Saturday, December 8, 2012

Darth Dollhouse

Isabella was (reluctantly) sharing her dollhouse with her brothers. Cenzo and Isabella were very involved in having the dolls bake in the kitchen.  But, Darth Luccio thought it would be more fun if the dolls jumped off the roof and screamed really loud.  He was immediately reprimanded by his sister to "HUSH!" and not scare her babies. They were sleeping!  He also thought it would be great if the dolls attached a zipline from the couch and landed in the tiny kitchen, knocking over all the tiny dishes.  He was given a very stern look and a few huffs and puffs as his sister restocked the shelves.  But, the final straw came when he borrowed the nursery room's cradle and turned it into Santa's sleigh and flew it around the living room dropping out babies and the tiny presents he stole from under the dollhouse tree.  Even Cenzo could not stand for that!  Darth was asked to PLEASE go find his Bat Cave and play with that instead.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Super Hero Life

There are some days that change everything. Some for the better, some not so much. A true Super Hero like my Dad can take a day like July 31, 2011 and not only survive it, but overcome it and live to tell the tale.  In the moment I didn't know it would be significant, but I can remember that morning very clearly.  My boys were playing in their playroom and Isabella was taking a nap.  It was a quiet morning, so I sat down with a cup of coffee and turned on the tv to catch up on my week of General Hospital.  I took my first sip of coffee and thought, "life doesn't get better than this."  And then the phone rang...

It was my mother. Her voice sounded a bit frantic.  She said my Dad didn't feel good so she was calling an ambulance.

I knew something was wrong. Very wrong.  This is my Dad we were talking about.  The guy that refuses to go to a doctor unless something is extremely impeding his life, like his blood sugar is over 400 and he is nearly in a diabetic coma. The guy that drove himself to the hospital while having a heart attack. The guy that had his facial hair start on fire while working on a car and ran out to the yard and buried his face in the snow to cool it down. And then KEPT on going with car repair, singed face and all.

A trip to the ER?  No way.  An ambulance ride? Unheard of!   Oh my... what was going on?

Well, it took 2 weeks of CT scans, MRIs, bloodwork and a transfer to a larger hospital for a biopsy to finally get a diagnosis.  But, eventually it was confirmed that my Dad had Lymphoma in the Brain and Spine.  It is a central nervous system lymphoma, which we would learn later is pretty darn bad. And aggressive.  Immediately there was a decline in his hearing, vision, speech and balance.  These tumors were not messing around.

But, Lymphoma had yet to meet my Dad a.k.a Papa to his grandkids.  Papa had his 4 grandchildren Nikko, Vincenzo, Luccio and Isabella to live for.  And nothing was going to stop him from having more time to enjoy his life with them.

And so began the battle.

Papa spent most of the Fall in the hospital undergoing different chemotherapy treatments.  They would work. Then stop working.  Each time taking it's toll. He lost 70 pounds, his muscle mass diminished significantly, he lost his hair.  He was isolated in the hospital unable to have many visitors for fear of germs killing him.

All the while my Mother was by his side.  If ever there is a woman you want to care for you while sick or hospitalized it's Stregga.  She is loving, compassionate, intuitive, and fierce.  You want Stregga on your side.  She can coordinate medical treatment schedules and appointments like nobody's business and she is relentless in her effort to get the best care possible provided to those she loves.  Papa could not have found a better advocate!

By November, Papa had been in the hospital for a long time. Weeks at a time, then home, then back.  It blurs a little.  The kids and I had to stay away for almost 4 weeks because we went through a bought of bronchitis and colds.   So to stay in touch we used Skype! Love that invention.  The kids made gifts to send to Papa and we chatted via Skype daily.  We all looked forward to it and it helped Papa keep fighting to see his motivation!

During Thanksgiving week Papa took a turn for the worse.  His chemo has stopped working and had caused some major complications health wise.  There was a night that Mom and I got called to the hospital and things looked grim.  It was the first time I thought, Oh my God, he could actually die.  I guess somewhere in my mind that thought had floated around, but never seemed tangible because I refused to believe this disease would take him from us.  But, that night reality hit me. Lymphoma is Cancer. And Cancer can be deadly.

But, like he does...Papa took in the crappy situation and he regrouped.  And 3 days later he sat up and had breakfast. And then lunch. And then asked to be taken out of the ICU and back to a regular floor.  The doctors made him wait a couple of days.  But, he got out of there. He went back to a room.  He continue to come back to life. And within a week he was ready to go home.  So we went to the hospital and took home a guy that vaguely resembled my Dad.  He was thinner, whiter, had no hair, and could barely walk a short distance.  But, I knew it was my Dad because he still had his smile.  That man can smile even in the worst of times.  He always finds something to be grateful for.  He said, "Hey, cancer sucks! But, I have a good life."  He just wanted to go home to see those grandbabies.  That is all he cared about.

So we brought him home, propped him up on some pillows and celebrated Christmas early just in case he wasn't able to celebrate in a couple weeks.

Our family and friends were our rocks to cling to through this time.  People showed up with meals, cards, presents, flowers, helped take care of my parents' dogs, babysat my kids, wrote beautiful and loving letters that gave Papa hope and encouragement.  So many people visited and called and sent emails.  And most helpful of all, people prayed.  Papa was put on prayer lists across the country.  One friend even brought his picture with her on a trip to Medjigorie.

And in time...Papa started eating a little more (with LOTS of encouragement from Stregga)  and the horrid chemo effects started wearing off.  And over the winter he gained weight and got stronger.

By January, he was walking around, he had eyebrows again.  His speech was improving.  He was even  dressing up for doctor appointments and out of his pajamas. His doctors were shocked! One doctor could not hide is disbelief when he saw him.  He was truly amazed at the progress Papa had made.

Throughout the rest of the winter the docs gave him a new chemo to take at home. He improved. Things looked good. He went to a healing Mass.

He started building himself back up layer by layer.
The at home chemo treatment seemed to help. It even broke up one of the aggressive tumors!!

But, then in the Spring it stopped working.
The tumors grew and spread through the brain.  And everything looked bad, real bad.

So with grace and dignity Papa returned home from a hospital stay and dealt with that latest setback.  He declared his life good and spent his days with the people he loves.

And somehow he found the strength to try one more treatment. Radiation.
It sounded terrifying to me. Having the brain radiated. Oh my God!

Papa didn't hesitate.  He went into radiation like he faces everything else - no nonsense.
He accepted that this may not work.  He was told in very no nonsense terms that his condition was bad.
But, his faith and his inner strength did not fail him.

I don't know how he can be so brave and so at peace and so freaking strong.  But, he is.
And it payed off.  His last MRI showed the Lymphoma to be in remission!!!! Thank You God!!

