MIA MAMMA ITALIANA (MY ITALIAN MOTHER)

My parents grew up in the Bronx, New York, as next door neighbors (yes, my mom literally married “the boy next door”).  They are 100% Italian and grew up in a neighborhood of other Italians.

I’m sure they thought that everybody woke up to the smell of “gravy” cooking on Sunday mornings in preparation for the 3:00 dinner with 19 other relatives.  They probably assumed that kids all over the country had meatball sandwiches and pignoli cookies in their lunchbox.  That everybody’s mom shopped at nine different places to put a meal together….the meat from Tony the butcher, the veggies from Sal the produce guy, the cookies from Joe at the bakery, etc.  That it was normal for families to scream and yell and gesture wildly during meals and for mothers to chase them around the house with wooden spoons and other impromptu weapons of torture.

And if my parents had stayed in the Bronx, I might have grown up thinking my family was like all the rest.  But my parents relocated us to Orange County, California….where it quickly became evident that my family was not the norm.

Let me rephrase that.  More specifically, “one of these mothers is not like the others”. For anyone who has ever been driven crazy by their mother, I hope you can relate.  Read on for some examples of…

“THINGS OTHER MOMS DIDN’T DO”

1. Other moms did not make their child’s friends WASH THEIR UNDERARMS AND FEET when they came over for a play date after school.  “You girls stink”, she would say.  “You have B.O. and I don’t know if it’s your underarms or your feet so go wash them both”. And, totally mortified, I would take my friends into the bathroom to wash up.  And I would wonder if anyone would ever want to come over to my house again.  But somehow, they always came back…probably because we had good snacks.

2. Other moms did not picket at school and start a petition when their youngest daughter was not named 8th grade valedictorian.

3. Other moms did not hire a stripper for their son’s family-friendly 18th birthday party in the backyard.  Because, what boy wouldn’t want his MOTHER there when interacting with a stripper?

On a similar note, other moms did not also hire a stripper for their daughter’s 21st birthday dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Las Vegas with her boyfriend and all four grandparents present.

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And finally, other moms definitely did not hire an older, unattractive man to come dressed as a pink monkey for their 3 year old grandson’s birthday party and then….surprise!….take off his monkey suit to double as a stripper for the 21st birthday of her youngest daughter, terrifying all children (and adults)  in attendance.

4.  Other moms did not write a letter to Rosie O’Donnell (who had one of hottest talk shows on tv at the time) where their son has just been hired in the mail room bragging about how talented he is and how he basically should be running her show.  Italians calls this the “my son” syndrome.

5.  Other moms did not somehow force the school district to re-route the entire bus schedule so that their child could be dropped off directly in front of their house rather than on the corner bus stop like all the other kids.

6. Other moms did not go against the wishes of their grown daughter and secretly baptize their grandchild in the laundry room sink.  With “permission” from the local priest, of course.

7. Other moms did not fill their entire car with lemons and picket in front of the car dealership (standing up through the sunroof with a giant sign that said “Lemon by BMW”) when it had mechanical problems.

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8. Other moms did not bring a bottle of wine to the house of their 17 year-old daughter’s prom date and give it to his mother because “my daughter doesn’t like beer.”

9. Other moms did not tell their daughter’s new boyfriend after knowing him for five minutes that she wants another grandchild, and that at this point she doesn’t care if they get married – she will even raise the child as long as they can just make one for her.

10. Other moms did not block traffic at the roundabout in front of the high school at pick-up time as they stuck themselves out of the sunroof waving a giant bouquet of balloons and honking their horn to wish their daughter a Happy Birthday.

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Yes, my mom did a lot of things other moms didn’t do.

But on second thought, perhaps other people didn’t have a home that was constantly filled with family, friends, food, and laughter.  Or a mom who let their kids’ friends live with them when they needed a place to stay.

Maybe other people didn’t have a mother that “adopted” the little old lady that would sit alone in the back of the church every week and invite her to family dinner every Sunday.

Or cook an elaborate dinner for their grown children and grandchildren every Tuesday night, year after year, making nine different dishes so everyone could have their favorites.

