Saturday, September 17, 2011

Wave of Awareness

Our family is going to be WAlKing to support Hydrocephalus Awareness and Research. What exactly does that mean?? Well...
According to the Hydrocephalus Foundation:
"Hydrocephalus means there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the ventricles of the brain. This fluid builds up and causes the ventricals to enlarge and the pressure inside the head to increase. Hydrocephalus cannot be cured, but can be treated. The most common treatment is a surgical procedure to place a shunt inside the person's brain. The shunt channels the flow of fluid aways from the brain into another part of the body where it can be absorbed and transported ino the bloodstream. If left untreated it could result in permanent brain damage."

Hmmm, a lot to take in. Especially when I first heard the news that my son Luccio has Hydrocephalus. Luccio was born with a Neural Tube Defect (NTD) so essentially that meant that a part of his skull had a small opening causing fluid to build up into a small pocket that looked like a skin covered golf ball on the back of his head when he was born. We fondly called it his "Lumpy." Thankfully at 5 months old Lumpy was removed and his skull was repaired. But, closing up that area caused the fluid to build up and thus Luccio now has Hydrocephalus. So at 14 months old he was "shunted." His neurosurgeon had tried other less invasive pocedures first, but alas the shunt could not be avoided. So Lucci has a tube that is inserted in his ventricles around his brain and it drains fluid into his abdomen. Thus far, thank God its working very well!!

In the beginning it was very scary to me. Greg and I need to be able to be Luccio's advocates. But, it was so overwhelming. I felt like I am wasn't sure if I really knew enough about what i am doing. I think we have good plan in place for him, but is it aggressive enough? What does it mean for his future? For school? With friends? Sports? We are learning as we go. And we have met some wonderful people along they way.

We were going to a support group that helped a lot because we were able to talk with other parents in similar situations. But, in talking with them I realized more than ever that this is an ongoing process.

Hydrocephalus isn't going to go away. Luccio will have it and have to deal with it for the rest of his life. It makes me sad because I don't want him to think that there are limitations placed on him because of it or to struggle in anyway. I want to bubble wrap him and homeschool him so he won't have to deal with insensitive teachers or students! Not logical I know.

Right around Luccio's 3rd birthday, anxiety over him starting preschool was getting me down. I was worried about all that would be out of my control and all that could and would affect him during his school days. After a good cry and a long talk with my brother, I decided to take action! I become more educated about Luccio's rights and needs. We signed him up for school and give each year's teachers the benefit of the doubt. We prepared information for them so they became familiar with Hydrocephalus. And as a family we will educate our loved ones and those involved in Luccio's life as needed. We try to not only hope for the best, we expect it!! We will be his advocates, we will see to it that his needs are met and that he reaches his fullest potential. We will pray that God continues to bless him and our family! And we will pray for his teachers too because I pity the first one that isn't up to par.

And of course, homeschooling is always a great back-up plan, and maybe the bubble wrap too!!

And in the meantime, we have teamed up with the Hydrocephalus Association and we are going to WALK for awareness and pray to someday find a cure! We are so very blessed with generous family and friends that are helping us so much along the way!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Alvin Coconut

We have a new addition to our family, Vincenzo's baby Alvin Coconut! He is very loved and takes quite a bit of energy for me to babysit because his Daddy leaves a long list of expectations. For his 5th Birthday Vincenzo wanted to go to the American Girl Doll store and Cafe to celebrate! He convinced his twin brother it was a good idea and so he and Stregga planned the trip and let me tag along. Our good friend Amanda came to! We had so much fun! It is definitely geared towards girls, no doubt about it, the store is so pink and red and shiny and sparkly! The staff refers to everything as "for your girl" for your "birthday girl" etc. So we made quite an entrance when we were greeted at the door and announced we had arrived with our Birthday Boys! The woman at the front entrance looked a bit confused and sort of stepped back a bit to let us through. Luckily the Manager Ed, was fantastic! He made the boys feel very welcomed and showed us around the store. Vincenzo had been pouring over the store's catalog for months, so he knew just want he wanted. He went right for the Bitty Baby section and found his baby. Luccio seemed to be just along for the ride and birthday dessert. He didn't' mind the 2 hour car ride, but wasn't planning out exactly what he would purchase. Until we arrived, then he was so into the experience. He kept saying, "OMG, this store is so cool!" "Look at this, look at this, it's so cool!" He got right into it.

It is a two level store, so we went through the entire place and checked it all out before making our purchase selections. Vincenzo never wavered, he knew which Bitty Baby he wanted and he knew he wanted the crib and clothing for him. Of course, he was shopping with Stregga so he left with bags full of treasures. Both boys also picked stuffed dogs that they loved! We thought the dogs would be what Luccio would be happy with. But, he wasn't leaving without a Bitty Baby twin, he wanted the blond boy doll. Of course he couldn't understand that you don't just pick one off the shelf, you have to take the ones in the boxes. So he had a fit. He wanted the one from the shelf. And he wanted the hoodie it came with. Of course, you can't buy the hoodie separately, it only comes with the set of 2 dolls and all the extras-that we did not need. Luccio was crying and saying his birthday was "ruined" because he really wanted that hoodie for his doll. Luckily Ed saved the day and made special arrangements for the birthday boy to have the hoodie he wanted. Oh the drama!!

Next we had a delicious lunch in the cafe! The Bitty Babies were seated in their own high chairs and served their own cups, so cute!!!

On the ride home Cenzo cradled Alvin Coconut like the newborn he hoped for. But, Luccio's unnamed doll had only his diaper left on and was dancing inappropriately for most the 2 hour ride creating a lot of laughter in the backseat. Until Cenzo finally got sick of it and told him to tell his guy that it wasn't appropriate to act that way around a newborn.

Since arriving home, Unnamed Doll stays in Luccio's bed. He is not catered to in any way, but he holds a special spot among the stuffed animals and is always checked on to be sure he is there for bedtime.

Cenzo's baby, Alvin Coconut requires a bit more care. The first night Cenzo tucked his baby into his new crib with blankets and Fluffy. The next morning began a new tradition of the boys carrying out Alvin's crib to the living room, they each take a side. So funny! A weary Cenzo informed me, "It's a lot of work being a Daddy. I was up most of the night watching on my baby. I rested a little, but not much." Welcome to parenthood my friend.

There was moment of panic that first morning when Cenzo realized Alvin Coconut could not go to school with him. In the end it was agreed upon that Alvin would be strapped into his own carseat and take the ride to school, but not get out of the car. Isabella and I were recruited as babysitters. We were given a long, very detailed list of what to do and what not to do. He wrote some notes for us in case we forgot. Of course his notes looked like a bunch of letters and circles, but he explained what they meant.

Alvin Coconut's care instructions:
-He likes to drink his milk. He drinks from a bottle only. (I guess implying no one should nurse Alvin Coconut??) But, he does have a "machine" (cardboard box aka breast pump??) that his Daddy left for us to get him more milk when he needs it.
-He should have milk at least 3 or 40 times a day
-Alvin likes to wear his pink flowered sleeper. This is not pajamas and does not mean he is a girl. It's just his "Day Clothes." He really likes his Day Clothes. If he needs pajamas he can wear his blue sleeper, but he prefers his pink Day Clothes.
-He can sleep in his crib, with a blanket. He must have a blanket. And a hat when possible. It's best if the hat and blanket match.
-He is little and not used to sleeping alone, so his crib has to be in the room with me or Isabella at all times. If we are napping he can nap next to us, but can't be left in a room alone.
-He is brand new and doesn't understand things yet. So he can't be bad, so he can not be put in time out.
-He likes to be held upright in your arms. If you hold him back too far it makes him sleepy and his eyes close. Only hold him that way if it's time for him to sleep.
-He likes to be held a lot. Try to hold him a lot of the day.
-Don't let him cry, if he cries feed him or hold him a lot more.
-He likes to go out, but he needs his carseat in the car.

