug when they walk in the door.

I love doing this simple task as it provides me with a few stolen moments of peace and quiet. But the other night, as I was walking from room to room turning on lamps, I was reminded that I was so busy being like Martha that I had forgotten that Jesus wants me to also be like Mary.

As a mother and wife, and as a woman, nurturing and caring for my family comes naturally. I completely understand Martha and her hospitality and her need to care for others.

But I also understand that, like Mary, I need to know when to let everything go and simply sit at the feet of Jesus -- listening to Him, learning from Him, surrendering to Him.

"To Keep a lamp burning," says Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "we have to keep putting oil in it."

So, while my evening ritual is something Martha would do, it now also serves as a gentle reminder to do something Mary would do, for without spiritual nourishment I can't fully give of myself.

No, I can't give what I don't have, but God offers exactly what I need . . . all I have to do is ask Him.

And it is when I take the time to be like Mary, that the Martha within me truly shines.

*reposted from October 2008

Saturday, July 20, 2013

All it takes ...

simple ingredients
simple sauce
simply delicious

And nothing makes the house smell better than a pot of tomato sauce bubbling on the stove.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Life Lately: The Wrong Pirate, Babushkas, and Angry Birds ... in 7 quick takes

~1~ See? This is why you don't go shopping
with all three boys at the same time.

This week I had the bright idea to get all our back-to-school shopping done in one day. Good idea, yes?

No. Bad, bad idea.

So. There I am in the middle of Target with three boys throwing stuff into the shopping cart faster than I could keep up!

No Legos! Do you really need that? Put the candy back. I said no Legos ... they are not on your school supply list!

Then my son -- and this would be the one leaving for college in a few weeks -- holds up a pair of swim trunks and says he needs a new pair. I briefly glance at them; they are trendy, with a large pirate logo pictured on one side, and because he really does need a new pair I let him toss them into the cart.

Later that afternoon he goes to a friend's house to swim. He's wearing his new trunks. As he's walking out the back door I realized that the pirate I assumed was Captain Jack Sparrow was actually Captain Morgan.

Yes, my son is now a walking, talking advertisement for Rum.

~2~ Speaking of liquor ...
My parents did not get the memo about the Russian Vodka. I guess they were having too much fun on their cruise and didn't have time to check their emails. But they did bring us back a beautiful Russian icon, some Kinder chocolate, a magnet of a Matryoshka doll (often mistakenly referred to as a Babushka doll), and a Viking helmet for our little guy.

~3~ Some words are fun to say ...

Babushka, Babushka, Babushka.

~4~ Who knew?

In listening to the stories of their grandparents' adventures through Russia, Latvia, Finland and Sweden, this what our boys found the most interesting: the entire Angry Birds franchise began in Finland.

~5~ One Word Texting

Our middle son has a summer job working at Arby's. Because he just got his license a few months ago he has to text us when he gets to work, and then again when he's leaving. Here is a month's worth of text messages from him:


You get the idea.

~6~ Ask me what time it is.
Actually ... don't. All these needed batteries. And because I kept forgetting, yesterday I wore ALL of them while shopping to remind me to stop at a jeweler.

~7~ Jane Eyre Movie Critic

Jane Eyre is probably my all-time favorite book. Recently I watched two versions: one from Masterpiece Theater, and the 2011 movie.

Masterpiece Theater is the better version, without a doubt.

The clear favorite.

*Now, go visit Jen over at Conversion Diary. She has a great idea to post something every day next week. I may have to join her ...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Airport Shenanigans

Tonight the boys and I went to pick up Nonna and Nonno from the airport after their exciting adventures in Russia, Latvia, Finland, and Sweden. Since they were gone almost three weeks my Mom was a little worried we wouldn't recognize her.

Uhm ... we didn't have a problem.

Nonna ... the Swedish Girl (complete with Viking hat and pigtails).
(Nonno was walking next to her pretending not to know her.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Small but Mighty

So, our little guy is wrestling with his older brother, Jonathan. There is a flurry of arms, legs, elbows, and laughter.

I know someone is going to get hurt. I just know it. But sometimes a mother just needs to step back and see how things develop.

