From the begging of this summer, my family has been celebrating milestones with its young people. Two of the biggest events we recognized were my niece Maria’s baptism (for photos, visit the “Maria’s Baptism” photo album) in May and my cousin Amanda’s confirmation in June (for photos, visit the “Amanda’s Confirmation” photo album). Both Maria and Amanda made us proud as they conducted themselves beautifully during these important religious moments in their lives.
We’ve been celebrating Easter for three weeks now. First, on the day after my niece Maria’s first birthday, we threw our annual Easter party, where we dye eggs and decorate cookies with our little cousins. (To join the party, visit the “Easter Party 2011” photo album.) One week later, we celebrated Easter on Palm Sunday to celebrate with my husband before he returned to Italy for what is already a very long spring and summer. Finally, we celebrated Easter over the last few days. This last weekend of fun included a visit with the Easter bunny, a hop through Zia’s house to find eggs filled with treats, and all the cannoli and strawberries you could eat. Or at least that’s how Maria celebrated. You can see her experiencing the holiday in the “Easter Weekend 2011” photo album. And a happy Pasquetta (Easter Monday) to all!
Last week, we celebrated my niece Maria’s first birthday. As is usually the case, Maria had a fever and was not nearly as interested in the festivities as us adults. Still, there were some unforgettable moments, such as when she climbed into one of the gift boxes and tried to eat the foam peanuts rather than play with the toy inside and the cupcakes that were adorned with her adorable face (which Zia Francesca proudly made for her). You can see the cupcakes and more at the “Maria Turns 1” photo album.
I’m all about child-like wonder these days. That might be why I thoroughly enjoyed waving to my niece Maria and her parents as they took a spin on the merry-go-round at a local mall. It might also have something to do with why I posted a photo of the Legoland Royal Wedding on the About.com Newlyweds site today. You should find the kid in you and respond to him or her; go on the swings at the nearby park, play with your food, and blow bubbles in the garden. (More photos below the ad)
My cousin Amanda recently turned 13, and her birthday brought back a flood of memories. (To join the party, visit “Amanda’s 13th Birthday” photo album.) I remember the day she was born. I had already left for my women’s studies class, and my roommate was running late. She got the call from my mom that Amanda had been born, and she announced it to our class when she arrived. The whole room started applauding because yet another woman was born into the world. And I remember distinctly wanting to meet her as soon as possible. At that first encounter, I sat on her parent’s couch and held her in my arms for the first time. She was so tiny and sweet. Now, she’s already taller than all of us, but she’s still sweet as ever.
I only hope that she can hang onto that sweetness and innocence. She’s a teenager now, and even though we all long to reach that milestone in life, it is a tough moment. There are hearts to be broken, classes and tests to be taken, and questions to ask about the kind of person you want to grow into. She has wonderful parents and a loving extended family, so I know she has the tools to carve the right path for herself. Amanda is a strong and beautiful young woman, and she’s already wearing 13 well. She’s sure to make us all proud. We love you, Amanda!
My husband Antonio and I spent a week in paradise with my niece Maria, her parents, my parents, my sister, and a bunch of good family friends. Now that we’re back home – with the snow sitting out my window and the temperature dropping every evening – I am nostalgic for our vacation. But Maria is definitely what we all miss the most. Even though she hated to have the sun in her eyes, she was ever the fashion model sporting this yellow polka-dot bikini and white sun hat. She loved frolicking in the ocean with her new best friend, a plastic turtle float that we all tugged her around in. And she danced for us – and all our waiters – at dinner. Although she was often drunk with sleepiness, she was all smiles and hugs the entire trip. Indeed, you couldn’t ask for more from a baby. You can join in the fun with the family, by visiting the “Cruisin’ in 2011” photo album.
There was no way my parents, Zio Antonio, and I (Zia Francesca) would miss 8-month-old Maria’s first Christmas. Although we can’t be with her on Dec. 25, we threw a Christmas bash like no other six days ahead of schedule at Zia Rosaria’s pad in Florida. Zio Antonio and I spent the week having Maria warm up to us – both literally and figuratively — as we forced her and her parents to tour Disney World in the freezing temperatures (I mean even the Disney topiaries were covered in white blankets).
We learned a few things on this trip, among them that Maria looks so cute you could just eat her up whenever she wears any fuzzy outfits that have ears to make her look like a bunny and that she has quite a sense of humor, not to mention a huge appetite. There is also no question that she is related to us. Her belly tells the whole story. The kid can eat, and even when she shouldn’t eat, she does. The other day she ate a chunk of garlic off the floor where her papa’ had been cooking, and she didn’t even wince. But her mother confirms that she was stinky for pretty much the entire day. If she had cleaned the floor with a little bleach after the garlic, she might have smelled like her older zii.
Maria’s role models? Bella and Shilo, the family dogs, which might be why she thinks it’s natural to eat off the floor, sleep on a big cushion or even a tile in the middle of Zia Rosaria’s living room, and she begs for scraps from the table. Although I gest, she does have one helluva time getting into mischief with the dogs. They are her best friends for now, and she is especially cute with Shilo, who lets her pull his tail, jump on him, and chew toys and books with him.
The only way Maria could love them more is if they could feed her. That’s what she likes about all of us, I think. We overindulged her desire to eat more and more tiny morsels of apples, peaches, potatoes, pancakes, chicken, waffles, and yogurt. As a result, the child who never spits up or vomits threw up on us twice. All our fault! I’m actually honored she threw up on me.
Highlights of our time with Maria include Nonno Pasquale demanding that Tigger, who Maria followed all over the room with her eyes while at breakfast at 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian, come to say hello to us and take a picture immediately, Maria and Donald Duck having matching sombreros in EPCOT’s Mexico pavillion, and the moments she shared with Babbo Natale (Santa Claus), who might have secretly been her Nonno Pasquale, and his reindeer, who might have been Nonna Regina. My personal best memory, however, was Maria curling up under my arm and falling asleep. So sweet!
To enjoy more photos of Nonno Pasquale as Babbo Natale and Maria with all the characters (and some of the rest of us, too), then check out “Maria’s 1st Christmas” photo album. Buon Natale a tutti!
My mom Regina, my friend Alex, and I spent last weekend at my sister’s place in Florida livin’ it up. (To view photos from the weekend, click on the “Girls Weekend 2010” photo album.) We did the girlie girl thing with pedicures, soaked up sun in the baby pool (yes, a baby pool), went on rides at Disney World, did some shopping, and ate anything we wanted. The weekend, which was a much-needed distraction and lots of fun did include two men – my brother John and my sister’s dog Shilo, both of whom provided ample entertainment (from brother John giving his three-month-old daughter a bath to Shilo jumping onto the table to eat a zucchini pancake). There was girl’s night out with all of us, my sister-in-law Jaci, and baby Maria for dinner at Kouzzina. And there was many a World Cup disappointment. Let’s not even talk about that. Besides, delicious clams and pretzel bread made everything all better. Love and miss you all now!
Maria Regina, the daughter of my brother John and his wife Jaci (and more importantly my parents’ first granddaughter), finally met her father’s side of the family last week. The family was overjoyed at her presence — and no one was more excited to meet six-week-old Maria than her little cousins, who held her and loved her as much as they could in the short time she visited. (To check out the images from Maria’s visit, you can click on the “Maria Meets the Family” photo album.) We still can’t get the sweet new baby smell out of my parent’s house. Who doesn’t love that?