His sight came back, his balance is better, his speech is better.  He does physical therapy and speech therapy to help him continue to recover.  And as long as he CAN move, he WILL.  He exercises, tries to eat healthy, continues to take care of his family and friends and be there for us just like he always has.  He is still one of the first people I call in a crisis!

I am so thankful that he continued to seek the best treatments available and was able to find strength and perseverance to get through it all.  I am thankful that he is celebrating today that he made it through this year.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  He is an amazing role model for me and for my brother and for my children.  He truly understands what is most important in life and to him that is Faith and Love.  He lives simple and dreams big! He is truly my Super Hero!! He will be blogging about his Battle on his own website:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer Camp

 To make summer break extra special my mother came up with the idea of "Stregga Camp" and the kids are taking turns getting their days at her house to do activities and go on field trips with her and Papa.  And for the Campers waiting their turn at home we have devised Camp Scalzy-Walz.  We don't have as many "counselors" as Camp Stregga (or cute orange uniforms or name badges) but we have a lot of fun with arts & crafts and science projects. The idea of Camp Scalzy-Walz is to tire out the Campers as much as possible while trying to teach them something that will prepare them for kindergarten and enjoying summer as much as possible. We stay busy playing in the backyard or playroom and sometimes venture out on trips to a local amusement park or the beach. And we always try to include time for an afternoon nap.  Some Campers protest and think they don't they need naps, but those are the first ones to fall asleep!

One of our favorite activities is the Sensory Tub.  A plastic bin that we fill with all sorts of things to play with.  Their favorite so far is water with bubbles. Can't go wrong with water and bubbles!

Another activity that everyone is really into is Growing Geodes.  We used eggshells and filled them with water and Kosher salt and let them sit. Checking on them daily to see small crystals form is surprisingly very exciting!

I love summer break! It is the best time of the year for our family.  
More time together, more time to relax, more TIME. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Tonight Isabella was carrying around her two babies.  She tries to call them her twins, but it sounds like "twits."  She was hefting them around and very dramatically told us, "My babies are so heavy.  They are killing my back."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Paper Trail

Princess Bean is very into her Arts & Crafts.  Lately, she loves using her scissors to cut up paper.  Her scissoring skills are impressive, but she leaves quite a mess in her wake!  Since she loves her crafts so much, I try to provide as much paper as we can,without completely destroying the planet. She is able to use scissors at a much younger age than her brothers were.  So we try to encourage her to continue developing her fine motors skills. But, I try to give her paper that can be recycled for other purposes.  Currently she is shredding up old fax paper rolls from her Aunt.  I have her collect her shreddings into a bag and we are using them for sensory tub activities.  The goal is at the end of the month to try using these scraps to make recycled paper.  Should be interesting...and messy.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Brain Reading

At bedtime I asked the boys to quietly read some Sleepytime Stories while I put the Tiny Tyrant to sleep.  When I came back to their room Cenzo was sitting on the bed without a book.  When I asked him why he wasn't reading he said, "I am brain reading." His explanation is this, "I can't really read yet.  But, my brain can read.  Since my eyes are so close to my head everything they see, my brain sees.  So all of these books around my room are in my head now and when I sit here quietly I can see them in my mind."

Oh, okay...continue on then.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Streggy Boy

Vincenzo is quite possessive of my Mom aka Stregga aka Streggy.  The other day I was chatting with Stregga on the phone. When I hung up Vincenzo asked what we were talking about. I told him I was going to drop Isabella off for awhile with Stregga.  He got very upset and he said, "But, I'm Streggy Boy!"   They have always had a close bond.  When the boys were born prematurely they had to spend about a month in the NICU.  So every day my mom went with me and we would stay for 8-10 hours to feed, change and hold the babies.  And after they came home from the hospital my mom stayed overnight for a couple weeks to help and then visited just about every day for the first year.

 She tried to spend equal time snuggling both babies. But, Luccio had a lot of medical issues so he had lots of doctor visits and a few surgeries that first year.  So Vincenzo spent quite a bit of time with Stregga. He would stay with her while I went to appointments or had to stay at the hospital with Luccio.  And sometimes he would stay overnight just because she missed him and wanted him to.  Luccio spent a lot of time at Stregga's too and would stayover.  She would even take them both over night and still does. But, Luccio tends to refer to himself as "Pop's Buddy," they are so silly together!  Papa was never worried to take care of Luccio even when he had stitches or his terrible respiratory issues.  Sometimes Papa would be the only one that could calm Luccio as a baby and he would spend hours sitting in the rocking chair with him. But, as Vincenzo has grown up he has claimed to be "Streggy Boy."

We are very blessed that the kids have two sets of wonderful grandparents.  Grandma and Papa always come up with "Activities" to teach and entertain during their visits and the kids get really into it!  And Grandma and Papa always remember to bring a cooler full of ice cream treats!! There is a certain joy the kids get from spending time with their grandparents.  The unconditional love and ears that don't tire of hearing their stories are priceless!!

This was a tough year for Vincenzo because my Dad was sick and that meant less time for him to be with Stregga.  Now that Papa is feeling better and summer is here, Vincenzo has big plans for Stregga!  The two of them have dreamed up Camp Stregga.  It starts next week and according to Vincenzo he is staying for 5 days.  I told him maybe he should only stay 2 nights because I would miss him, but he said I will get over it.  He has been planning for weeks and it's all he talks about lately.  He asks very day how many more days until camp. Monday I told him one more week and he was so upset, he insisted I am adding weeks to make him wait longer.

He has all kinds of activities planned for Camp.  They are going to read, build, take field trips, learn letters, paint and of course shop! Because what would Stregga Camp be without some shopping?!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012


Growing up my friend Steph and I would nickname our neighbors. One neighbor we dubbed, Bikini Lady.  She would wear her bikini in her front yard to garden, mow the lawn, play with her kids, read a book, and everything else.  Men, women and children in our neighborhood couldn't help but stare.  She had the perfect bikini body, which in the old days meant curvy.  A lot fell out of her bikini as she worked. I never actually spoke with Bikini Lady, but I often wondered what on Earth possessed that mom to go outside in her bathing suit long before and long after the weather was really appropriate for it.

Yesterday I was doing some yard work, I wore cotton shorts and a mismatched stained t-shirt.  The ensemble fit much better 50 pounds and 2 pregnancies ago.  I pitied any neighbor that might catch sight of me. Surely, it was not the pleasant view that Bikini Lady would have provided.

As I tried accomplishing my projects, I was sweating through my ratty outfit and had Isabella screaming in my face at various points.  And the annoying neighborhood kid that rides his bike in the road and through the intersection without looking was lurking around. I know I have warned that kid about bicycle safety enough times that he must have some nicknames for me.

I couldn't help thinking of another woman from the old neighborhood, one that Steph and I called Cow.  Well, Cow was an overweight, sloppy lady that often yelled at her own rambunctious kids as well as any neighborhood children that walked by her house.

