A celebration of love is in order, perhaps never more than today. And there are lovely ways to show love to your friends and family. The sign above is one of my favorite Valentine’s Day gifts ever. My son and I made it for my husband. It couldn’t be simpler and you can make one for someone you love in no time at all:
Discover how to make a sign of love with baby’s hand and feet prints:
Frame (Make sure it’s big enough to fit baby’s one handprint and feet prints)
Cardstock (one larger piece that is the size of the frame in a color of your choosing to serve as the background and one smaller piece of white paper for the actual artwork)
Paint (I used watercolors for the letters, but you could use other types of paint to make the letters less faint. It’s entirely up to you.)
More washable paint or washable jumbo stamp pad (for making baby’s handprint and feet print)
Glue or double sided tape
Fine point pen or marker
Make your marks.
Take your piece of white paper. Use one lighter shade (or simply a different color) paint to make the “L.”
Take baby’s hand and either use a brush to paint the darker or different color paint onto baby’s hand before turning it down onto the paper after the “L” to stand in for “O.” I would test the paint or ink pad first to make sure it is truly washable. I used an ink pad that said it was washable but my son’s hand and feet were blue like a Smurf’s for a few days. Hey, it happens!
Do the same with the bottom of both baby’s feet as you did with the one hand. Make sure to place them down on the paper to form the shape of a “V.”
Write the “E” with the paint of your choice. (In my case it was the same color as the “L.”) Don’t feel limited by my choices. Use your own imagination and preferences. By the way, I used blue because I have a boy but also because it is my husband’s favorite color. It also matches much of our house. You can pick whatever colors meet your needs. Some choose to do this in a rainbow, so every letter is a different color. You might also want to add glitz in the form of gem stickers, glitter, or sequins, which is particularly nice for mom if she is the one receiving the gift. You could paint a heart around the word love.
A family vacation to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. is a dream for many people. That’s why parents spend much time and money on the trip. Magic ain’t cheap, people. But there are some add-ons that many get suckered into buying. It’s enough to bring on your worst case of buyer’s remorse, especially if you’re trying to stick to a travel budget. Since I’ve been to the “World” countless times and have some expertise in this area, here are the 7 tourist traps you should avoid like Mickey near a mouse trap:
This one parents should see coming from miles and miles away. Disney is an empire, and they lead the world in marketing. They know that if your kid sees his favorite characters and toys at every turn (and when you get off any ride), he’s going to beg you for something. You’re on vacation, and you don’t want to experience one of those fall-down tantrums. So, you are going to say, “Yes,” at least some of the time. Cha-ching. Of course, similar toys are half the price outside Disney.
Parents and Disney forums often suggest purchasing Disney character toys and souvenirs at the local dollar store or Walmart ahead of your trip. Some of the moms offer up a little surprise each morning of the vacation. They might even wrap them and include notes from Tinker Bell. Much like Santa, they tell kids that if they behave they’ll get something from Tink, who will sneak in and leave it for them while they sleep. Then, they bring the trinket from Tink to the parks and meals and whip it out whenever the temptation for another souvenir pops up. (I can tell you from firsthand experience that this worked well with toddler and pre-K kids.) Another option is to pick up souvenirs at an off-site Disney Store, outlet or discount shop, or mall in the Orlando area. Look for coupons if you go that route.
Back in the day, my parents would take us to Disney and we’d stay off property. We would have a rental car, and we almost always left the parks at meal times. It was cheaper and back then whatever we would get outside of the parks was usually better food. Times have changed. Now, there are many more resorts, and Disney makes it worth your time to stay “on property.” In addition, the food has gotten exponentially better. In fact, my husband and I often plan our travels there around our dining reservations.