My mom stands only 4’11” but my entire life I never thought of my mom as small. Because to me she was always the biggest person in the room (and by biggest, I mean loudest).

But all kidding aside, from your eldest daughter who pours the milk before the cereal, to your only son who hasn’t touched a public door handle in 20 years, to your youngest daughter who will only eat ice cream with a fork – we may have turned out a little quirky, but all in all, I guess you did ok.

So grazie, my crazy Italian mother, for all those childhood memories, for being our fiercest protector, our strongest advocate, and our worst nightmare.

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THINGS I NEVER THOUGHT WOULD HAPPEN…BEFORE I WAS A MOM

Last week my son’s 6th grade science class was scheduled to dissect a sheep’s eye.  Though he loves science, Jack was not looking forward to the dissection, as he tends to get easily grossed out by things of that sort (as does his mother).  Driving home from school that day I asked him about how the dissection went.

“It was actually really, really cool,” he replied.  “It was so cool that I asked my teacher if I could keep a piece of the sheep’s eye and he let me.”

“What do you mean KEEP a piece of the eye?  Like to take home?”

“Yup.”

“So you have it right now?  Where is it?”

“In my lunchbox.”

“In your LUNCHBOX?!”

“Yeah, why?”

“How could you put a sheep’s eye in your lunchbox?  That’s disgusting.  Is it in a bag?  Is it wrapped up?”

“No.  And it’s not the whole eye, it’s just the lens.”

“So there is the lens of a sheep’s eye just rolling around your lunchbox where your food goes?”

Yes, there was.  My son did not see anything wrong with this scenario.  And he also could not locate the piece of the eye when I asked him to get it out so I could sterilize his lunchbox.  So now here I was, frantically looking through his lunchbox and backpack for THE LENS OF A SHEEP’S EYE.  And I thought to myself, “this is one of those moments of motherhood where you realize what a crazy ass job this is.”  I mean, I could not even think of another job in life where I would ever even come across the eye of a sheep.

Here are a few other things I never thought would happen…before I was a mom:

1.  I never thought I would walk around in public for an entire day with postage stamps stuck on my back because my 2 year old used me as a sticker book while I was distractedly working on the computer.  I did not think my husband would be the only person to tell me this when he got home from work, after he stopped laughing of course.  Did people think I was making some sort of statement walking around like that?  Or that I was planning to mail myself somewhere?

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2.  I never thought I would be lying constantly.  “The tooth fairy didn’t come last night?  Oh, right…that’s because it was the third Tuesday of the month and that’s her only night off so everybody knows that if you lose a tooth on the third Tuesday of the month then she comes on Wednesday and leaves you twice as much money!  So you’re actually super lucky.  Sorry, I forgot to mention that yesterday.” Or, “I don’t know why all the Kit Kats and Snickers bars are missing from your Halloween candy…that’s really weird.”

3.  I never thought that I would be asked such a wide range of constant questions by my children, at least half of which I had no acceptable answer for.   Questions such as, “Can I see heaven but not die first?” (Jack, age 4) to “Mom, what’s the population of Greenland?” (Jack, last night)

4.  I never thought I’d consider waking up at 8:00am on the weekends to be “sleeping in”.

5.  I never thought I would let my child nap in a dog bed.

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6.  I never thought to not allow my 2 year old to play with expensive luggage in a luggage store.  Luggage is fun, right?  They can roll it, they can ride on it.  They can also stick their head through the rectangular pull-up handle of a suitcase and not be able to get it out.   And once they realize their head is stuck, they can scream and cry so hard in the fancy luggage store that they proceed to vomit all over the expensive luggage while their head is still stuck through the handle of the suitcase.  No, I never thought THAT would happen, before I was a mom.

7.  I never thought I’d be so calm and collected when my son ran into a parked car while playing tag on our street and cut his eyebrow badly, blood gushing everywhere.  Yes, I was proud of how calm I remained as I cleaned the wound, stuck a band-aid on it, and sent him back outside to play.  Not so proud later on that night when it turned out that the kid actually needed 12 stitches, not a Spiderman band-aid.  Oops.