I have to admit I was stressed the first day because Isabella and I had quite the responsibility in caring for Alvin Coconut. Especially since he comes with a Baby Record book and I had to check off if we fed, rocked, changed and held him!

Isabella likes Alvin and will often look at him and say, "Cenzo Baby." And she holds him a lot. But, truth be told Alvin spends most of his days in the Mom Mobile either with Isabella and I while we run errands, or on his own while we do whatever we do.

But, at the end of every day we are accountable to tell his Daddy about his activities. So we try to be sure to hold him a bit. And I always make sure to think of a few highlights like Alvin liked going to Isabella's mommy & me class, he visited Stregga, etc. I have to be specific because his Daddy likes to know how many hours did he sleep? How many ounces did he drink? Luckily for me his Daddy still hasn't gotten the whole Math thing down, so he is happy to hear Alvin slept for 27 hours and drank 152 ounces of milk.

Vincenzo has gotten some odd looks and comments from people, even some laughter. People can't quite get why a boy would want his birthday at American Girl store and cafe. They are a bit taken aback when he comes running in with his baby and stroller and diaper bag. It was especially a bit of a shock when he went on a sleepover at a friend's house and arrived with Alvin Coconut and his crib. He takes it in stride. He gets a bit shy or embarrassed when he takes Alvin to a new place or someone's house. He feels the environment out for awhile before he is comfortable including Alvin in socializing. One day he put him in bag and left him next to him. At other times he knows he is in a nurturing environment and unloads all of Alvin's treasures and clothes and shares him with people around him.We have very loving family and friends and they have all welcomed Alvin.

I hate that Cenzo knows to feel uncomfortable in any way for being a loving little guy. But, I am proud that he doesn't let that stop him. In fact, he has even recruited a few friends into his Stroller Brigade. He had his brother and his best friend James actually fighting over which strollers they would use, LOL!

Like Stregga says, he is a good Daddy and has obviously received a lot of love and nurturing. And he has the Best Daddy Ever as a role model!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Layers Between Us

Spent last week on vacation with the family. It was fantastic and surprisingly relaxing! I even had a chance to ponder life a bit. Although with 3 kids the ponderings were not solitary and always somehow connected to the potty. I think the most profound musing I had all week resulted from one of our many visits to public restrooms with the kids. I was shuffling the boys into the stall, a tight fit for 3 people. Add some sand and wet bathing suits and it was just a joy, not to mention the floor was soaked from God knows what and there were no garbages provided so it made for interesting hand washing. Anyway there was a moment of debate between a "clean sweep" of the toilet seat using some toilet paper or lining with rows of tissue instead? Nothing is simple with twin 4 year olds and so we went round and round and finally I encouraged those who can stand, do. And do not touch anything that isn't necessary. Out of the chaos came enlightenment when the boys asked, what is on the seat that they shouldn't touch? and how is toilet paper protecting them from it?

Uh, good questions. Well nasty, gross germs from disgusting pee and poop may be on the seat. And I guess toilet paper protects you because its what everyone does.

But, seriously folks...why do we toilet paper a seat? I mean really what good can that piece of tissue do? If all that is protecting us from contracting a life or death disease is a thin piece of tissue, how safe can that be? UGH!

When I wasn't playing "The Why Game" with the boys, or wiping anyone's behind, I was actually enjoying some leisure time. It helped that my parents vacationed with us. Nothing like outnumbering the kids to make for a great trip!! We spent the days at the beach, the afternoons napping, the evenings playing mini golf, riding go carts, eating ice cream, watching the sunset. It was glorious!! I was happy to get to read some books. The boys enjoyed building sand castles and surfing, the Princess loved being outdoors. Hubby and my parents enjoyed the time to relax and play too! And along the way we got to examine some of life's greatest mysteries. Summer is the best!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Magic Moments

We set up a Fairy House in our garden. I wasn't sure how the kids would react to the idea, but they loved it. Not a moment of doubt or hesitation. They got right to work picking out the perfect spot tucked under the butterfly bush because butterfly bushes are a fairy's favorite spot to hang out. They added sparkling stones, rocks, seashells and sticks to cozy the place up. And then we waited and waited to see if any fairies would move in. I told them fairies like to have their houses in secret gardens so we may not actually see them. But, we waited and watched anyway.

When they were distracted I added some tiny dollhouse furniture to the set up. Vincenzo found it right away, he was screaming with joy at the new discovery! Luccio ran over to observe and confirmed for all of us that the fairies had definitely moved in! Isabella was right on their heels and sat in the grass staring into the tiny houses with them.

Later, my teenage nephew came over and the kids couldn't wait to show him the Fairy House. I was worried that he would make fun of them or squash their magical experience. But, I should have known better. Right away Nikko reminded them of the Magic Fairy that visits Stregga's house and leaves money in a special jar. He told them how she used to leave the money for him, but now it's for them. Vincenzo has collected money from that jar and was so excited! Nikko wondered to the boys if the Magic Fairy was related to the ones that moved into our garden? Something to ponder for sure! They were thrilled at that thought.

At that moment I sat down on a nearby chair and thought about what a magical experience I was witnessing. It didn't matter that we were all covered in dirt and mulch and sweat from gardening or that Isabella had snot dripping from her nose and had spent the morning fussing and clinging to me or that the boys had been fighting over the same toy since their eyes opened that morning. All of that faded as I sipped on my iced coffee that had been melting in the hot sun for two hours. All I could think of was how grateful I am that Hubby and I are able to make it work so that I am home to raise our family and witness moments like this. This childhood magic will dissipate soon and the world will contradict innocence and they will grow up and move on and that fairy house will be abandoned. But, now in this moment I thank God for this life and the ability to experience wonder through the eyes of my children.

And then Vincenzo leaned on Luccio and knocked him over and they started wrestling and Isabella climbed onto the heap and then chaos ensued. Ah, life is good!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

July 4th has me reminiscing on my own Independence Day declared July 4, 2001. Before Hubby, before my precious babies, before 9/11 when the world was still safe and I was still single, I spent Independence Day traveling across the ocean to Italy for a few weeks on my own. I was 26 years old and it was the first time I was truly on my own. I lived in college dorms with hundreds of people and roommates, I have lived in a volunteer community with friends and roomies, but I had never really been alone for more than a few hours or at most a day. Italy was a big deal for me, it meant independence and meant finding myself. At 26 with no husband or kids I thought about things like that. That I would find myself somewhere or somehow. Like I was missing? Who knows. But, at the time it was a priority. I was on a constant quest to find Inner Peace. It took spending time in Assisi, Italy the birthplace of St. Francis for me to realize Peace was there all along.

It was such an incredible trip. It started with a 6 hour delay at JFK airport where I met some random strangers and read 2 books. Apparently Alitalia Airlines was on strike. Luckily they settled things and I got off the ground. Finally after an 8 hour flight I arrived in a new country, The Old Country, the place of origin for my Italian American roots. I had been there before but this time was different, I was on my own. So everything looked different, sounded different. I am SUCH an American. I thought everyone speaks English and celebrates with BBQs on the 4th of July. Foreign travel is always so humbling because then I realize Thanksgiving is NOT celebrated in England and the birthday of The United States of America is NOT celebrated in Italy. It's just another day and I was just another American that didn't speak Italian. I had taken classes before going so I understood enough to get around, but not enough to understand that my train to Florence made a stop and I needed to get off and change trains. Luckily an older woman next to me took pity and realized I had no idea where I was and directed to me to the transfer train. We could barely hold a conversation, but we bonded and ended up being pen pals for years. I communicated enough to figure out how to order coffee, cafe americano. But, I couldn't communicate that my nails need acrylic repair (those were the days when I had no kids and thought nothing of spending $25 a week on fake nails, their upkeep was high on the priority list, even in Italy.)