For a moment I had to laugh - Karma sure is a bitch!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mud Pies ~ Extra Light With No Sugar

We have been setting up the yard for summer. The swing set is cleared off, the grill is ready for BBQing and the Mud Pie Station has been created.  Add water, mud and a few buckets and have hours of fun! Everyone is getting into the mud pie making, even our neighbor Ms. Judy. The boys saw her trying to relax in her backyard one afternoon.  Nothing entices the children more than a person trying to relax.  So of course they interrupted her peace and quiet and convinced her stop over for a mud pie.  Luckily, she is a good sport and was happy to oblige.  So they served her up a mud soup mixture.  Everyone pretty much gets the same order - mud served extra light with no sugar.                      Can't imagine where they have heard that before??

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Angel Dough

We had  a morning of unexpected enlightenment. The kids were up early as usual.  By 8 am they had watched tv, eaten breakfast, gotten dressed and were asking to do arts & crafts. So I poured a cup of coffee and tried to come up with an easy activity that would entertain the troops.  I decided to make Cloud Dough.  You mix flour and oil together and poof- instant entertainment.  It is another recipe I got from the amazing Tinkerlab blog.  It is very light and fluffy. I put it into aluminum tins and gave everyone cookie cutters and spoons to scoop with.  And they loved it!

Vincenzo said he liked how fluffy it felt and that he thought we should call it Angel Dough because it reminded him of the Angels that took our cat Spooky to Heaven. I have to admit it was a bit early for such  a revelation.  But, after my cup of coffee, I was able to process that thought and it is pretty profound.  I guess you never know what arts & crafts will lead too.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Water Wall

I follow a great artistic mom blog called Tinkerlab.  Today I read a post on there about creating a Water Wall for young kids.  It is a wonderful sensory activity and looked so cool! So I talked Hubby into building one in the backyard for the kids.  He agreed of course, but sort of implied he would put it on his list of things to eventually do.  But, I thought it would be really great if he could just do it today. And so he did.

The kids LOVED it and it will be a perfect activity to keep them busy on this humid Memorial Day weekend!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

So Lucky

The other day I had one of those moments where the world seems to stop for just a few seconds and everything comes into sharper focus.  I was at a Bounce House place with my daughter and I started chatting with a mom that was standing next to me.  Her older son was Isabella's age (2) and she had a sleeping 6 month old baby boy in a sling.  I remember noticing the baby and thinking, oh those snuggly newborn days are so nice.  The Mom and I were watching our little ones playing together and making small talk about their ages and antics, etc.

The atmosphere was pretty busy, loud music playing, kids running and jumping everywhere and lots of brights colors and fluorescent lights.  I was half listening and half watching Isabella and not really giving the moment too much brain power.  The other Mom was pointing out how cute Isabella's outfit was and how her curly hair was so beautiful and how amazing her crystal blue eyes are.  I am sort of used to people commenting on Isabella's eyes and of course when Moms meet we tend to compliment each others cute little kids.  So I didn't put much stock in it.  Just polite conversation. She commented on Isabella's painted toes and earrings and how much fun it must be to dress her up.  

She asked if I had any other children and I told her I had twin boys.  I didn't wait for a response because I figured she would say the same things I always hear such as how nutty my life is and how I must be very busy with twin boys, etc.

But, it caught my attention when she looked right at me and she said, "You are so lucky."

 I felt like a fog cleared and I snapped to attention.  There was something in the way she said it that made my ears sharpen up and my eyes focus.  I looked at the Mom and her beautiful sleeping baby boy.  I knew in the way she said it that she meant I was so lucky to have Isabella. A girl. A daughter.  She meant it could have gone either way and I could have had a third boy.

I noticed in that moment how tired she looked, the dazed exhaustion of those early months where you would give an arm or leg if meant a few extra hours of sleep.  You are up all night and day until it blends together and you feel like you are a shell of your former self.

I felt a moment of profound clarity that so rarely happens in my day to day scrambling.  I looked at my beautiful baby Princess.  Her shining face, her perfect skin and gorgeous smile.  She was laughing and playing and so alive.  I have always wanted a daughter.  I started carrying around baby dolls as soon as I could walk.  I babysat every baby in my family and neighborhood for years.  I dreamed of what my baby girl would like and what I would name her.  I even bought dresses and trinkets to save for someday when I had by little girl.  And when I found out I was carrying twins I would be lying if I didn't say I thought one would be a girl.  I was convinced of it.   Because I felt like I was meant to have a daughter.  When they were 2 boys I was shocked! But, I liked the idea of twins being the same gender and quickly adjusted and planned etc. And I love my boys so much!

But, a couple years later when I was pregnant again I was hoping with my whole heart for a little girl.  And when I saw her on that first ultrasound I breathed a sigh of relief and prayed a prayer of Thanks.  I reveled in the idea of my Daughter.  And I enjoy life with her so much!  She is everything I could have dreamed and more.  And I know I am lucky.  Even if it takes a stranger to remind me.

However, now that my kids are older and I have a bit more sleep than the Mom I was chatting with, I am also able to see a much clearer perspective than she had at that moment.  Being a MOTHER OF BOYS is total awesomeness! They are so loving and kind and gentle and crazy and funny and full of life giving energy. They are creative and smart and curious and daring and they love unconditionally.  They are wild!  My boys are my miracles.  They made it through pre-term delivery, low birth weights and health issues.  They have grown and matured into amazing little guys. I cannot imagine my life without them.  I remember what that life was like. I remember being in the darkest days of a battle with infertility and thinking I could not live life without being a Mother.

It was only a few beats of the heart and ticks of the clock that all of this whirled through my mind.  After that pause in conversation I looked at the other Mom  and I thanked her.  I told her I thought she was so lucky too.  I assured her that she is going to have a full and amazing life with her boys, surrounded by energy and love.  And she is going to enjoy it beyond imagination.

And then I was off chasing Isabella to the next bouncing activity and the world went back to spinning as fast and furious as ever.

This Mother's Day weekend I am Thankful for my babies and for all that they have brought to my life. I am thankful for my Mother.  She is my best friend, my biggest supporter and the most compassionate person I know.  I am thankful for my Mother in Law, she raised 3 wonderful sons and enjoyed it. I am married to her youngest.  The third boy.  What a blessing he is!

Also, I wish the best to all the Moms out there that they enjoy their babies and hopefully get to sleep in tomorrow!  For those who want to be Moms someday I pray a special prayer for you.  And for all those Mothers that have lost babies, may their hearts find Peace and know their Angels watch over them.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Good Boy

We have had some major overhauls in relationships in our household this past month.  Usually Luccio and Isabella are the best of friends and Cenzo is not terribly bothered.  But, things are changing and Isabella is now in a position of major power with her two big brothers vying to be the BEST brother of all.