8.  I never thought I would feel so comfortable peeing in front of other people.  I never thought my greatest goal in life would be to someday pee alone in my bathroom.

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9.  I never thought that watching my daughter go on an extreme roller coaster ride would be more terrifying than going on it myself.

10.  And I never thought the old parenting adage would hold so true, “The days are long but the years are short”…..and I never thought I’d have a job I loved so much.

POTTY TALK

We have lived in our new home for almost 8 months now…enough time to gauge the good (quiet and scenic) and the not-so-good (having to haul our trash 1/4 mile down the road for pick up).   We were very fortunate to find a home that has lots of great upgrades, things that we have never had in other homes we’ve lived in…real hardwood floors, lots of great moulding, skylights, a huge six-burner stove.  Yes, there are many things to love about our new home.  But there is one thing in this house that in my opinion, surpasses all the rest.  I reaffirm my love for this thing on a daily basis, actually sitting and marveling at it several times each day.  I cannot believe that I lived without it for so long, never thought that such a small thing could make such a big difference.  What is this thing you wonder, that so help me I will rip out of the wall and take with me should we ever move from here?  It is, quite simply, our toilet paper holder.  My entire life I have always had a toilet paper holder like this one…

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Where to change the roll you have to push in the bar thing, take off the empty roll, slide on the new roll and push the bar thing back in.  It’s annoying and nobody likes to do it.   And let’s face it, you know there have been times when you’ve purposely left just a few little squares on the roll (that SHOULD be enough for the next person as long as they didn’t have beans for dinner, no?) just so you didn’t HAVE to do it.   Or maybe I’m horrible and it’s just me that has done that…whatever.

But no more!  Because our new toilet paper holder is pure genius I tell you.  Behold…

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Who knew this was an option?  Do you people know about this?  Am I late to the potty party here?  You just slide the roll off and on…done and done!  How much of my life has been wasted pushing that stupid metal bar in and out?  I will never look back, I tell you.  Now I purposely use TOO MUCH toilet paper just so I can finish the roll and remind myself how much I love this little wonder.

And it’s a good thing I love it so much because let me show you visually my sexist theory on the demographics of toilet paper changing…

WOMEN/GIRLS:  A PROPER ROLL CHANGE

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MEN/BOYS:  DON’T KNOCK YOURSELF OUT THERE BUDDY

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CHILDREN WHO ARE FAR TOO OLD:  “MOM!!!!! I NEED TOILET PAPER!!!!!”

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Seriously?  I give up.  I, completely and utterly, give up.

MY AERIAL MISADVENTURE…BY GUEST AUTHOR JAMI

Although Janene and I both live on Islands, Bainbridge and Manhattan are like apples and oranges. Actually they are like apples and…truffled-infused marscapone capaletti (I think that is the most opposite of apples, right?).

Janene’s backyard alone could hold a Duane Reade, liquor store, nail salon, falafel stand, local watering hole, 2 pizzerias, a few boutiques, a barbershop, a subway station, and the homeless man who has occupied my stoop (don’t worry he is very friendly and mostly unconscious).

Living in a city with endless opportunities gives you the silly notion that you should maybe not order sushi to your doorstep and watch a marathon of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills for the 3rd night in a row because it is exactly 12 degrees outside, and rather you should…try something new.

Enter “Aerial Arts of NYC Beginner Silks Class”.

Aerial as in happening in the air. Silks as in Cirque. Cirque as in Circus. As in on what planet was I qualified for this? I did gymnastics once when I was 6, and I’m pretty sure I quit at 6 ½.

The website said “you will learn, sequences, drops, slides, and flips that allow you descend the fabric with style, poise and grace”.

As I am trying to picture myself gliding through the air, effortlessly and angelically, maybe some Adele playing in the background, I quickly snap back to reality. Drops…slides…and flips…?!? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. I am inclined to think we should start with something more intro-level, like a somersault? Maybe stretch out the silk and rest in it hammock-like to warm up?