Still, the food on property is expensive. They have you in jail, essentially, and they know that you’re not going to want to waste time (and miss out on rides and events, which cost a lot of money, too) by leaving the park. The good news is that there are some really delicious, vacation-worthy options. First step is to educate yourself on what’s worth the money. Disney’s Websites feature lengthy menus, and unaffiliated blogs, such as Disney Food Blog, can provide you with unbiased reviews. More importantly, you should set priorities about where you’d like to put your money, and decide exactly how much you’d like to spend. If you don’t want to go off property to eat, then you should consider staying at a Disney resort and buying into Disney dining, which allows you to pay ahead of time for your meals and snacks. Sometimes, there are even free dining deals, but Disney experts suggest those offers might have come to an end. It will come in handy when your kid sees and smells that Disney popcorn and starts begging.
5. Paying Full Price for the Resorts
Disney resorts are beautifully themed and come at different price points. There are value, moderate, and deluxe resorts. Parents, who want to give their kids the full flavor of the Disney magic, prefer staying on property. As mentioned, there are some perks, such as the ability to participate in the Disney dining plan and extra magic hours at the parks. You have no reason to pay full price for the hotels. At many times during the year, you can find discounts on the resorts. Going in the low season, if you’re willing, is a particularly effective way to stay in budget even if there is no discount. The thing is that there usually are discounts. What most people don’t realize is that even if you booked before the discount was available, if you call Disney reservations when the offer goes public, it will retroactively add the discount. You will get the money back if you had paid already. I’ve done it, and it’s seamless. Another option is to rent DVC points, which I’ve also done. This allows you to stay on property by renting points from a Disney Vacation Club member. The resorts in question are deluxe, and you can often get the price down to value or moderate prices. But you must be smart about it because there are some DVC renting scams out there. You can learn more about renting DVC points (and scoop on the DVC rentals at Polynesian Village Resort and Animal Kingdom Lodge) right on this site.
4. Unnecessarily Buying Park Hopper Tickets
I used to fall for this trick every time. I thought I had to buy park hopper tickets and jump from one park to another in a single day to have fun. The idea is to pack in as much as you can all trip long. Wrong! Parents, especially those with younger children, are usually better off buying a park ticket package that has them traveling to one park per day. For starters, this helps you better plan because you’re forced into one zone of Disney World each day, which can help you decide on fast passes and dining reservations ahead of time. Also, it prevents you from running around, which can make for overtired, cranky children and adults. It’s better for sneaking a nap into your day, too. Of course, the single park tickets are cheaper than park hoppers.
3. Stylists for Your Kids
All over Disney you will see little girls dressed as princesses and, to a lesser extent, little boys dressed as pirates. They will look like those kids whose moms force them into pageant life, replete with make-up and perfectly coiffed hair with a shiny tiara on top. Nine times out of 10 they have been to the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique in Cinderella’s Castle. The swashbuckling pirates, replete with painted on beard and sword, have been to the Pirates League, also at Magic Kingdom. Professionals dress them up and make them all fancy at a price. The princess packages start at $60, and the pirates start at $40. No one I know has ever done this, but they have always brought their kids dressed to impress. You can purchase affordable costumes on Amazon, Target or Walmart, or in the Disney Store (when there’s a sale). Then, you can do hair and make-up. I dressed my son as a pirate for a princess breakfast when he was a year old, and we got beautiful pictures that I still cherish. My niece always wears her princess dresses to the parks, and she’s never done the boutique. A little glitter for the eyes is way cheaper than one of those packages. It also takes less time away from the rides and dining reservations.
2. Extra Events (after Park Hours)
Disney has done all it can to monetize its offerings. Why not? There’s certainly demand. Loyal readers of the unaffiliated Disney dining blogs know that in recent years there have been a number of ticketed dessert events and parties. Often, guests end up paying more than $50 per person for these events, on top of their park admission. Again, this is a budget issue. You should decide where you want to put your vacation money. But I would suggest, based on what I’ve seen of these events, that they are not necessary. Avoiding them is a good way to save a buck.