The laughing turns into grunting.

When I hear someone yell "Ow!" I step forward to intervene, but before I can do or say anything our little guy pokes his head up and yells,


Okay, then. I am thinking the kid can take care of himself.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Twenty-four hours ...

That's how long this bowl of fruit lasted.
I've spent a good portion of my summer buying fruit, storing fruit, washing fruit, carving fruit, dicing fruit ...
and then watching it disappear.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Life Lately: To Russia, With Love (in 7 quick takes)

~1~ Requesting one bottle of Vodka

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know you are in the middle of your cruise enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Sweden, Finland, and Russia. I know you've been in St. Petersburg for the past couple of days and that today you are enjoying a cold drink (literally) at an Ice Bar in Helsinki, Finland.

Speaking of drinking, I started thinking that I would love to have some real Russian Vodka. I don't like the stuff -- I'm more of a wine person -- but I think it would be cool to have vodka from the country that is known for its vodka. And if it came in a nice bottle with a label written in Russian, that would be great.

Oh, in addition to the vodka ... I'm also thinking a Russian icon.

An icon would be nice, too.

~2~ A Cold Kitchen

Dear Mom and Dad,

We came back from vacation yesterday, and because you are out of town there wasn't homemade minestrone or homemade bread waiting for us on our kitchen counter; in fact, as we were unloading the car Timothy asked, "Where's the minestrone?" He was SHOCKED, SHOCKED to find out there wasn't any.
~3~ Something Fishy

Dear Dad,

Timothy wanted me to tell you that during a fishing trip on the Chesapeake Bay he caught four fish AND an eel.

~4~ Your Grandson won't starve while at college

Dear Mom and Dad,

Nicholas wanted me to tell you that he did NOT get assigned the icky, depressing, shoebox-sized freshman dorm pictured below; instead, he and his two friends were assigned a three-person suite at Clemson House{insert Happy Dance}. And Nonna, you'll be happy to know that the dining hall is on the ground floor of that building (as well as a barber shop and a ballroom).

NOT his dorm room (Thank you, God!)

THIS is his dorm room ... private bathroom! (Yahoo!)

Clemson House: Nicholas' home away from home

~5~ The Strong and Silent Type

Dear Mom and Dad,

Jonathan wanted me to tell you ... nothing. You know how talkative he is {insert eye roll}. He did smile, though, and flash his two adorable dimples.

~6~ Unlawful Entry

Dear Mom and Dad,

Joe wants you to know that it's been raining like crazy and he hopes you didn't leave your sprinklers on. He also wonders if you have your house keys because he's going to disable the garage door {insert evil laughter}.

~7~ In a Nutshell

Dear Mom and Dad,
We miss you. We love you.


*Now, go visit Jen at Conversion Diary. This past Monday she sent her book off to Ignatius Press. Congratulations!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vacation Bests

Best Tacky Joke

Sitting on the deck one evening we noticed 10-12 turkey buzzards circling overhead ... directly overhead. It was eerie.

 Then, Joe turns to Papa (who is 85) and asks, "Are you feeling okay, Dad?"

I mean really.

But it was funny. Even Papa laughed.

Best weather ... ever.

Low humidity, balmy, breezy, and no rain (which was miraculous considering back home in Augusta it has been raining almost every day since summer began). The beautiful weather meant no mosquitoes/gnats (we sat outside until late without bug spray) and, most importantly, it meant that I had (mostly) a good hair week. Don't misunderstand -- I did have boat hair -- but the rest of the time my hair (somewhat) behaved. I even wore it down on occasion. Whoa.

My new logo ... compliments of my sister-in-law.

Best View

We stood here ...

and viewed this.


Best shopping trip while the guys were fishing:

Best fishing trip while the gals were shopping:

He also caught an eel.

Best Souvenir

On one of our boating excursions we dropped anchor to do some swimming. Our little guy swims to shore, finds this stump, rolls it in the water and floats it to the boat (a mighty feat considering the thing is bulky and weighs 10-15 pounds). He is determined to bring it home. And now that it's here, I am thinking it will look great on our brick patio with a terracotta pot of red geraniums sitting on top.