I recruited 2 friends, Felicia and Yasmine, to fill out my Ringling Bros trio. But instead of Style, Poise and Grace, we were Awkward, Clumsy and Uncomfortable.

First of all, to my shock (and horror) they let any klutz walk off the street, climb 30 ft in the air on a piece of slippery fabric, with no harness, no safety net, and a mat at the bottom that is about 20 inches wide. The chances of me landing on that mat as I plummeted to the ground were about the same as sky diving into a fishbowl.

Clearly, we had to sign a waiver. (“I ______ hereby acknowledge that should I drop, slip, or flip off the silk in a manner that contorts my body in such a way that I can no longer feel my limbs or turn my neck to the left, NYC Aerial Arts will not be held liable.)

Nonetheless, Yasmine, Felicia and I bravely foolishly had faith in our athletic ability.

Yasmine’s Aerial career started at 7:00pm and ended at 7:53. She will forever be revered for her long limbs, which flailed about haphazardly and frantically.

Felicia showed more potential, but needed to work on her “performance quality” – namely not looking utterly and completely terrified 98% of the time.

And as for me, the judges noted a half-decent starting sequence, giving way to a rather abysmal landing. AKA I was able to scurry my way up the silk rather easily – and maybe during our second class I will learn how the hell you are supposed to get down once you are suspended in the air by…oh yeah…nothing but your feeble arm strength.

I don’t think Barnum & Bailey will be knocking on our door any time soon, but we unanimously applauded ourselves for the valiant effort – and promptly treated ourselves to gelato. Which we had to walk exactly 37ft to find.

EXPECTATION

AERIEL

REALITY

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THE CALIFORNIA DMV

So as you may know from my last blog post, I have lost my wallet and more importantly, my drivers license. I have a California drivers license, which was JUST renewed, but recently moved to Washington state. At first I figured I could just call up the California DMV and have them mail me a new license. How naïve of me.

First of all, there is no CALLING the DMV…there are only recordings and more recordings which all basically tell you to GO to the DMV. The recording says that replacement drivers licenses must be obtained in person so they can fingerprint you, etc.. I went online to try and book an appointment but the next available appointment was over 3 weeks away and I was only in town for 5 more days.

I figured it would probably be easier to just get a Washington State drivers license. So I called the local DMV where I live in Washington where I was informed that unless I could produce my original CA drivers license, I would have to obtain a license like a 16 year old. That is, take the written test, the vision test and the ROAD test. But…oh yeah, the DMV doesn’t actually give road tests anymore so you have to pay a private company to do it. Since I was fairly certain I would pass none of these tests (would they give me 14 chances to parallel park which is about how many it takes me?) I headed out the next morning to do something that is on my Top 10 List of Things Never To Do In Life…go to a California DMV without an appointment.

I soon discovered even worse news…one of the local DMV offices was closed down for 5 months. So the other local office was now serving the population of both offices and that was where I was now headed. I quickly did some research and found that there were currently 4 DMV offices in Orange County serving a population of 3.09 million people. Holy shit.

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I should have left when I had to park half a mile away. I should have left again when I saw the line coming out of the building and snaking around the shopping center like Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Except there would be no $69 big screen TV at the end of this line. But I waited. I listened to the people around me talking about how they heard that this line would be about 90 minutes but that this was just the line to get your number before the ACTUAL wait! And still I waited.

Until the line moved into the sun.

Now, it was February in Orange County which means that at 9:00 a.m. on that line the temperature was nearing 80 degrees. And for the first 20 minutes in the shade I could handle that. But the SUN. For those of you who don’t know me, this is the reason I MOVED out of California to the Pacific Northwest. To get away from the sun. Yes, I know…it sounds crazy and weird, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn’t like sunshine? ME. I absolutely HATE being hot. The sun beating down on my head is like torture to me. Worse than having to pay to re-take the road test. So after wasting 30 minutes of my life I will never get back, I gave up, dejected, and left.

Which brings me to my next blog entry and a new addition to my Top 10 List of Things Never To Do In Life….try to get on an airplane with no identification whatsoever.