The two exceptions are Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party (which actually costs between $72 and $105 per person) and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party (which costs between $86 and $100 per person). Both are super expensive, and I’ve never invested in them. But some experts say these are worth it if you can afford them. Additional entertainment and treats create value. Kids really get to feel some of that Disney magic. The costumed characters at the Halloween party and fake falling snow at the Christmas party are among the examples. The smaller, lesser known events, however, are probably less valuable and not worth your time or money.
1. Specially Themed Rooms
Oh, this one in particular gets my goat. A few years back, Disney began theming rooms at the moderate resorts. Mind you, all the Disney resorts are already themed. But there was additional in-room theming designed to lure parents, who want to wow their kids. At Disney’s Port Orleans – Riverside resort, you can opt for a Royal Guest Room with gilded furniture, elaborate headboards, and bedazzled princess images. A late March package for these rooms with a standard view for a 7-day stay cost $326 more than the standard room with a standard view at the same resort. The pirate rooms package with a standard view for the same period at the Caribbean Beach Resort cost $404 more than the standard rooms, and they are located at the most remote part of the resort. They used to be cheaper rooms, according to the Disney Tourist Blog, until Disney added pirate ship beds and related decor.
Now, the Disney Tourist Blog recommends the Royal Guest rooms at Port Orleans over the pirate ones at Caribbean Beach Resort because many of those were cheaper rooms further away from the hotel’s lobby that are now at higher price point. The reason this is the top of the list is that people spend little time in the rooms at Disney World as it is. These were a little trick to charge people more for staying at a moderate resort. I prefer treats and no tricks when vacation planning at the happiest place on Earth.
I live in utter disaster. On most days, my house looks like a bomb exploded, and it was full of little boys’ stinky laundry, more Lego pieces than you could find in one of the stores, bread crumbs, and pieces of paper from kids’ practicing their scissor skills. The dishes are piled in the sink. The stovetop is thick with grease and grime that desperately needs removing (and might require a sandblaster). Garbage always seems to need to go out. And can we talk about the bathroom? I don’t even want to go in there for fear of having to face life’s most difficult question of late; is that Nutella or poop on the wall? Seriously, which is it? No matter how hard I scrub, the place always smells of sweaty gym socks and tomato sauce. (We’re Italian, so at least we’ve got that.)
Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, before my son and niece and nephew were born, I had nice things. Really. There was a place for everything, and everything in its place. Back then, I lusted after hotel-quality sheets in crisp white and fine china serving platters. I got giddy over my sparkling chandelier in the dining room and silk drapes in the living room. Every week, I would meticulously dust and vacuum the couches. I had a Waterford crystal bowl sitting on an end table, out in the open for all the world to admire. Not once was it at risk of falling. Today, it stands behind closed closet doors on a shelf too high even for me to reach.
When I look around, I can hardly believe I ever had that straight-out-of-Better-Homes-and-Gardens look or that Good Housekeeping demeanor. As I first began to lose control of the place, I felt uneasy. There was a queasiness at the sight of those toys scattered and piled and lined up all.over.the.floor. They were – err, are – everywhere. I even missed all that dusting and vacuuming I once did. But I am living in a new normal, the world of motherhood with young children. There’s nothing I can do about it. This life is messy, often akin to a post-party frat house minus the beer. Still, I’ve learned to embrace the look of a war zone. Here’s why:
My house is our hangout. I have relatives and friends with bigger and better houses than I’ll ever have, than I will ever let myself dream about actually. They are tidy and lovely. Their picturesque views, professional kitchens, swimming pools, and game rooms are the stuff of designer legend. Sometimes, I’m jealous. But then I curl up on my couch and think about all these walls have seen. We make the sweetest memories here because we open the doors to all, and create excuses to unite. There was the time my cousin from Australia stayed with us to surprise my grandfather, who was already showing signs of age and illness. There was the time we celebrated my son’s birthday with 80 relatives packed into the driveway and backyard. There have been Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves for the ages. Wine has been spilled. Glasses have been broken. Hearts have been touched. Friends have become family. Family has become friends. Fun has been had by all.