I stayed at a religious boarding house, Casa Immacoolata. My stay there had been arranged by a priest friend of mine that I used to work with. The Franciscan Sisters that run the house were amazing. They took me under their wing and advised me on how to get around Assisi and travel into Florence, etc. Assisi is a medieval Village, a walled city, one of the most peaceful places on Earth. The population is around 500, the visitor toll is in the thousands. People travel from all over to visit St. Francis's tomb. All races and religions stand near his tomb and bask in the absolute power of God and feeling of Peace. It is unreal. It took a few planes, trains and a walk up a steep hill to arrive, but I got there. I settled in.

I spent the first 2 days a bit jet lagged and cultured shocked. I wandered the town, visited the Basilica, found quiet places to read and journal. I sat in the Piazza and had coffee. I adjusted to the idea that there are no screens on the windows and its too hot to close them at night. I got over the fear of the bats that circled at night and slept without my ear plugs and sleep mask for the first time in years. I was so exhausted and so at peace that I didn't even think of them flying in the windows at night after awhile. I was lulled to sleep by their shrieking. This was a major step for me. Especially since I wouldn't even stay home alone at night in my own house.

After a few days I met people. I met Brother Barry. He was in Assisi for a Friars convention. We had a lot in common, he was a kindred spirit. We talked for hours and met in the Piazza at night to listen to music. We both had curfews. The boarding houses we stayed in were run by religious groups, he was a member of his group. We had to be in by 10:15 pm. Or the doors locked. So we laughed about that! We talked and talked for hours. He had the peaceful spirit of Francis. He stayed for over a week. On the last day his Order of Friars were meeting for Mass at the Tomb. He invited me to attend, but I didn't have an alarm clock so he told me to tell my angels to wake me in time. I laughed and said goodbye just in case I didn't make it to the 7 am Mass. At 6:30 the next morning sure enough my angels woke me in just enough time to dress and get to The Basilica. The Mass could not have been more incredible. All of those Friars celebrating together at the Tomb of St. Francis. Peace was everywhere that morning. After Barry left, I missed my friend, but I knew I would have more adventures in the time that remained. Barry and I would stay in touch over the next few years and visit with each other again in Toronto during World Youth 2002. By then I would have had my first few dates with Hubby and be on the way to the rest of my life. In Italy I didn't know that yet, but I had a feeling one morning when I visited the San Damiano Chapel that life would work out exactly as it was supposed to.

I had saved San Damiano for last. I first visited the house Francis grew up in, and some of the places in the Umbria area where he traveled and ministered. I went to his tomb daily and sat and absorbed his Peacefulness. I met a group traveling from Australia, they stayed for a few days. I met a Luca on a train back from Florence. He had visited America and thought it was great so he loved having someone to chat with about it. I became good friends with some of the Sisters that ran the boarding house I stayed in. They showed me some of the sights that were less touristy. We had gelato every night in town. They made yummy fresh food. So fresh in fact that one morning I realized there were a few less chickens in the yard. My vegetarian tendencies told me to panic, but the spirit of Francis told me to go with the flow. It was great food, great pieced together Italian/English conversations over meals.

One of the Sisters gave me a ride to Mount Subasio. Francis spent months praying there. I couldn't wait to get there. It was one of my last stops in Assisi. I was introduced to Franco, a man that worked security there and the Sister assured me he would give me a ride back into town when I was ready. I was at the top of Mt. Subasio completely alone in the woods with only Franco out that gates. I was a long way from home. I could see all of Assisi from where I stood. I knew it was unsafe walking the winding roads back into town, I had heard of things happening. And it was far. So Franco was my best option. I trusted the Sisters opinion and stayed to pray. I spent hours there. Lost track of time really. It was such an amazing space to be in. And Franco made good on his promise to get me back safely. He was such a nice guy and talked about his family and how wonderful the Sisters had been to them.

I met people of God everywhere I went in Assisi. I met Claudia and Flavia. Claudia is a true "Townie." She walks all day. Anywhere you go in Assisi, at any time you are likely to see Claudia walking. She has had hardship and life has taken it's toll on her, but she walks and she welcomes. She has an edge. She hold you accountable. She wanted to know, was I a Tourist or a Pilgrim? I think back to that question so often in life. Am I here sightseeing, just along for the ride? Or do I really want to be a part of the bigger picture, the amazement, the wonder the reality of what God has to offer. I thought long and hard before I answered her and finally I said, I guess I am a little bit of both. I wanted to go to Florence and buy pocketbooks and jewelry and I did. I wanted to take pictures of Saint Clare's preserved body. But, at the same time I was moved by it. I was in awe of the woman that gave her life to God and followed Francis in his spiritual ways and was left untouched by death. I guess I am a Tourist that is striving to be a Pilgrim. Trying to find the sacred in the everyday. Claudia and her daughter, Flavia traveled with me and one of the Sisters to Perugia. A nearby village. It is the famous sight of the story Francis and The Wolf. The Wolf had been terrorizing the people, but Francis and his gentle spirit tamed the wolf. Then the people fed the wolf and he became their beloved pet. I love that story. I loved Perugia. It was quant, lots of great little stores and tiny chapels where Francis had spent time. It wasn't as sacred feeling as Assisi. But, it was a nice spot to visit for a day.

By the end of the weeks I spent there I had met so many people and prayed in so many churches and sat and journaled in so many beautiful scenic areas. Finally at the end of that time I was ready to go to San Damiano, the place where God appeared to Francis and told him his mission. I went there on a Sunday. It was quieter than I had imagined. Almost deserted, although I am sure there were people there sightseeing. There were always people there. But, it wasn't crowded. I soaked up the feeling in the Chapel. I remember being there, but nothing stands out in my memory. Until I went walking back up the the huge hill towards town. There was a large circle in the center of the path. It was the halfway point back up the hill. It was hot and the sun was blazing. I stopped in the center of that circle. I closed my eyes and felt a cool breeze. I will never forget that Circle, that sacred space. For the first time in my life I stopped, I took it all in. I felt Peace. I realized it was in my heart all along. I knew life would unfold just as it should. All of the things I prayed for, would be in time. Not necessarily exactly like I pictured or in the timing I expected, but as it should be. When I get stressed out, overwhelmed, discouraged with life. I think back to that moment. I feel that moment and that sense of Peace washes over me. It was a sacred gift, one that I hope I can hold onto for a long time.

I was sad leaving Assisi. I felt that even though I wanted to return someday, I knew in my heart of heart that it wouldn't be the same. I will go back again. I have to. My dream is to bring my children someday. For them to experience the sacred, ancient place of Assisi. To see the beautiful countryside, the fields of lavender, the rose colored buildings at sunset. To hear the Italian language spoken as our ancestors spoke it. I want them to go to Rome and Florence and sight see and be tourists too, but, to have a spiritual journey like Assisi is priceless.