From the very start Luccio was very attentive to Isabella, holding her, helping with anything I needed him to do for her and playing with her.  As she has grown their relationship has really developed into a beautiful sibling bond.  He looks out for her, she takes care of him.  She refers to him as her "baby" and often tells me at the end of the day she needs to get her "baby boy" from school.  They snuggle on the couch, share toys and make sure each other is included in activities or meals.  When Isabella finds herself in trouble or anyone dares to tell her no, she runs straight to Luccio and tells him.  And he stomps off to handle the situation for her.   God help you if you have wronged his sister.  He is a Bear on a mission to defend her.  And I have been on the receiving end of his lectures when I have dared to cross her.  I have been told more than once she "is just a baby!"

Cenzo usually has a very different role.  He is the Alpha Male of our little pack.  He is 2 minutes older, but has no doubt  taken on the role of First Born.  He and Luccio have formed a great alliance and are best friends.  It works as long as each knows his place.  Luccio doesn't challenge for Top Dog, so all is ok.  As far as Isabella has been concerned, she understands that Cenzo is older and has an authoritative position.  She steps around him carefully and admires and respects him.  But, she knows how to play the game.  She won't step down during confrontation, she knows he will always give in to her because she is the baby.  So she carefully weighs the odds and counts on playing the baby card to get her way.  It works almost every time. And when it doesn't she yells at him and scares the crap out of him!

Cenzo was excited when she was born, he loves babies and was thrilled to have one in the house.  He is great about caring for her.  He fills her milk cup, gets her snacks, and looks out for her.  He is very loving and protective.  But, he has more of a boundary than Luccio.   Luccio doesn't really require personal space so he doesn't think that other people may need it.  He loves to sit on laps or be held or hugged or carried.  So he loves when Isabella wants to be snuggled or brush his hair or treat him like a little baby doll.  But, Cenzo is more aloof.  And Isabella knows it.

He is always polite to her and loving, but doesn't usually seek her out as an equal.  Lately it's changing. He is noticing Luccio and Isabella spend a lot more time together.  They play and talk and laugh together.  And sometimes that mean Cenzo gets left out.  He is used to orchestrating playtime and making the decisions and having Luccio go along with it.  Now that Isabella is holding Luccio's attention and able to play as an equal things are shifting.

It was most noticeable in the last couple of weeks.  The boys were home for school vacation and Cenzo commented quite a bit that he felt "left out, "lonely" and that he thinks Isabella doesn't like him.
I reminded him that sometimes he doesn't include her in playtime with Luccio so she is learning from that example. I suggested maybe he can make an effort to invite her to play and include her in conversations more.

Well, he took that to heart.  He even moved his carseat so he could sit in the 2nd row next to her instead of in the back with Luccio.  Isabella was thrilled! It was as if she has moved up a bit in the Hierarchy.  He has gone all out to try to get her affection and attention.  He tries to read to her and play games she will like.  He compliments her and tells her how pretty her outfits are and how great her hair looks.
He offers to hold her hand when walking places just like Luccio does.  And he has been offering to tuck her in at night.  Usually she tucks the boys in, so this is a funny switch.  She is loving all the extra attention and I think she realizes she has some power in this.  I have read before that sibling relationships can affect the relationships you have later in life and it is interesting to see this happening first hand.  I have a younger brother and I am sure we had similar changes over the years but I don't really remember it.

For the most part, Luccio is being a great sport about all of the changes.  At first I don't think he noticed much.  Then he started to become more aware of the fact that Cenzo moving his seat meant more talking and laughing between his siblings and now he was the one sitting alone.  But, he hasn't complained.

Luccio has had a bond with Isabella from day.  It wasn't forced and developed naturally.  So we didn't have to adjust to it.  Luccio just gave his baby sister loving attention, she gave it back.  But, with Cenzo it's more of a process and Cenzo is still figuring it out.  He wants to have Isabella love him like she loves Luccio.  He wants to be her favorite.  I try explain to him that you get love by being loving.  And that people can love more than one person at a time.  That he doesn't have to be "better than Luccio" to be loved. But, he is competitive by nature.  He thinks that there can only be One favorite.  Isabella is only 2, so she doesn't get that either. So when Cenzo tells her he loves her, she says "I love you too."  Then Luccio will say I love you too Isabella.  And she says, "no I love Cenzo."  Before she was always saying how much she loved Luccio.  So this broke his heart.  I tried to reassure him and explain that she is just learning what these words mean and that of course she still loves him no matter what.

She is often referring to Luccio as "Good Boy."  Which then leaves Cenzo sometimes being referred to as "Bad Boy." I always remind them all that there are NO bad boys or people, just sometimes people make bad choices.  Now that the tide has turned and Cenzo is working so hard for Isabella's approval it is very important to him to be "Good Boy."  And she has blessed him with the honor of being "Good Boy" a few times this week.  Cenzo cannot just accept that, he wants Luccio to then be "Bad Boy."  Cenzo had felt left out of their bond and knows that Luccio has always earned the high honor of Good Boy, so now he figures he should be Bad Boy. He will ask Isabella, "I'm Good Boy right?"  And she says, "yes, Cenno you Good Boy."  Then he says, "Luccio is Bad Boy, right?"   But, Luccio does not like that change.  I do not like that either.  Luccio never worried about that before. As long as he feels loved he never needs someone else to be loved less or not at all.   Just as a side note: She never says Luccio is Bad Boy. It infuriates Cenzo to no end.

As part of winning her love, Cenzo has been telling Isabella he is going to buy her things.  Every time she does or says something nice to him, he tells her is going to buy her a Barbie car to drive!  At first I thought he was doing that so he could somehow win the competition.  But, when I talked to him about it I realized he truly wants to buy things for her because he wants her to know he loves her.  It's crazy to me that he has learned this at a young age that you can show love with material objects. I told him it would mean more to her if he reads to her or wraps her in a blanket and takes care of her.  I pointed out that no one else in the family buys things to show love, we just try our best to be nice to one another.

He seemed to get that point and started to think of things that people have done that are loving, but don't include shopping.

I told them that they are twins. They are brothers, they are BOTH good boys.  But, it feels like I am speaking to the air sometimes because no one is listening lately.  They are trying to convince Isabella that they are the best, they are Good Boy.

I am sure things will return to normal.  We will go back to Cenzo and Luccio being best pals.  Luccio and Isabella being each others babies.  And Cenzo and Isabella being siblings that love each other.  Hopefully they will all be closer and communicate more.

 But, I will not miss these days of competing for Isabella.  I don't like the set up of one being better than the other.  And I know that Cenzo has to feel validated and triumphant in his quest to be loved by Isabella before this competition can truly end.  I just hope he can see that he can be her best friend without having to overthrow Luccio.

They have a lot to learn about love and sibling bonds and loving relationships.  This is just the beginning of a lifetime challenge.  I just pray they can all find love by supporting one another along the way.