My house is our comfort zone. In the days after my miscarriage, my only friend was this house. I closed myself in. I hugged the walls and worshipped the couch. From my window, I watched the leaves dance in the wind and searched for answers. I cried, and my home – this humble and loving house – dried my tears. When my grandfather passed away, we gathered around my dining room and remembered why we were hurting so much, what he meant to us, and what a glorious pain in the ass he was from beginning to end. We’ve embraced one another in our worst moments. We’ve confessed to one another and forgiven one another in this very house. Life happens here. Frankly, life was never one to be neat and simple. It’s complicated, untidy, and sometimes downright ugly.
We are growing up here. My son and his cousins are here together just about everyday. They are 6, nearly 5, and just turned 4. I wink and they are a year older.Those toys on the floor and the bread crumbs they are dropping are all signs of this precious time in their life and ours. These are the symbols of innocence that are all too fleeting. Their job is to play, and the disaster means they are looking to get promoted to that next phase. In the not-too-distant future, I will find myself looking around my pristine living room with everything in its place once again, and I will burst into tears for what I have lost. I will miss those chubby little fingers pulling at my heart, the butterfly kisses just because, the zany outbursts, the silly laughter, the most beautiful song of their gentle, rhythmic breathing as they sleep, and the sweet pain of a 40-pound child lying still on my chest.
And, so, for now I embrace my mess. I cherish it for all it symbolizes. I love this mess because I want my place to be the place to celebrate, gather family and friends, and grow up. I want it to be a retreat for all who enter. I want it to be our rock when life is a storm. It doesn’t have to be pretty. I’d rather we actually get to live here.
On an afternoon like this one, I find myself drifting into daydreams. My thoughts turn to travel, namely the kind that allows me to escape into another world, become a kid again, and shut down my brain even if but for a moment. For me, that means virtually visiting Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. I’ll admit, besides unlocking the memories in my mind, I seek out video on YouTube or read what’s new on some of the popular Disney blogs. Sometimes, I even delve into Disney history and read biographies of those who have made their mark on “the World.”
Some of my friends actually believe Disney is evil for its status as a multinational corporation and manipulation of children that has the company convincing them to buy their love of different childhood characters. I won’t even go into how they believe little girls are screwed up by all those princess fairy tales. If I’m being honest, they’re not wrong. Still, I’m walkin’ on the Dark Side, and I’m fine with that. Frankly, Disney is so good at getting you hooked, that I wouldn’t even know how to protest these practices. Here are some of the experiences that fuel my addiction and dominate my thoughts when I’m back home:
Yummy Treats – Hello Dole Whip! Only at Disney would the combination of milk and pineapple juice turn into a delightful, refreshing float that has people yearning in the way others seek true love. Then, there’s the moist, cake-like carrot cake cookie, replete with cream cheese icing filling, that might be the only draw at Hollywood Studios as it undergoes major renovation ahead of the arrival of Star Wars and Toy Story lands. Epcot serves as my own personal buffet of snacks – nachos in Mexico, pretzels and caramel corn in Germany, egg rolls in China, crepes and artisan ice cream in France, and fish and chips in England. The list of must-haves continues to grow as Disney expands its options and becomes more gourmet (at least by Disney standards).
Monorail – There are fewer sounds more soothing to me than the whizzing of futuristic trains that fly through the sky. Taking a ride on one is like a fantasy. As you swing around and visit each resort and the Magic Kingdom or head to Epcot, you are literally taken to another place, somewhere in a child’s storybook. I almost feel as though I’m hanging over Neverland. From your seat, you might catch a glimpse of the lit torches at the Polynesian, a wedding at the Grand Floridian, and Chef Mickey greeting guests at the Contemporary. Of course, you’ll see Cinderella’s Castle in all its glory, always beckoning you home.