When I stood at the top of Mount Subasio and looked out at the view enjoying the peacefulness of life, I never could have known that 2 months later the United States would suffer a terrorist attack that would change lives forever. I didn't know I would be gripped with fear on airplanes in the future or afraid to be out at night in strange cities alone, I didn't know that fear would motivate me to stay closer to home and cling to a smaller radius to live life. I didn't know that type of fear would remain underlying in everything over the next years as I started a family, I didn't know I would be a mom that makes neurotic decisions in an effort to protect my children because the world is scary and bad things can happen. In that moment in Assisi, I was independent, free and at peace. I draw on that experience often. I try to fight the fear and still enjoy peacefulness. When the Evening News overwhelms me I tend to change the channel, when horrible things happen I tend to pray for a better world. And underneath all the fear I still cling to the belief that life is good. I hope someday I will get back to beautiful Assisi. For now, I am grateful for the experiences I had and for the chance to be independent, to discern what is truly important so I can treasure all of the blessings I have in life!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Sesame Place 2011

We went on our 2nd Annual Family vacation to Sesame Place this week. It was fantastic!! I was worried it wasn't going to be as great as last year because we had LOVED it so much. I was afraid we would go back and it wouldn't have the same magic. But, it was even better! We booked the same hotel suite which was great because the location was so close to Sesame and they provide a shuttle to and from the park. And the kitchen came in handy when we needed to make dinner etc. And the Sesame Place Park was just as great as we all remembered. We were so lucky that my good friend Steph aka "Sis" gave us the tickets to the park! What a wonderful gift!!

I couldn't believe how much the boys remembered of the trip from last year. When we arrived, they knew which pools they wanted to stop at first and where the stores were and what rides they wanted to go on. The great thing about the Park is that its small enough that you can walk the whole place in about 10 minutes. It was crowded, but there was so much to do that it didn't matter. We saw the parade twice and the Elmo's World Show. They boys volunteered to be in the show and it was hysterical. It was a Dancing Theme show so they were up there break dancing and hookie-lauing with Elmo, LOL! Luccio was so into it that he could barely contain himself, he was dancing even during the parts where he was supposed to be sitting down. The lady next to us said it, "looks like someone has Happy Feet." LOL

We spent two days at the Park, the first day we kind of bopped around seeing what the kids wanted to do. They wanted to everything at once, but then they realized we had plenty of time so they settled in and relaxed. Luccio loved the pools. He stayed in the wading pool for hours. He met lots of little kids that immediately became his best friends! And Vincenzo was really into the rides this year. So he went off with Hubby to ride the big kid rides. Luccio rode a few times with them too, even The Rocket which is really a big ride! I was a wreck, but they loved it!

Miss Isabella did very well too, she is quite the vacationer, LOL! She really liked the shows and parade, she like the little sprinkler pools and she was happy to sit in her stroller sightseeing. She even rode some big kid rides! I was worried because we went a spinning ride with her and I was so dizzy, but she loved it! She was shouting, "Woo Hoo" and laughing!
And when she was tired she climbed into her stroller and took naps.

Stregga came with us again this year too! She loves the amusement parks as much as the kids. It was nice having extra help with the kids. And the kids loved getting extra spoiled! She gave them lots special attention and packed a bag of fun stuff to play with at the hotel. She took them into the gift shops and let them pick out a gift each day. And Cenzo loved going on the Flying Elmo ride with her. Stregga was scared, so Cenzo added to her fear by pressing the button to keep the ride up high the whole time, stinker!!! He thought it was hilarious!

Hubby had a blast too. A few times Stregga and I would look around for him and the boys and he would be in a line dancing and singing Elmo tunes. Yep, that's my Sweetest!

I just loved watching the kids smiling faces all day! It was the best! We will have these memories to talk about for years to come!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Elmo's World

We are counting down the days until our trip to Sesame Place this week. We had SO much fun last year, we are super excited to go back. This week it's all about Elmo. We are making Elmo crafts and getting all of our Elmo books, DVDs, t-shirts, and toys out. I have to say I am so happy to be back in the Sesame phase again. They boys went through this phase when they were around 18 months. But, grew out of it quickly. So last year when we went to Sesame Place it really re-ignited that Sesame Street love for our whole family. The boys were really happy to meet Grover and Cookie Monster and I was so excited to buy Abby Cadabby stuff for my little Princess! This year Isabella is old enough to enjoy it all with us and she really loves all of the Sesame characters, especially Cookie and Elmo. The kids really got into their crafts. We made Elmo masks and Isabella thought it would be fun to paint herself to look like Elmo too.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Monkeys & Mixology

Science has been such a fun endeavor that I ended up buying out practically the entire section of kits and experiments at the Teacher/Parent store this week. So we are growing Sea Monkeys and have become color mixing experts! Sea Monkeys start off microscopic so it was a challenge for 4 year olds to get the concept that dust like particles are actually alive and swimming. And it took some explaining for them to understand that Sea Monkeys do not have fur or eat bananas. And we will not be bringing them to the Rainforest. Luckily, the Sea Monekys are very low maintenance. You add water, sea monkeys from a packet of dried eggs and on the 5th day you feed them a teeny tiny scoop of powdered food. They eat every 2 days after that. I can handle a pet that requires to eat only every 2 days and takes up just a smidgen of space in its tiny aquarium on our kitchen counter.

Thankfully they have grown a bit so we can see them swimming now without a magnifying glass. It's very exciting!
Color mixing was very cool! Its exactly like mixing Easter egg coloring. You take a tablet of color and put it
in water and then observe the fizzing and dissolving, etc. From there we took drops of each color and mixed them in a special container with 24 different compartments. All kinds of color combos are possible. Then we tried some experiments like mixing the colors in milk and adding soap to see the different reactions. At the end you add crystallizing powder to the colors and they form gel like crystal. The boys were so impressed at all we could do with a few drops of water and some food color. They LOVED seeing new colors form and the crystals were just amazing to them!

Fairly easy activities, but it definitely took some managing. I had to make sure The Princess was asleep first. So we worked during her morning nap. She really loves all that is going on and wants to be a part of everything, but she is so little and knocks everything over and wants to taste all of the experiments, so there ends of being so much mess and crying when she gets involved with activities that are not age appropriate for her. So for Sea Monkey and Color Mixing she napped. It was nice to spend that time alone with the boys and it kept them quiet so she could rest. They like the idea that they get to "big kid" stuff sometimes. When she woke up, she was able to observe the Sea Monkeys with the magnifying glass and she did really well with it! And the boys have been great about including her in their playtime so she doesn't feel left out.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Bug Hunt

Science was such a bit hit for all 3 kids on Monday, so I decided to stick with that theme throughout the week. Tuesday morning we geared up with binoculars and magnifying glasses and took our Explorer Notebooks with us for a Bug Hunt Mission. I am by no means a nature type. So walking off into the woods is not my thing. The nearby Shrine grounds is about as woodsy as I like to get, it makes me feel comfortable to know there is a snack bar for lunch and a gift shop for when we get bored of bugs. So, with that in mind off we went on our adventure. The kids and I love to visit the Shrine.There are plenty of wooded areas and paths with trees and streams, but its small enough that I know my way around and there are always people walking and visiting. When we first got there I saw something small and furry run across the path and I nearly fainted. But, I quickly reminded myself I was about 2.5 feet from the car and could always run back if we needed to. So on we went.

The kids had so much fun chasing bugs and checking everything out with the magnifying glasses. Thank God we didn't find anything too scary. Mostly ants, a couple beetles and few gorgeous butterflies. For over an hour we just sat in one spot watching ants come in and out the little sand hills they had built. I think it may have been the first time all 3 of my children have sat anywhere together for that long without seatbelts or a TV. So it was exciting. And I have to say those darn ants are interesting. How DO they built those little tunnels? And wow they are strong! We were amazed at the size of the dead things they were able to carry, other dead ants and centipedes etc. Very exciting stuff!! We tried to observe and respect nature and the bugs we found in a gentle way. But, gentle isn't exactly Isabella or Luccio's strong suit. They were a bit overzealous with the magnifying glasses and tended to smother their subjects just a bit by completely covering them with the glass and looking at them with their little faces pressed right against the ground.