Ah, siblings.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Metal Man

Over the weekend I had to have "the talk" with my kids. Not the birds and the bees.  More like the  one about a magic bunny, eggs, a hammer, nails, Roman Soldiers and a man named, Jesus.  THAT talk.  Quite the challenge to explain Easter from the Catholic perspective to 5 and 2 year olds.  They knew more than I thought and understood more than some adults I know.  Their unique perspectives gave me lots to think about!

This wasn't our first talk about God, Jesus and all things sacred.  I used to be a Campus Minister so it is a topic I like and believe in very much. We incorporate our beliefs into our everyday activities.  But, we had a refresher talk as we drove to our Church on the way to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.  Our church has a beautiful outdoor Grotto modeled after Lourdes. It is a peaceful place to visit and perfect to walk the Stations in the wooded area near the Grotto.  Several hundred people showed up throughout the day to walk the course.

My conversation with the kids went something like this. First, I reminded them that it was Good Friday and asked if they knew what that meant.  They said yes, they knew it was the day Jesus died.  So we were off to a good start.  I went over how Jesus lived a long, long time ago and loved God so much.  He was God's son and came down from Heaven to teach people on Earth about how much God loves us.  He was a great teacher.

Cenzo wanted to know if people thought Jesus was weird?  In a nutshell yes.  Some people thought so.

"Is that why they arrested him? Because they thought he was weird and they didn't like it?" asked Luccio

I tried to explain that sometimes it is hard to hear messages like the ones Jesus taught about.  Some people did not want to hear that their choices were not good.  And they wanted Jesus to stop trying to get them to change their lives and live better.

We went on to talk about how after he was arrested Jesus had to carry his cross a long, long way to the spot where he was going to die.

Ugh, I DO NOT like having to get around to that part.  But, the boys knew it was coming.
They had some great questions like was the Cross heavy? Did he have to walk up the hills? Did he get to eat or drink? Was he tired? What about his friend Simon the helped him?

I was surprised they remembered Simon, I guess they pay more attention to what I say than I thought, LOL!

As we drove Luccio noticed mountains in the distance and wanted to know if that was like the mountains Jesus had to walk up with his Cross.

I have to be honest I wasn't sure if Jesus walked up mountains with the cross. I remember seeing the Mel Gibson movie and I am pretty sure it was a hilly walk. So I embellished a bit and went with it.  "Yes, those are like the mountains, good connection."

When we started talking about how the soldiers used a hammer to nail Jesus to the Cross the questions got even more interesting.

Cenzo wanted to know where the nails got put and how long it took to nail them in.
Then he asked, "so when the nails went into his hands that is when he turned to metal?"

Uh, um.  I don't remember that part of that story Sweetie.  Huh??

Luccio clarified.  "Mama he means is that when they hung him on our Church?"


I clarified that he died on the cross first and then rose from the dead and THEN people remember him by making metal crosses.  But, Jesus did NOT become metal.

"So he came back to life?" asked Cenzo.  "So he is like a Super Hero?"

I tried to explain that Jesus was 100% from God so he has Divine Power.  So he is even stronger than a Super Hero.

That opened a barrage of new thoughts. "How did he get out of the cemetery?"  "Was he like a ghost or did he still have skin?"  "Why didn't they just put Jesus in jail?"

Good question.  Then I had to explain a bit about old fashion justice systems and how it wasn't just Jesus that was hanged on crosses. I put in a small bit about the other criminals that died with him that day and reminded them we would hear the words one said in a song "Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Luccio wanted to know what happened to the other criminal. Another good question little Bear, not sure though.

Finally I wrapped it up by saying that God's love is stronger than death. And that we would remember Jesus and his walk with the Cross as walked through the Stations.

Cenzo commented, "it's a weird story Mama. Is it true?"

Well, in our family we believe that it is true and in our Church family of Catholics we believe it is true.  But, not all people believe it.  That is what Faith is.  Believing even when everyone else doesn't.

Isabella said, "I love Jesus."

Then Cenzo suggested maybe when he is older he will make robots that can teach about God like Jesus did.  They can say "I am a robot. I believe in God. I love God."

I wasn't sure what to make of that.  If I analyzed it from my adult perspective I would say Cenzo took away the thought that people who believe are like robots.  But, he explained it in a way that made me think he meant that this would really help get the message out to as many people as possible that God is loving. He liked the idea of his robots helping Jesus.

Luccio had one last question, he asked me "is that why the Easter Bunny brings the eggs? Because Jesus was dying?"

Oh goodness, I have no idea how that ridiculous Bunny got involved with the Holiest of days.  But, I tried to tie it in by saying that Jesus came back to life and eggs are a symbol of new life so we use them to remember the Resurrection.  And the Bunny likes eggs so he helps Jesus deliver them.

My brain was EXHAUSTED! I had to stop for a Dunkin Donuts coffee and regroup my mind before we ventured on our walk through the Stations.

The weather was perfect and we met up with my mom, aunts and cousins.  It was a wonderful way to spend Good Friday morning.  And it gave me lots to think about for my own faith reflection and for future conversations with the little ones.

At the Station where Jesus is hanging on the Cross there is a steep set of stairs to walk up to stand at the foot of a very large Cross. At that point Luccio stood waiting to see "how are we going to get into the sky to watch Jesus rise from being dead?"

He truly thought we were going to somehow be beamed up to the sky.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Death Watch - Battle Wracker Girl and Froggy Boy

I was inspired by the boys' classroom fish tanks yesterday.  They love their class fish so much and every afternoon when I go to pick them up Isabella goes over to say hello to them. So I thought I would surprise the kids and take them to the pet store to pick out their own fish.  They were so excited! I realized they haven't had much opportunity to be in a pet store before so it was quite the trip! They oohed and ached over the fish, reptiles and birds. And wondered why there were no cats or dogs to buy. And we steered clear of the rodent aisle.  I let them know ahead of time that we were only buying a fish.  No other animals. At all. Especially not birds, reptiles or rats, ugh!  They loved the idea and took great care deciding on fish together. We looked at EVERY SINGLE tank full first. And then with the help of a Staff Member they finally decided on the Betta fish. We got one male and one female.  Apparently they have to be housed seperately so we got a small tank with a divider.  We receive a little fish owner lesson from the sales person.  She gave the kids great info about Bettas and how to care for them and told them what a responsibility they had to feed and love their new pets.  The boys proudly carried the little Betta Bowls to the register and Isabella carried the net.

On the way home there was major discussions happening about what to name these new pets.  Cenzo got to name the female because he picker her out.  And so he crowned her Battle Wracker Girl.  I asked if that was Battle Wrecker, but NO. It's Wracker.  Ok. 

 Luccio decided to name his fish Froggy Boy.  Of course.  That makes perfect sense.