Sound of Fireworks – The crackling explosion of colorful flames is like a lullaby. The best part is no matter where you are in the area, you can usually hear the fireworks every single night. Often, you can catch some of that color in the air. The sound of fireworks in Orlando is like a warm blanket on a cold day. It’s another way to get into your head and temporarily erase the usual to-dos and worries hanging out in there. Isn’t that the point of a vacation?
Peter Pan’s Flight – Everyone has her own favorite ride at the Disney theme parks, and this is one of mine. My parents took us to Disney just about every year when I was a kid, and this was always a must do. My father loved it because he said he flew away from his problems every time he stepped onto the flying ship. My mother hated it because she is afraid of heights and hanging a few inches in the air terrified her. She would clutch his arm and keep her eyes shut, but she never missed the flight. I think she wanted to be a part of our journey, which had us floating over Neverland, replete with Pan, Wendy, Hook, and the Tic-Toc Croc.
Mickey Mouse Ears for Everyone – The fact that it’s socially acceptable for full-grown adults to wear Mickey ears or capes or both makes Disney awesome. Grown ups like stuff kids like, including goofy string fights, chicken nuggets, and toilet humor. Normally, however, adults can’t admit this kind of stuff. Disney lets you be a kid again. In the World, you can wear the ears, take pictures with cartoon characters, and fill your plate with stuff from the kid’s section of the buffet. And nobody will judge.
All the Pretty Flowers – Flowers in a rainbow of colors, in a perfectly manicured bed, replete with water features or topiaries or statues inspire long, deep breaths and creative ideas. Coming from a family full of landscapers, I’ve been aware of this fact for as long as I can remember. While my family have the greenest of thumbs and have created gorgeous works of art with plants and flowers, even they can admit that Disney does it right. My father even learned a thing or two from Disney, like using cabbage as decoration in the fall and growing strawberries in a bag. Hello Land ride! Of course, all these gorgeous flowers and plants make lovely backdrops for your family vacation photos.
My Kid’s Smile – On any day of the week, my 4-year-old son has one heck of a smile, replete with a dimple on each cheek. Yes, I’m totally bias, but that’s not the point. When we are wrapped in the Disney bubble, his smile is wider and brighter. His teeth might actually sparkle and stars might circle around him as though he was in a cartoon.
Experts tell us that giving your child memories is a better investment than material items, such as toys. The pure joy I see in his smile when we’re on vacation at Disney proves that to me. Certainly, it helps alleviate the frustration at the significantly high prices of such a getaway. But it also makes me sure that when my son is older and I’m gone, these are the kinds of things upon which he’ll reflect. Sure, he’ll remember advice I give him and how I nursed him through the flu and all the stuff I will teach him (from tying his shoes to parking a car). But when he thinks about our bond – the love between us – I’m willing to bet shaking hands with Mickey Mouse and hopping on Dumbo’s Flight with my husband and me are going to be near the top of his list.
I’m only but a mere cog in this world. But I need to make my whisper louder because I am a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, and most importantly a mother. And as the 2016 presidential election plays out before our eyes, I am terrified and unsure how to move forward as a parent.
There has been lots of talk about how parents can’t even allow their kids to watch the news because of the vulgarity of the candidate’s language. Well, I’m actually more concerned about the vulgarity of what’s happening than the words themselves. People cheering as protesters get beaten and thrown out of a political rally is hardly G-rated television.
Like many parents, I worry about how I’m going to raise my 4-year-old son to be a respectable, loving, decent human being in a country in which little boys can get killed by the police while playing on the playground, a grandmother and mentally ill teenager can get killed by the police at their door, we turn away refugees who are victims of the same groups terrorizing us, we shun immigrants despite the fact that most of us were in their shoes not so long ago, and men seeking to be leaders of the free world are comparing penis size on stage at a public debate. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that one of those candidates has shown little respect for women or that many of them fail to recognize the reality of climate change, the greatest threat of our time.