After ant watching we enjoyed a yummy lunch at the snack bar and spent another hour just throwing rocks into the stream. It was so relaxing! To relax out with 3 kids, it just doesn't usually happen. But, given some water and rocks they stayed entertained and were too busy to even fight with each other. Bliss!

Monday, June 20, 2011


This was the first official week of Summer Vacation for the kids. Preschool "graduation" ceremonies are over, no more school bus, no place to drop them off for 2-6 hours on any given day. So, it was time for some reorganizing around here and I had to come up with a really great Summer Plan to keep us all from losing our minds. Summer is our family's best time of the year. Hubby onlyworks one of his jobs in the summer which gives us a to more family time, we plan fun day trips and vacations and we enjoy eating grilled food in the backyard. I have really been looking forward to these upcoming 2 months together. Especially since this year with Luccio in full day school we got a feel for what it will be like for the boys to both be in all day Pre-K in the Fall. I feel like these are some of our last moments to spend together with a sense of carefreeness that goes along with life with young kids. Once they are in school all day, every day, things will change, time will be so limited and I know the years will rush by one after the other. So this summer I really want to slow the pace and enjoy the days together. But, at the same time I have to be realistic and know that I have 2 very energetic boys to entertain and one very busy and opinionated baby girl to keep up with.

On that note, I have decided to have what we are calling Summer Homeschool. We had good friends visit a few weeks ago and they are a homeschooling family so my kids were able to get an idea of what it means to have "school" at home. Basically we tried to convey to the kids that homeschooling means living life and taking notice of all that is around you so you can learn and reach your full potential. But, we told them that in terms 4 year olds can understand, "homeschool means we do fun stuff together and learn new things. And I will be expecting the best behavior, just like your preschool teachers." So that is our mission: to explore, to notice, to revel in wonder and hopefully learn a little something along the way. I have tried to put my teaching skills to use and put together a loose format and some lesson planning to give a bit of shape to our days. But, mostly we are going to go where the interest takes us.

On Monday morning they couldn't wait to get started. I thought we would start off with handwriting lessons and packets I made up about the colors of the rainbow. So I brought out dry erase boards and markers and we were going practice writing their names. That took about 1.5 minutes. Everyone was doodling, bored and more concerned about using the eraser. I could see their eyes glaze over and their ears shut off as I showed them the "cool" rainbow packets they could write in and color. I was told immediately by Vincenzo that Summer Homeschool is boring and then everyone else started asking when we were having snack. It was 8 am, exactly 37 minutes after breakfast, ugh.

Well... I quickly summed up that we were going to need Plan B. So my adorable booklets and worksheets went back into the Art Closet and we went with Science instead. I luckily had been to the Teacher/Parent store and bought a few Science kits that looked interesting . I also remembered we had gotten Dinosaur Eggs from a birthday party the day before. So I got a few cups of water, let each of the kids put an egg in and explain we would wait for it to hatch. They didn't care that it would take 12-48 hours for this to happen. The idea of that egg hatching kept them so excited they couldn't think of anything else. I saw how they responded so well, so I set up a plastic cart on the back porch and announced that it would be our Science Center. We put the cups with the eggs on it and it was as if I made magic happen before their eyes.

They were so overjoyed at the new Science Center! So I thought let's keep on this track. I quickly opened up the planting kit I had gotten and when they saw that small dome shaped terrarium, they went wild. Planting seeds in dirt, now that was fun! Summer Homeschool was back on! Most of the day they sat on the porch with little chairs watching the eggs and checking the dirt for signs of growth. They didn't even want to go to the park with friends, I had to actually bribe them to go. Then they hurried home to be on watch for dinosaurs. It was all they could talk about that day. How were the eggs going to hatch, did they have enough water? What would the dinosaurs look like? And all day we were all on the same page - the dinosaurs were NOT real because as Vincenzo reminded us - dinosaurs are extinct. Everyone understood that the eggs were to show you how a dinosaur egg hatched, but they are NOT actually dinosaurs. Everyone got it. Until bedtime. Then there was a moment of panic as the lights were going out that the giant dinosaurs might hatch while they were asleep and come into their room looking for them, and on and on. So we had to go through the garbage and find the box the eggs came in and see for sure that they are toys. And we read dinosaurs A-Z that assured us, dinosaurs are in fact extinct. Relief!
Nearly 24 long, excruciating hours later dinosaurs hatched!! We did a lot of celebrating and dancing around. We got out our book to identify each of the 4. Apparently we had one brontosaurus, one T-Rex, and one triceratops. And the last egg hatched the following morning containing a yellow duck. So that was a a whole new mystery to figure out.

Vincenzo claimed the T-Rex right away and has named him, Homeschoolasaurus.
We filled a bowl with water for the dinosaurs to swim, which created endless scenarios for fun times and messes.

So we survived the first week of being home together, we learned a little, we had a lot of fun, we had a few adjustments to make along the way, we had to "reprogram" behavior expectations here and there, but all in all it was great. As we got into the groove of the week it got better and better. And we even ended up with our own mascot, Homeschoolasaurs!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Don't Be A Weaner

A couple of months ago I went to a La Leche League Conference. I came home with lots of new insights, educational materials and a few fun slogans! Vincenzo latched right onto one of the sayings (pun intended!) A button I got says, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." He thought that was hilarious! He even made up a tune and turned into a jingle. So every once in a while he will chant, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." And when I least expect it he will give me his unsolicited advice and manage to work in the jingle. For example, one day I had a bad headache so I was resting on the couch. The children cannot stand it when I rest, so they do everything they can to remedy any ailments that may bring me to needing rest. "Well Mama, why does your head hurt? Are you sick?" "You know you should breastfeed because it's good for your health." And then ~ the jingle, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." Always sung in a LOUD, high pitched voice, which certainly does not help a headache.

Last week, I was going out in the evening. A MUCH needed break. I was telling my mother how excited I was to use my Mother's Day gift card for a mani/pedi and have the night off. Vincenzo overheard that and had a fit. "Ya know some moms stay with their kids all the time, every day and never go out." My reply, "Uh, yes I know that because I AM one of those moms sweetie!"
He kept going, "Well, you should stay home with us." When his logic and pleading didn't sway me, he knew he needed to take drastic action. So he went over to Isabella and said, "Well baby I guess you won't be getting your special milky tonight because Mama is going out. Sorry!"
And then the jingle, "Breastfeed, Don't be a weaner." UGH

And he is not alone in his mission to promote the "breast is best" belief. Luccio is right there with him advocating for Isabella to have the liquid gold that will make her grow strong and healthy. When Luccio heard I was going out that night, he put in his two cents. "Mama, you need to pump. She needs her milky!" Reasoning with him was useless. He is 4 and male and just unreasonable most of the time. He didn't care when I explained that Isabella would be fine and that she could drink water or even some of the organic milk in the fridge if she needed a drink while i was gone. He didn't want to hear that. He was appalled at such suggestions and said, "you should just pump!" Even though I haven't pumped in months, he knew that machine was somewhere in the house. And the next thing I knew they were both chanting the jingle.

When Isabella was born I knew all of our lives would change. A brand new baby in the family mixes up roles and lives and schedules and adds so many blessings and new dreams to the mix. But, I didn't quite foresee the path leading to my sons becoming staunch breastfeeding advocates. the first night we brought her home from the hospital, the boys (3 years old at the time) asked us when the baby was the going to eat. And could they give her a bottle? Well...I took out the book we had been reading about preparing for a new sibling and I showed them a picture of 2 moms. One giving her baby a bottle of milk and the other breastfeeding her baby. I explained some moms use bottles and some don't. Immediately they said, "We want you to use bottles." It took some adjusting in the beginning for all of us to get used to the idea of nursing.
I hadn't planned on nursing past a couple months. I certainly wasn't planning to nurse a toddler or attend La Leche meetings, no way! I didn't even know breastfeeding conferences existed at the time, but if I did I would have said I would NEVER attend one. Then I read a book called Breastfeeding Made Simple and it changed my life and mind forever. It is a wonderful resource.