We were barely through the front door and they already had the little aquarium set up.  We put small rocks and a plastic plant on each side of the divider.  And then we had to add the fish. Not as easy as it sounds if you are afraid of fish.  I was wishing at that point that Hubby was home.  But, I put on my brave face and scooped the little fish into the net and dumped them into their new homes.  And I only screamed a little bit.  

After that we overfed them and then sat and watched them swim for almost an hour.  Every time the phone rang Cenzo invited the person over to "visit our aquarium."  He invited my parents, my Aunt and even Ms. Meeghan who lives about 6 hours away.  

When it was time to have dinner and start getting ready for bed everyone said goodnight to the fish and wished them happiness in their new homes.

And then Cenzo said, "so when are they going to die?" 

"Um.  Well.  The point of caring for a pet is to hope that they DON'T die."

"Oh.  But, they always die don't they?"  

I ended up making up a life span for Betta fish. I told Cenzo they probably live for a year. I had no idea how long they live. 

 I know I had one in college that lived 2 semesters.  He even lived through my wacky roommate leaving the window open in the middle of the winter when she left for the weekend and freezing him. When I got back I put him in warm water and he came back to life.  Big Poppa was resilient.

I looked it up online and found out they can live 2-3 years! Yeah!  

That was actually my fear in buying a fish for the kids was that the darn thing would die and we would have to eventually have that conversation.  I didn't think we would say "welcome home" and then sit and wait for them to die! 

First thing this morning Cenzo mentioned to his teacher about our new fish.  When he walked away I told the teacher about the Death Watch.  She laughed and said it was because the fish in Luccio's class tank keep dying!  ughh  That explained it.  

I think it's nice that they want to talk to and feed their fish.  And it is relaxing to watch them swim.  I wish Battle Wracker Girl and Froggy Boy a long life. "May the odds be ever in their favor."

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Baby Jammies

Isabella has made a lot of steps towards being a Big Kid in the past few months: giving up her bottle and binky, sleeping in her big bed, dressing herself, talking more, etc.  But, every once in awhile her need to feel like "the baby" of family surfaces.  On Tuesdays we go to a playgroup and every time Baby Jackson has his bottle Isabella brings her cup over to me and sits on my lap so she can be a baby too.  And the other night at bedtime she was changing into a new pair of jammies that are very soft and snuggling feeling and she asked, "are these my baby jammies?"  They must have reminder her of a newborn sleeper.  So I went with it, I love when the kids will let me wrap them in blankies and hold them like newborns.  So I encouraged the Baby Jammie idea and wrapped her up and carried around the house.  Well, she liked that so much that she wanted to wear her Baby Jammies at nap the following day and again the next night!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Newman ~ The Next Generation

During my college years I was blessed with wonderful friendships that were made strong through the  opportunities provided by the Newman Center~home of our Catholic Campus Ministry.  Those friendships have lasted through the past 18 years.  And as our families have grown so have our friendships.

Father Bob, aka FB, aka Bobert is the Patriarch of our Newman Family.  I have admitted on more than one occasion that I was reluctant to go to the Newman Center the first time.  My mother saw a flyer for the "Newman Dinners" posted during my first week on campus.  She had met FB at a parents orientation session and convinced me that I MUST go to the dinner to meet new people. UGH! I was shy, I was new to the campus environment and would have rather stayed in my dorm than hang out with a bunch of strangers, and religious ones no less.  My mom reminded me that I enjoyed outings and retreats with my high school youth group and that this would be a good way to get to know people on campus. AND dinner was free and home-cooked.  After a few days of eating the cafeteria there was no doubt left in my mind- I would go to that dinner.  I couldn't convince any of my new friends or even my wacky roomie to go with me. So I ventured alone over to the Newman Center.  It was a 3 family house converted into a community center.  The staff provided free food and free laundry services.  The washer and dryer ran all day and night. And usually the dinners were packed with a couple hundred students.

However, that first night I stopped by the Newman Center was empty.  Except for an alumni couple that were hanging out in the house.  Apparently the dinner was canceled but I didn't realize it.  I tired to make a quick getaway before anyone noticed me, but the couple saw me. I learned their names were Cathy and Greg and they had gone to the college and were a part of the Newman Community.  They were so friendly and as we chatted, FB appeared.  I wasn't quite prepared for FB.  He had shaggy black hair and a white beard, and he is a Franciscan Friar so he wore a black robe.  I had never seen a priest dressed like him before.  Even when he changed into his "regular priest clothes" he still looked a bit more casual than the prissy priests I was used to seeing at Church.  And FB had an energy about him.  If you have ever met a Charismatic spiritual leader you know what I am talking about.  FB is a force of nature.  He has a vision that God alone could have created.  He is holy and wonderful and can inspire people like no one I have ever known before him.  He has his mind on Jesus always. He is good and kind and lives his life as a true testament of faith and an example of St. Francis.  Of course, it took me years to learn that. At 18 I wasn't sure what was up.  I just knew FB was friendly and funny and he felt so bad that the dinner was canceled that he and Cathy and Greg insisted on taking me to the dinner for food.

I didn't know that simply walking across the street to the Newman Center and accepting an invitation to a local diner would change my life forever.  I don't believe it was coincidence that I walked into that house.  It was by mothers prompting and Divine Intervention.  It was a God-incident.

That day began a life I hadn't expected.  I still stayed friends with my "dorm friends" and some of them started coming to the Newman Center too. To be perfectly honest, my friend Tammy had to work REALLY hard to get me to go the Newman Center for anything other than free food or laundry. It took a lot of persuading for me to try a Newman Club meeting.  A prayer group sounded boring and was the last thing I was interested in. Little did I know that group of people would be some of the funniest and most loving friends I could ever ask for!

Over the 4 years I spent at college I went to countless Newman Dinners, retreats 2 or 3 times a year, took many MANY road trips and adventures with my Newman friends, laughed, cried and prayed with the friends that would become my Newman Family.

My Newman years changed the direction of my life.  When I started freshman year I was an English major with the goal of writing for a newspaper or maybe having a novel published.  However, by the time I had graduated my eyes were opened to new and awesome possibilities and the vision I had was through faith-filled eyes.  After graduation I worked for a year with a volunteer corp as a teacher.

Then I returned to the Newman Center, where I would spend the next 8 years being an Associate Campus Minister. FB would move on to a new assignment and I stayed behind at Newman though a succession of priests and staff.  My mother came on board as office manger and took over as the Newman Dinner Coordinator and Chef.  Through community outreach and service and prayer we met so many students one rate years. SO many wonderful people that left an imprint on my heart in their own way.  I treasure those years.  

As with all things in life sometimes you must move on and part ways.  Eventually it was time for the Newman Center to go in a new direction. At one point yet another new priest came on board.  Each leader has their own vision and brings along something to their ministry.  And so it happens that sometimes anothers vision does not align up with your own.  I knew I had to stay true to the faith I had within myself and so it was time for me to move to a new chapter.  So I began to focus my time and energy on my marriage and we began our family together.