This is not another lament on Donald Trump, nor is it a political column. This is a plea from a mother, who is simply seeking more understanding. I don’t know who will win the election, and I’m not publicly supporting anyone for now. But I’d like to believe that common decency, empathy, and humanity are themes that can cross political lines. My goal in writing this blog is to discuss living the sweet life, and it’s never been harder to attain.
My people came to the United States from Italy in pursuit of happiness. That’s right, I haven’t forgotten that if it weren’t for one illegal immigrant, my family never would have arrived here. They wanted a better life than the one they had on a small island in Italy, that American dream replete with white picket fence. For much of my life, I felt like we were living it. Now, I’m not so sure. It makes little sense. I’m a college graduate, whereas my family members were not. My father graduated high school in the United States and many of my aunts and uncles and my grandparents never went past the fifth grade in Italy. They worked hard at factories, started their own businesses, cleaned houses, rung up cash registers, and waited tables once they arrived in America. Then, they wisely invested their money in homes and savings accounts in banks, back when that meant something. And they paid for the next generation – including me – to go to college, so we could have it easier. Common sense tells us we should have it better than they did. But we don’t. Why?
Our generation is experiencing challenges I never imagined when I dreamed of my sweet life. We faced attack on our land. We went to war again and again. Some returned greatly damaged and largely forgotten. Some of us didn’t have the luxury of returning at all. We lived through the Great Recession, which many would argue hasn’t ended for most yet. To save money, we poisoned our own people, including babies and the elderly – and haven’t even stopped now that our sins are out in the open. This happened in the United States of America in 2016! Yet, many of my own people – journalists – seem shocked and astounded that Americans are mad as hell. (Don’t get me started on how journalism and journalists have let us down.) Of course, we are angry and loud and growing impatient. There’s only so much people can take before they break.
Now, we’re trying to raise our children in the midst of this anger and fear. If I take a moment to catch my breath, what I want doesn’t seem all that unreasonable or difficult. I want my son to be able to not only survive but prosper by affording him a decent education. I want him and other Americans to have their basic needs met and that includes clean water.
I want him to have a heart full of love and to be generous with that love. I want him to feel empathy for other people, who are facing hard times. I’d like to see him give those in need a hug and a hand, and I’d like others to do the same for him when the time comes. I want him to turn the other cheek when faced with the prospect of resolving differences with violence. I want him to choose his friends based on the content of their character and not the color of their skin or the religion they practice (or don’t practice) or their culture.
In fact, I want him to celebrate our differences, which truly are the threads that unite this beautiful country. When the time comes, I want him to vote, even when the choices aren’t as great as he’d like them to be. It’s not easy to choose who should lead you, but it’s your civic duty to make a careful, thoughtful, and studied decision. Our family fought to be here, to be Americans, and he must never take that for granted. Speranza is the Italian word for hope. What I want for my son most of all is to always have speranza for a better tomorrow.
Today, I’m having an Epiphany or, rather, an Epifania. Today is the feast of the Epiphany, which is known as Epifania in Italy. Get it?
Many around the world refer to this day as Little Christmas, the day when the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for Baby Jesus. Anyway, my husband and I are heading into our son’s school to read Tomie dePaola’s book, Old Befana, and bring little gifts from the Italian Christmas witch, who visits Italian homes on the eve of the Epiphany. Yes, La Befana as she is fondly known uses a broom instead of reindeer. Being poor, she only leaves a small gift and some chocolate (also mandarins and walnuts) for good little boys and girls and coal for those who’ve been naughty. My father remembers finding these treats in his shoes or his sister’s actual stockings when he was a kid in Italy in the 1950s. Nowadays, kids leave out pretty stockings like the ones Americans use for Santa’s visit. And the witch made it all the way to the United States and left our son and his cousins a few treats. The fact that this tradition combines images of my son’s two favorite holidays – Halloween and Christmas – is a priceless bonus. Tonight, we eat and eat some more. The homemade pizza dough is already rising. To all who celebrate, have yourself a merry Little Christmas now!