I could go on and on about the benefits, challenges, pros, cons, etc. But, that is another blog post. And when Isabella is weaning I will write that post and reflect on the life giving experience it has been. For now, I will just say that for our family at this time in my life with Isabella it has been the right decision and perfect fit into our lives. And over the last 19 months her brothers have become educated supporters and advocates for the benefits of breastfeeding just by simply living life in our house. They are proud of the way she is growing, how healthy and smart she is and take great pride in the fact that I make milk. It reminds me of the other La Leche League slogan, "I make milk, what's your super power?" I love that one!

There have been funny moments, lots of questions, even slightly hurt feelings when the boys realized they were not breastfed, but received pumped milk in bottles and formula. Lots of questions and comments about that! The horror on their faces was evident and it made them all the more determined that Isabella get her "milky" for as long as she needs it. La Leche should hire these 2 to go out and campaign for them. They are convincing and even if you don't agree with them, they will try to talk you into doing what they think is right.

Or they will sing you jingles until you can't even think straight!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Dress Code

It's always fun trying to explain appropriate clothing choices to unreasonable toddlers. I have 3 little ones with very differing opinions on EVERYTHING! Luccio, 4 yrs old, could not understand why he couldn't wear mittens to school today. I tried rational explanations like: because its spring, because its going to be warm. But, bottom line is ~ they are your sisters mittens AND they looks ridiculous with your gym uniform! So in the end "because I said so" seemed like the best answer. Isabella, 18 months old, is The Most Unreasonable of our Unreasonables in the house. She has an endless supply of lovely, coordinated, beautiful dresses, skirts, pants, tutus, etc. But, lately she wants to wear~ hoodies. Not the clean, cute pink ones in her closet. No. The dirty, smelly, well worn ones that belong to her brothers. When I tell her no, she puts them on herself and shrieks and kicks and refuses to take them off. So I have decided to pick my battles and save fashion fights for high school years. In the meantime, my Darling Princess wants to pair all of her beautiful clothes with a hoodie. The other day she had on a onesie (which I usually only allow to be worn at bedtime), her pink sandals and her brother's hoodie. She honestly thought I would permit her out of the house like that. She stood at the front door demanding "OUTSIDE!" Since it was cold and rainy, I insisted on her wearing pants. We have to have some standards.

Vincnzo pretty much wears what I put out for him, his only hang up is whether its long sleeves or short sleeves. And he changes his mind so often on which is better that I have been just telling him to pick his own shirt if he doesn't approve of my choice for the day. Other than that he is fairly easy about clothing. I guess I expected him to be the fashionista, since he always notices everyone's clothes and comments on how beautiful he thinks something is and is outspoken when he disapproves of my wardrobe choice for myself.

But, it's The Bear, Luccio, that has turned into the Diva. Thankfully he wears a uniform to school so it limits his choices. But, goodness he finds things to worry about. The shirts can't be too long, he doesn't like pants that button, he wants to wear a sweatshirt, but not put the hood up because it will mess his hair. And his HAIR! Now that is a project. Every morning he wants me to give him "Rock Star Hair." This entails lots of hair gel and plenty of time for him to check in the mirror to see if I have styled him just right. And he is so picky with how much hair needs to be sticking up, etc. Today he told me he wants Sponge Bob Hair. Does Sponge Bob even have hair??

I have heard the worst years are yet to come. So I will enjoy the crazy styles my kids come up with while it's still cute. I have a feeling it won't be long before those high school days arrive and I will have to be on the lookout for clothes that are far more inappropriate than mittens in the spring and sandals in the winter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rhyming Words

Luccio came home from school very eager to share the nursery rhyme he learned. His mispronunciation of the classic words made for an interesting spin. "Baa, Baa, black sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir 3 bags full. One for my bastard, one for the lame and one for the little boy who lives down the lane." I tried explain that one bag is for the Dame and it means a woman and one is for The Master which means Boss. But, he LOUDLY corrected me with the "right words." So that was that.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter

I think it speaks volumes about our culture that many people find it easier to believe that a giant, magical bunny arrives in the night with baskets full of candy for us rather than consider the possibility that a man died trying to save the world. But, to each his own. We have tried to strike a balance with our kids. We are teaching them about the life and death of Jesus in terms toddlers can understand and also embracing the spirit of Springtime traditions like egg coloring and wearing bunny ears.

Our boys are 4, they understand that in our Faith tradition Jesus came to teach people about God's love, that some people didn't like him and that he died on a cross. There are parts of the story that get sketchy and raise LOTS of questions. Lots and lots of questions, some I have never considered before. I have tried my best to answer them and just when I think I have done my best there comes a zinger to trip me up. It always comes back to how did Jesus get to Heaven? Cenzo wants to know "did he fly or was he just zoomed up?" Luccio is happy that "now our cat Spooky will have company in Heaven."

The other night we got together a few friends and their families and celebrated a Holy Thursday prayer service for the children. I met most of the group during my college years. We met in the dorms and then became close friends through the Campus Ministry.
We have kept in touch over the years and now that we are married our spouses and children have become good friends too.
Five families gathered Thursday and we have 14 children among us!! It was a bit of organized chaos. The kids took turns washing each others feet and then shared bread and juice to remember the Last Supper.

At the end of the celebration we passed a cross around and each person said what they are thankful for. Luccio was very excited when it was his turn. He picked up the cross and said, "Look Ma, it's that guy! It's Jesus like on our cross." When it was his turn he was thankful for "rockets." Vincenzo was thankful for James (our friend's son that was part of the group.) And when it was James's turn he said he was thankful for his "brother Vincenzo." That is the way our kids think of each other, as family.When it comes down to it, at the end of the day that is the best part of it all. Good friends sharing Faith. To see the next generation of our group growing up together has been such fun!

Whether you believe in Jesus, Abba, Allah, Buddha, The Easter Bunny, someone else or nothing at all, I wish you a happy, healthy Spring!! Celebrate the new life of the season and enjoy your family and friends!!

And if the magical bunny does arrive with candy for you, Enjoy!!! I plan to eat as many chocolate bunny ears and Cadbury mini eggs as possible, especially since I have heard they are calorie free on Easter.

Believe in Miracles!!!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mama Time With Ms. Meeghan

My friend, Ms. Meeghan came for a visit recently. It was so much fun!!! I met Meeghan the year we graduated from college and joined a volunteer corp (Chi Rho) where we were roomies. We lived in a community and worked together in an elementary school. The students called us Ms. Carrie and Ms. Meeghan and it stuck. So 13 years later we still call each other by our "teacher names." There are endless funny stories from the Chi Rho days including themes like: Stolen Devil Dogs, The Blue Booty Wagon, The Mysterious Toilet Clogger, kitchens with shag carpeting that smelled like mildew, students knocking things off my desk in a violent rage, the same student later referring to me EVILLLLLL!!!!, an incident that included certain volunteer teachers being cut off by a rude driver and then certain volunteers blowing the horn and yelling out the window at the driver without realizing it was the school secretary. Yeah, stories like that. Also stories of what it's like to live with 7 strangers in a run down apartment building that looked like a haunted hotel. Our community formed with very little direction from the "director" and we made due with a grocery budget of $100 for 7 people. That always made for fun times! And somewhere in the middle of it all we foster parented a newborn that weighed 4 pounds. But, that's another story. In the end when it was all said and done we did figure out how to be a community and how to live together and put our Faith into Action. We each were baptized Roman Catholic but we had 7 different interpretations of how to live that Faith. It was interesting, at times frustrating and in the end profoundly life changing. I am grateful for my time at Chi Rho and very thankful for the gift of Ms. Meeghan's friendship.