 Hubby and I have been blessed with 3 beautiful children, supportive and loving families, and blessings of the Newman friendships that have stayed strong through the years.  After college we all went on to different adventures and experiences.  Yet, we will still reach out to one another and get together as often as possible.  We have celebrated weddings, babies, christenings, birthdays, and mourned losses.  We still laugh together.  Nothing is funnier than begin with an old friend who "gets it."

There are LOTS of babies in our Newman Family now.  It gets hectic! But, we still manage a couple times a year to get together and somehow incorporate prayer.  One of our families recently hosted a St. Patrick's Day Rosary.  Three of our families congregated for pizza and prayers.  Between us we had 10 children age 6 and under.  There was quite a lot of energy to go around! It was so great to see our children play together.  They are really starting to become friends.  Even the youngest little ones were interacting.

Good friends are priceless! SO thankful for the friends I have and for the opportunities for our children to have those wonderful moments together too.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Squirrel~A~Nator 2000

Cenzo made one of his Creations for Papa's Birthday! According to Cenzo, The Squirrel~A~Nator 2000 is a Medicine Machine and Squirrel Communicator.  It can heal Papa and help him talk to squirrels.  He can also use it as a telescope to see the squirrels.  It helps squirrels find nuts and water.  And it can chase away bad guys and turn into an airplane.  He summed it up by telling us, "it is basically everything Papa could wish for."

Friday, March 2, 2012

Rocket 39,000

Cenzo and Luccio awarded Isabella the Rocket 39, 000 for peeing on the potty!! It is quite the creation they have designed using a Crayon Bank and a soda bottle and LOTS of duct tape.  They have been working on it for the past 2 days and are very proud of it.  This morning when they heard Isabella was going to try sitting on the potty they were very encouraging. And when much to everyone's surprise she actually peed into the toilet there was a lot of hoopla and excitement.  And then as if reading each other's minds those amazing twin boys came running into the bathroom to present the prestigious Rocket Award. To say Isabella was thrilled to have her brothers attention and admiration would be a major understatement.  She pranced out of the bathroom like she was Queen of the World! She carried her new Rocket into her room and set it up right next to her bed.  Such a fabulous moment!

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Isabella's Speech Therapist has told me she is "Mamacentric."  Most of her language revolves around me and just about every sentence includes "Mama."  Her language is really starting to develop and she has all sorts of "isms" that is she known for. One of my favorites is:  "I miss you all day Mama."  This is the most often heard phrase she uses, she "misses" me when I go into the kitchen, or have to use the bathroom, or have been sitting too quietly for too long without interacting with her.  She misses me whether I am 2 feet away from her or have been away for hours.  She says it in a sing-sing-y voice that is just precious! And hilarious, especially when more likely than not, I have been home with her all day, every day. Love that girl!

Her other well known phrases include:

"I slept all night Mama" - this can be misleading because she says this even when she has not slept ALL night.  She will say it if she has slept 12 hours in her own bed, or slept some of the night but woke up and slept in my bed for the rest of the time, or if she has taken a nap for a an hour.  Basically falling asleep counts as having slept all night to her.

"Love you ever Mama" - nothing cuter than hearing that little doll tell me she loves me forever!

"I pee on the potty Mama"- um, no you didn't. You peed in your diaper, or on the floor, but you did not pee on the potty. But, nice try.

"I go with you Mama?" - yes. You will go with me. Because you go everywhere with me. Every day. Yet, you still feel the need to ask. Even when we are already in the car driving.

And the newest and most emphatic "I do it myself Mama!" or the variation, "Let me do it Mama!" these expressions are usually followed with a GROWL!  I love that she wants to do everything herself from getting dressed to buckling her seatbelt.  She is starting at a much younger age than her brothers with such independence. And I couldn't be happier to see her trying everything for herself.  Even if it takes me MUCH longer to get EVERYWHERE.  But, there is something magical about watching a child become their own independent person.  This morning when she dressed herself from head to toe including her hair bow and shoes her brothers were cheering like she had won a Super Bowl, they were so proud of her. And she was proud of herself.  So worth the extra few minutes it took.

I love that Isabella can have "conversations" now and get her point across without as much frustration. She has such great ideas and so much knowledge and sometime she is just so funny!

And while there are some days I want to change my name because I have heard "Mama" too many times for a human to count, I have to admit I love being the center of this precious person's world.  Motherhood can be exhausting and zap every last ounce of my energy.  But, at the end of the day when I hear that sweet little voice whisper, "You my best friend Mama" that is my reward.  Every last bit of stress and sleep deprivation melts and I think - this is what my Life is for.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Me, Crazy Cousin and Nonni
The kids had fun spending time with my parents this weekend. It brought back memories of my own grandparents. Until I was 8 or 9 years old I spent just about every Friday night sleeping over my Gram and Poppy's (my Dad's parents.)  My Mom would drop me off to my Gram at work on Friday afternoons.  Gram worked as a secretary for the Board of Ed and she was so proud to show me off to her co-workers and friends! Then we would go home and see Poppy.

We had our weekend routine. On Friday night Gram would go to Bingo and Poppy and I would go grocery shopping. I loved getting to help fill the cart and he always let me pick out whatever junk foods I wanted.  Then we would go to McDonalds and get Happy Meals and head home to watch The Dukes of Hazzard.  I know for sure there were shows Poppy would rather have watched.  Probably anything else.  But, he knew I loved Bo and Luke Duke and the General Lee so every Friday night we watch "our show."  When Gram got home from Bingo we would have ice cream.  It was a late night treat. They always had ice cream, always. It was the Breyers chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry combo.  So you could pick 1, 2 or 3 flavors and then Gram would let me pour as much chocolate syrup and whip cream as I wanted.  I stayed up until I was tired and slept as late as I wanted in the morning.  Then Poppy would make me french toast for breakfast and I spent most of the day in jammies watching tv.  Gram got a cable box way sooner than my parents or friends. So she had tons of channels to choose from, I loved it!

More often than not I would end staying over on Saturday nights.  And when my brother was old enough he would usually come over on Saturdays too. In the afternoon Poppy and I would go church.  I remember kneeling in the pews of that old cathedral and thinking how much I loved spending time with him.  I knew it was special. I can still smell his Old Spice aftershave that he wore just for church.  I remember being 6 years old and watching Poppy receive the Eucharist and I was determined to have that for myself.  I was so proud the first Saturday after my First Communion when I could finally get the Eucharist with Poppy!