Don’t let the headline fool you. I would never profess to be the best mother in the world. I’m the furthest thing from it. Let me explain. I’m not neglectful or abusive. And I’m full of love. Actually, I’m oozing the gooey, mushy stuff most of the time. But I make one mistake after another (unable to keep him in time out, giving in when he wants a cheese cracker instead of kale, never knowing what to do when he has a tantrum, worrying about balancing time with him and my work, and the list goes on). To sum up, I’m never quite sure I’m doing the right thing despite my best intentions. Still, I’m fairly certain that every mother the world over feels the same at one time or another. That makes us all the best moms. After all, that feeling – a mix between guilt, disappointment, and so much love you believe your heart is about to burst into flames like a car in a Die Hard movie – is a terrific motivator to try and do better. So, we march on. And we try. And we do better at least half the time. The good news is that the other half the time we’re building character in our kids. Or at least that’s how I like to look at it late at night when I can’t sleep because I’m wondering if I’m ruining his life.
While I think we’re all the best moms we can be, I am most familiar with one breed – Italian mammas. They are my people. They raised me, and I am the mother I am because of them. That’s why I recently wrote down the reasons I love ’em and think of them as the best mammas out there for an Our Paesani column on ItaliansRus.com. No one else should take offense. These ladies are just the best for me. I know your kind of mamma is the best for you. And you are indeed the best for your kid. Happy Mother’s Day to all!
Old-school Italian parents have specific rules and they enforce them. And you will be punished if you don’t follow them…even if you’re 26 and about to get married. If you’re still living at home (and if you have hardcore, fresh-off-the boat Italians for parents you will be until you say, “I do”), then you’re obliged to keep in line. So just what do they expect of you? Find out every week here on Italian Mamma.
1. Eat. Italian parents think you might actually starve to death if you miss one meal. Heck, some of them get concerned if you miss one snack. I’m not exaggerating.These guys don’t agree with today’s moms and dads who let kids go hungry if they don’t want to eat what they’ve cooked. My parents did anything to get us to eat. They would make three different dinners, bribe us with dessert, whatever it took. And any friends who came over and refused food because “they were on a diet” were not to be trusted. None of those people lasted long. And you should see what they sent to school for lunch or classroom birthday parties. I mean, really, it was embarrassing.
While it seems like my parents broke all the feeding rules of today’s parents, they also never forced us to eat anything we didn’t want, encouraged us to try it though, and let us help cook whenever we felt like it. So, they did a few things right. And we’re pretty much all foodies. My brother entered the food industry, and I cook at home every day. My sister is not much for cooking, but she likes to eat with the best of us and we all are adventurous and interested in trying different cuisines. Food is kind of a way of life for us. In other words, mamma and papa did good. Now, you know that the No. 1 way to an Italian parent’s heart is through your own stomach.
Weekends in August in Ischia, Italy can get pretty gloomy, at least for some of us. It’s the height of tourist season here, so the natives are busy hosting all the tourists. My husband has been working morning and night literally. When he is home, he sleeps. So, Baby Boy and I are pretty much on our own. The streets and beaches are littered with people, and all our friends are hard at work, too. So, we have been staying in. Still, home has its perks – delicious food (ordered in or made by the in-laws or me), making silly faces for iPhotoBooth pics, and the ability to iron all those white shirts that hubby needs for work. Ok, so the ironing wasn’t so much fun. But it certainly needs to be featured in a collage about an Italian mamma’s typical weekend. When in RomeIschia…
If I didn’t laugh at my situation as an American living in Italy, I would cry. Often. So, I choose to laugh. My sense of humor is often directed toward those strangers in the strada who like to give me parenting “advice.” Basically, they’re telling me that my Americanness makes me the worst parent in the world. Maybe they’re right. What do I know? In any event, I’ve boiled down Italian parenting to a few distinct rules, and I’ve shared those in the most recent Our Paesani, “The Italian Guide to Parenting,” column for ItaliansRus.