Ms. Meeghan is unique. She is one of the most vibrant, live out loud people I know. Her favorite color is Orange and that sums her up in so many ways. Her soul is the warmest, brightest and most alive of just about anyone I have met. She has endless creative ideas and inspirations and love for God, her family and life.

Over the years as we have moved on from Chi Rho, pursued careers, found our wonderful husbands and have been blessed with our growing families, we have managed to stay in touch as often as possible despite living in different states. Phone calls, letters, emails, and now even facebook have helped us stay connected and current with the ongoings of each others lives. We also try to get together once or twice a year on our own or with our families. And thankfully we have both been blessed with husbands who not only understand how much our friendship means to us, but have also become friends over the years. They have been so supportive in helping us stay in touch and get together when possible. Even though it means a lot of coordinating with all the kids. It is always so much fun to spend time with a Kindred Spirit!

So a few weeks ago when Ms Meeghan traveled to visit us with her son I was overjoyed. Especially since her baby boy is my Godson!! He is a beautiful little guy and I loved being able to spend time with him. He is just a few weeks younger than my Princess and they are definitely Soul Mates! They were so cute together!

Hubby and my parents took turns entertaining my boys so I could have Mama Time with Ms. Meeghan. We took the Princess and my Godson with us shopping and out to lunch. And for 3 days we talked and talked and talked. In fact, we talked so much that Ms. Meeghan left with a hoarse voice. And I needed a 3 hour nap to recover from the visit!

It felt great to have time to talk about life from a faith perspective. From a Soul Perspective.
And we laughed and laughed and laughed!! And we ate. We ate so much comfort food we were sick. We blame it on the Doritos, but it may have been the Doritos combined with the Pizza, Belgium Waffles, Olive Garden bread sticks and salad, mousse cake, chicken parm, pasta, etc. And a GIANT raspberry chocolate heart that Ms. Meeghan brought as a gift and someone may have eaten without sharing with Hubby (just sayin'...)

We nourished our Souls with friendship, food and fun. It doesn't get better than that!!!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Googali aka Gentle Wolf

Isabella is very fortunate to have not one, but two older brothers! They love her, play with her, watch out for her, teach her, and nickname her. Luccio likes to call her Googali and in this photo I tend to agree she looks like a Googali.

The boys are into imagination and creating new worlds lately. One of their favorite games is pretending to be different magical animals. Luccio is usually Big Bear and Vincenzo is either Daddy Dog or Little Horse depending on his mood and whim. Vincenzo is usually in charge of all things imagination related and thinks of endless scenarios. Sometimes they will let Isabella play with them, but she is almost always "Baby" of whatever species they are playing.

So I was surprised this week when Vincenzo bestowed her the Honor of her very own animal name, Gentle Wolf. I think it fits her beautifully! She is a gentle, loving soul and once a friend told us he thought her eyes reminded him of a Wolf. Since wolves have those gorgeous blue eyes like Isabella, I have to agree.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Mommy Realm

Since entering the Mommy Realm, I have learned there are many different labels and divisions set up. I didn't realize how complicated it would be. I thought you have a child, you are a mother, therefore you have that in common with all mothers. Period. But, it's not that simple. The divisions begin the moment you announce your pregnancy to the world. The questions start and categories are assigned. First, is it a boy or a girl? And are you happy about which ever gender it is? If you are not happy would you admit it? Is it a singleton, twins or more?

Will you deliver "naturally?" This in itself is a whole other realm of categories. Natural can mean a baby will make its way into the world through a vagina. But, it also means with or without pain medications, forceps, episiotomies, other interventions, etc. Will you use a midwife, OB or Maternal Fetal Specialist, or Guru? Will your baby be born in a birthing center, hospital or at home? Degrees of motherhood are assigned depending on your answers, your pain tolerance, your pelvic size. And forget the C-Sectioners (like me) we are in a category all by ourselves. Apparently "unnatural" and surgical means direct separation from the women who "birthed" their babies.

Once the baby is out into the world and takes its first breath a new set of standards begin. Is your child a preemie? Does it need breathing help? NICU stay? Or do you have a "healthy, full termer" that goes home in 24 - 48 hours?

Will you bottle feed? If so, will you use expressed breast milk or formula? If you are nursing, do you nurse exclusively? Use bottle sometimes? Use formula to supplement?

Do you use cloth diapers? Disposable diapers? Hybrid diapers? Or a combo of all of the above?

Even sleep separates mothers. As if sleep deprivation is not hard enough. When you actually do get 5 minutes to close your eyes, it REALLY matters to the world HOW you sleep. Do you sleep in your own bed and your baby is in it's own bassinet or crib? Do you share a bed with your baby and/or other family members?

Do you hold baby for all 24 hours of the day? In a sling? In your arms? If you are not holding the baby, who or what is? Different categories are assigned based on your answers and which crowd you are with at the moment you answer. If you are with the Co-Sleepers, you are placed VERY low down on the Mommy Value List if you say your child sleeps in its own bed at an assigned time and sleeps soundly without interference from you. If you have given said child a pacifier to help them do so, your position is lowered even more. If your child sleeps through the night soon after being born, Lord help you around the other Moms, it could get nasty! If you put your child on its belly to sleep, expect gasps and watch yourself because you may be targeted by all kinds of Mommy Groups.

Once you have figured out how baby will eat and sleep and into what they will poop, next is what will you do with that baby? Will you be a stay at home mom? (Otherwise known as a SAHM.) Or will you work? If you are a SAHM, will your child be in playgroups, activities, and learning to read before age 1 or will you hang out all day while your child eats and watches TV? Can there be a combo of both? Probably, but you may not admit it in mixed company depending on which group you are with. Public Enemy Number One is the mother who lets her baby watch TV. So beware!

If you will work outside of your home, will your child be in daycare? Full time? A center?
In-home, etc? This realm is vast and the questions I can imagine are endless. Since I am a SAHM, it is not my territory and therefore I will not venture into categorizing further. But, you get the idea.

Once baby is fed, changed, and signed up for activities or daycare, the next category is: are you a young mom or old mom? The age range changes as your group does. Are you single or married? What is your socioeconomic background? How much education have you received? How about your partner? Is he educated? Does he work? What does he think about all matters? And do you care? Your placement in Mommy Categories changes based on these answers, so think it through before you speak.

Public activities call into question the achievements Baby has made for his or her age. Do they crawl? Walk? Talk? Read? Count? Feed themselves? Where do they poop?? How often?
Your mothering abilities will be judged according to your answers, again think carefully. Do you potty train or toilet teach? Seriously some people care about this in a MAJOR way!
For the first 3-4 years of Baby's life, language distinctions like this will be a big deal!!

If you have made it through all the levels of infanthood with your self-esteem still in tact-good for you!! Yeah!! But, be prepared. Toddler years will be more challenging to you and your mothering position in society. How will you discipline your Darling? Will you use time out or set up a nest for breaks? Will you use the word No or will that be too traumatic? Again be careful how you answer. This will dredge up every emotional issue from everyone's childhood that you can imagine. You will be judged and critiqued and corrected by people you know and people you don't and given silent stares by other Mommies. These stares will NOT be subtle and will convey messages that you will not miss. Its doesn't matter which answers you give, someone will always oppose them and will let you know.