On Saturday nights we played games.  Gram taught us to play pinnacle and poker and Go Fish.  She would bring out all of her nickels that she kept in a big jar and we could use the money to make bets.  Looking back now I can't help but laugh at that!!  They had a  snack cabinet filled with all "sugar cereals" that my brother loved. Gram would let him fill a salad bowl with cereal and pour as much milk as he wanted.  He would eat coco puffs and fruity pebbles and frosted flakes all mixed together.  It was all the cereals my mom never bought so the weekend at Gram's was extra special! She also kept a large supply of Fig Newtons and packs of gum.  My mom couldn't stand gum chewing or chomping as she always said.  But, Gram didn't mind. And she didn't get mad when I would get it stuck in my very long hair.  One time she spent a good part of the afternoon combing gum out of my hair and using peanut butter to try to salvage as many strands as possible so my hair wouldn't have be cut off. She was a determined lady for sure!

When we got older my brother and I still stayed over pretty often.  My bother stayed especially close with Gram in his teens and 20's.  During high school he and his friends would skip out of school and head to Gram's for lunch.  We aren't sure if she realized they had left school without permission or if she bought the idea that the school let them out early.  But, she was a smart lady and I have to believe she knew the truth and didn't admit to it because then she would have to make them go back to school.  There was nothing Gram loved better than feeding people, so breaking the rules or not she was feeding those teenagers!

Most Sundays we went to Gram and Poppy's for dinner.  Usually my brother and I were already there anyway so my parents would come over at dinner time and hang out too.  Dinner always included pasta which was and is still my favorite.  And always a meat. Gram was a carnivore for sure.  She and my brother shared a love for steak!  And she always reminded us not to fill up too much because we had to save room for dessert. Gram loved desserts, Poppy did too.  I don't know how she stayed so thin, but she loved her desserts. I take after her in my love for sweets, just wish I had her petite figure too!  One of Gram's greatest recipes was her Icebox Cake.  Layers of pudding separated with graham crackers.  Nothing quite compares to the perfection of gooey graham crackers and pudding.  She would make it for Sunday gatherings and birthdays or have Poppy drop one off at our house if someone was sick.  Years after Gram passed away I had my first miscarriage and I remember crying in bed and wishing I had some of her icebox cake. My Poppy heard about that request and showed up at my door with an Icebox Cake he made for me.  I cannot explain what a healing balm that warm pudding cake was. After that I found the strength to get moving again.

Gram and Poppy are gone now.  And sometimes I miss them so much. There are days that I think I might take ride over with the kids and visit. Then I remember they aren't there. I know Gram would have loved spoiling these little ones. Especially Luccio who is named for her.

I am grateful to still have my Nonni, my Mom's mom.  I have always been very close to Nonni and used to spent a lot of time with her and Grampa when he was alive.  I was very fortunate that my Mom stayed home to raise us so I had a lot of opportunity to spend time with my family even during the week.  We went to Nonni's a lot.  When I was very little we lived right next to her house and I went there daily.  As I got older I still spent a lot of time with her.  When I slept over she would take me and my Cousin Tracy aka Crazy Cousin to Bingo with her. Tracy and I are 9 months apart and growing up we were together a lot.  We loved Bingo nights with Nonni.  She used to take us Downtown too. Back when it was safe to ride on public transportation and hang out on the town green.  We would shop and then feed the pigeons in the park. I remember Nonni brushing our hair and braiding it.  Tracy and I used to complain because our hair was waist length and Nonni used a metal comb! But, she sure did know how to make the best ponytails!! And the best sauce in the world. NOTHING even comes close to Nonni's pasta sauce.  There is no written recipe for it and she can show you how to make it but it never comes out quite the same way twice.  My son Vincenzo loves his Nonni's sauce so much. Nothing makes an Italian great-grandmother prouder than watching her great-grandson enjoy her pasta.

When I was old enough I used go on trips to the Casino with Nonni and Grampa.  We had such fun times! We would go with my mom or aunts and cousins, sometimes we would stay over.  Grampa loved the Penny Machines! He really came alive at the Casino.  At home he would often look like a little old man. He would snuggle on his couch and be content to sit in the background while all the women in our lives would chat around him. He was a man of few words.  But, when he did have something to say it was always witty and had us laughing! When he stepped into the casino he was like a young man again and had such a spring to his step.  I still remember his cute little smile and great sense of humor!  One time I convinced him to go shopping with me at the Casino gift stores.  He told me he didn't go to the Casino to shop, but then took a detour into one of the stores and bought me a beautiful Native American doll.  He was so proud and it was such splurge, everything in those stores is so expensive but these dolls were just outrageously priced and he was like a little kid filled with happiness buying one for me!  I still have that doll and cherish it so much.  It reminds me of all the fun times I had with Grampa.

I have been so fortunate to have had Nonni there for my birth and still with me this year as I celebrated my 37th birthday.  Now that I have my own daughter we are 4 generations of women when we are all together. I pray that we have more years together and that my children will have memories of her that they will carry with them and treasure.

It is funny the things that you remember and cherish as you grow older.  Sometimes it is the slightest thing that will bring all of these wonderful moments flooding back.  The smells, sights, tastes and sounds that stay with you forever.  I love watching my children create new memories with their own grandparents, Stregga & Papa and Grandma & Papa.  And I am so blessed to have had so many great years with my Gram, Poppy, Grampa and Nonni.  Now I feel like making a pot of sauce and an icebox cake!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Princess Gun

I tried not to overreact when Isabella aimed her Barbie at me and said, "Princess Gun!" I didn't know if I should laugh or reprimand, so I used the best known parenting strategy when you are caught in a jam - I ignored it. We don't encourage gun play or purchase gun related toys. But, it seems inevitable that guns, shooting, and all around weaponry finds it's way into the imaginative play of children. I used to think it was gender related. Boys can turn everything from a french toast stick to a baggie tie into a gun. Or as my boys call them~ their "shooters." They have some play swords with pirate costumes that they always make sound like machine guns even though they have never actually seen one. We monitor what they watch on tv and talk about why we don't believe in gun play. But, they are 5 year old boys and don't live in bubbles so they have exposure to fake guns. One friend showed up over the holidays with his new plastic shotgun. The boys loved it! They also love going to that friend's house because they have an arsenal of Nerf guns. They can't think of anything cooler than that! For Christmas, Cousin Justin moved up to favorite status when he bought the boys their first Nerf guns. They were overjoyed! We had to set up some ground rules like you only use them in the playroom, don't aim them at people, use objects as targets, etc. I was pleasantly surprised how well they followed the rules and it also encouraged them to actually be in their playroom which had been filled with wonderful and educational toys for the past 5 years, but basically overlooked and ignored. When they ask Hubby and I why we don't like guns we are honest about telling them that guns hurt people and they are not toys. But, at the end of the day they are kids. They enjoy playing. And as long as they are not hurting anyone, that has to be enough right now. We will love them, teach them about the dignity of human life, and hope for the best. And every once in awhile I have to give in to a bit of laughter when my beautiful, thoughtful little baby takes aim at me with her Princess Gun.