What will your toddler eat? How much pesticide will be in the food and bath products you choose? Will you allow them to eat fast food (most moms will not admit to this, but check their garbages or cars and you will find evidence to the contrary) When will they be done with that bottle?? Do they know how to drink from a cup? Are you STILL Nursing? Can you nurse a toddler that has teeth? Just know that if your child is over 12 months of age, your answers to these questions can and will be held against you. Your mothering abilities will be discussed and judged accordingly. By everyone.

With that said, I wish you the best. I hope as you navigate your way through the Mommy Realm you be fortunate enough to meet Kindred Spirits as I have. I have been so very blessed by good friends and family members that I can count on for support as I figure out which categories I fit in and which values are most important to me and my growing family. I feel like I have been given a protective cocoon to grow in with a wonderful social circle. And it seems like just when I need it most a new Soul will come into my life or an old Friend will reappear and we will discover how much we have in common. I always gain so much insight from these Kindred Spirits and find so much inspiration to be the best Mama I can be no matter what categories I have chosen to fit into (or not). I always try to keep an open mind because you never know what you can learn from other Mommies. When we can look past the labels and relax enough to be ourselves and not judge what the other Mommies are doing, we can truly see that at the core kids are kids and Mommies are Mommies and all the rest just doesn't matter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sink Altar

I have created an Altar of Inspiration in my kitchen. It includes some of my favorite mementos like a card with the image of Our Lady of Lavender and a prayer card with a photo of Mother Teresa, an orange slice with a heart shape in it, a little pitcher from my trip to Assisi, Italy, a rock from Luccio, orchids from my Dad, a Bamboo shoot for good luck, and a wind chime made by Vincenzo. I have also made it my personal mission for the last week to keep the sink clean so that when I wake up in the morning and see my little altar I can start my day off right.
I first got the idea for my altar when I read the book, "Soul to Soul Parenting" by Annie Burnside. The author talks about ways to inspire spirituality in your family. She explores different ways to bring faith into daily life. One of her suggestions is to get kids involved in collecting special mementos on their travels like rocks from outdoors, receipts from trips, etc. Small tokens of things you love. I liked that idea a lot and I thought I needed something inspiring especially since the winter blahs have really gotten to me. I find it difficult to spend much time cultivating my own spirituality lately. And I feel like I have been craving inspiration to get back to that place of peacefulness. So I started with the card I found at a local gift shop. I was immedialtey drawn to the image of Our Lady of Lavender. It is unique and beautiful and I love the depiction of Mary. When I turned it over to find the artists name I found a website: I checked it out and the artist happens to be a woman who was my co-worker and Spiritual Director for many years!! Such a "God-incidence."
That inspired me to be on the lookout for more inspirational nuggets. The other day when I cut open an orange for snack and I look down, the first slice had some orange flesh still inside and it was in the shapeof a heart! God-incidence for sure!
So my Little Altar was really coming together and looking beautiful. The only problem was I had built it above my kitchen sink. A sink that is perpetually full of dirty dishes. I feel like it is always time for a meal, I barely clean up breakfast dishes and the kids are looking for snacks and then it's lunch time. So the dishes build up fast and furious and if I don't keep up with it after every meal I have a mess to deal with after the kids go to bed. If I don't get to them after bedtime, the morning is awful because waking up to dirty dishes puts me in a grumpy mood and makes everything seem like it takes longer to accomplish.

A good friend of mine understands my clutter and need to organize the chaos. She recommended a website that she found helpful so I checked it out. is a wonderful resource for people like me who have many gifts and talents but find that housework is not one of them. FlyLady suggests starting with baby steps like cleaning your kitchen sink out. She said before you go to bed at night get that sink cleaned! I took her advice and cannot even believe how wonderful it felt. I cleaned out every last dish, cup, sippy cup stopper and piece of silverware and even stored away the dish drainer. That sink sparkled! I felt great! I went to sleep feeling calm and productive. I woke up feeling even better.

When I walked into my kitchen I was shocked by what a difference the empty sink made! The beautiful Altar above it was able to be seen. I was was amazed when I finished the breakfast mess and found myself immediately putting the dishes into the dishwasher. It took me just a few minutes. This may seem like a little thing to someone who is organized and loves cleaning. But, to me it seemed so profound. I had an extra 20 minutes that morning to sit and have coffee. I saved time by having a clean sink. How is this possible?? I wanted to have that feeling every morning. So each night I have been making the effort to clean out the sink. I am finding each day its easier and easier because I have been keeping up with the dishes during the day. So at night I usually just have to wipe things down. Love it!!

Now I admit it has only been 1 week AND the sink is often the only clean and sparkly thing in the house at the end of the day. But, it's a start. And it gives me more time to clean up the table and counters. Which then gives me more time to throw a load of laundry in the washer. Simple steps.

As I plug away at taming the clutter and keeping up after 3 active toddlers, I like the fact that I can glance at my kitchen sink and find inspiration. My Little Altar holds such great reminders of how much love I have in my life. When the kids are unruly I see Mother Teresa holding a little child or Mary holding Jesus and I am reminded of what a Grace motherhood is. I see the flowers from my Dad or gifts from my boys and I am reminded of Love.

"After all what was more important in the end than Love."
Stephanie Meyer

Friday, February 11, 2011

Out of the mouths of 4 years olds...

I went to The Bear's class to volunteer yesterday during their Library time. And a few moments were quite funny, so I have to share. When I arrived, I realized there was an extra adult in the room and it quickly became apparent that she was there to observe Bear's teachers. It was a surprise observation visit - fun times!! Luckily his teacher is awesome and did a fantastic job with the lessons as usual. The kids were singing and dancing to a funny song. Then they read rhyming books related to the letter of the week. But, it's 4 year olds and anything goes.

So during the rhyming story one little boy heard the word "door" and commented that it rhymed with "floor." The teacher said, "That's right, door and floor rhyme." And a little girl raised her hand and said, "And door rhymes with WHORE!" She was very proud of her rhyming skills and beamed a smile. The teacher acknowledge her and kept right on rhyming.

The next lesson was flashcards related to the Letter M. The first card was a picture of a glass of milk. The teacher said, "Milk comes from a cow that says Moo." My sweet son who was sitting next to me looks over and says very loudly, "Ma, that's like the milk from your boobies" And he points to my chest. OMG! I don't know that every single person in the room heard him, but it felt like it. I had to acknowledge him because he was gearing up to repeat himself. So, I quietly looked over and said "you're right." Then I gave him the signal to "zip it" and pay attention.
He is learning important lessons this year like the letter M and that there is some connection between a Cow and his Mama nursing his baby sister. Maybe he is destined for a career in Agriculture or possibly Lactation Consulting?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy New Year...Finally

I haven't blogged since early December, before the holiday craze hit. So, Happy New Year to everyone!! I hope you are having a fantastic 2011 so far! Things are going well here. Holidays were great, we had so much fun at Christmas. They boys really "got it" this year and just enjoyed all the of the celebrating with family and friends. Unfortunately, from Christmas to New Year's Eve I was sick. I had the flu, ughhh. Then Isabella got sick, then Luccio and eventually Cenzo and Hubby. All of the kids had bad coughs and ear infections. It was just so much fun.

By New Year's Eve we were healthy enough to go to my friend Tammy's for a party! Yeah!!!!
It was the best!! Food, wine, music, karaoke, air hockey, nerf "shooters," something for everyone. The adults had fun talking, laughing and dancing and the kids just had a blast playing. I was actually ready to go home around 9 pm because I was exhausted, but I couldn't drag Hubby and the kids out. We ended up staying until after midnight and ringing in the New Year with 2 very awake 4 year olds. It was awesome!! We had so much fun and it was great to bring in the new year laughing!!!

Between everyone being sick and school being canceled due to snow, I have not had time to think about my New Year's Resolutions or goals. But, I think one of my goals is going to be to set some goals. We will see how that goes...