Archives for posts with tag: mom

I’m not the go-crazy-decorating-like-a-mad-woman-and-buying-ridiculous-amounts-of-gifts holiday woman.  I never have been.  I enjoy a good holiday, but I’ve just never been over the top about them.  For me, the holidays aren’t about that.  They’re about family. 

My childhood holidays centered around family.  My mom’s family, mostly.  My father didn’t have much of a family and the few relatives he did have celebrated with their own, so we always spent the holidays with my mother’s big Italian family.  I was fine with that.  I really didn’t know anything different and don’t think I would have picked anything different if I could. 

My aunts and uncles were a boisterous bunch.  Holidays were always loud, filled with laughter, food and arguing.  Arguing about anything and everything, but mostly the Cubs vs the Sox.  That’s what Italians do.  They argue for sport and about sport, too. (They argue about everything actually!)  My father hated it. He didn’t hate being there, he hated the noise.  I never understood it growing up, but having three wonderful, yet loud kids and an amazing and loud husband, I get it now.  The noise makes me tired. 

Dad would always retreat for a nap at my grandparents or my uncles, or wherever the holiday was being held. Sometimes I’d sneak up there with him.  I never napped, I just liked being near him. I remember watching him sleep.  It was then I’d get to see his face unhidden by his coke bottle sized glasses.  He was a handsome man, and I thought he walked on water. 

My mother would be wherever the action was.  She was right splat in the middle of everything.  Cooking with her sister, her brother in-law and, God willing she’d let her, her mother.  I personally stayed out of the kitchen when my grandmother was cooking.  She had a way of giving the evil eye to anyone in her way, and I’d be damned if I was going to catch that.  If you’re Italian, you have to know the evil eye is real and it’s a scary thing.  I firmly believe in this old Italian wive’s tale!

Grandma wasn’t a mean woman.  She just knew what she needed to do and made sure no one, even God himself, got in her way.  Every so often she would meander out of the kitchen and warn us kids not to go in her china cabinet because there was candy in there and she didn’t want us to spoil our appetites.  We all got the hint, and I filled up on those white mints you can get in some restaurants every single time. They were my favorite. 

The mints never stopped me from having too much pasta and too many meatballs and as much Pepsi as I could handle.  Food coma be damned, I would fill up and moan in sheer delight just like the rest of them.  It was pure heaven.  

After dinner, everyone crowded around a big table, or a bunch of big tables at my Uncle Norm and Aunt Eleanor’s house, and we all hung out and exchanged stories, theories and arguments. I’d sit and listen, soaking in the atmosphere, listening to the typical Italian Chicago speak full of ‘youse guys’ and Italian words I never quite understood.  I am quite sure they were swear words. Quite sure. 

Eventually the kids would bore of the talk and wander off into other areas.  My aunt and uncle had this monstrous house with what felt like hundreds of rooms.  I’d sneak into their living room and tap on the piano, lacking any ability or talent whatsoever, but thinking I was the bomb.  Then I’d wander up into my cousins rooms and play with their Barbies.  They had the most amazing Barbie collection. Not just the Barbies and the clothes, but an incredible assortment of things unimaginable.  Silverware, purses, shoes, things I so desperately wanted for my Barbies but could never convince my parents to buy.  Silverware.  Who knew they made silverware for Barbies? I often wonder what happened to all of that stuff. It’s probably worth a bundle now. 

That’s the interesting thing about Christmas.  For me, when I look back, I remember one gift.  I remember a pale pink tutu I got when I was in kindergarten.  I was six.  After that, I cannot tell you one single present I got for Christmas.  Not one.  I can though, and will in future posts, tell you some pretty funny stories about my family, like when my dad shot Santa.  But as for the gifts, outside of the tutu, I’ve got nothing stored in my brain. 

For me, it was never about the gifts.  It was about the people.  My family.  It was about spending time with a big group of loud, often obnoxious Italians and their families.  It was about time with them, honoring traditions, sticking to my grandparents plastic cover on the couch, and eating funky shaped cookies with jellies in the middle.  It was about love and connecting and sharing and eating and laughing and taking naps.  And just being together.  

Now I have only one aunt left, and I’m grateful she’s still with us.  All of my mothers brothers and her sister have passed, and it’s been years since they’ve all gone.  We haven’t had a big family get together in over 15 years.  The house my aunt and uncle shared belongs to someone else.  My grandparents are gone, the memories of time with them stored safely in my heart.  

Cousins are spread out all over the country and we rarely talk or see each other.  The traditions we shared, that I’ve held so close to my heart, have gone with the family members who’ve passed.  We never found a way to continue them and it makes me sad.  I’m sure my aunts and uncles and my grandparents would be sad too. 

My children only got to meet my Aunt Eleanor, and only a few times.  I would have loved for my kids to meet my other aunts and uncles, and my grandparents.  They would have so enjoyed the loudness and the food and the cookies and the hidden candy.  They would have laughed at the Chicago and Italian accents, the cheek pinching and the swearing.  And I would have been proud to show my kids how I became the person I am today because so much of those people, that history, and those special holidays made me who I am.  And I am continually grateful to them for shaping me into a brassy, loud-mouthed Italian woman.  

If Santa were to ask me what I wanted for Christmas, I’d ask for one more holiday at my Uncle Norm and Aunt Eleanor’s house, and one more nap with my dad. 

 

 

Over the past few days I’ve been on mom duty.  Yes, I’m always on mom duty, but sometimes it takes up more time than others.  Lately mom duty has been all about studying and preparing.  My son has four tests this week.  He’s in 8th grade. I realize it’s the end of the year and teachers want to get tests out of the way before the holiday break (because they no no one will do any school work over the break and will likely forget everything once they’re back at school), but four tests (and two quizzes) in one week is a bit much.  We had notice for two of the tests prior to the weekend so we were able to focus on those but didn’t find out about the other two until yesterday.  Giving kids two days to study for two tests when they’ve got other activities is a lot if you ask me.

I don’t baby my kids.  I never have.  The real world is tough and they’re not going to be babied (though it seems that’s happening more and more, but I won’t go down that path in this post), so I believe it’s important to prepare them for the real world.  I’m not a coddler and honestly, wouldn’t even know how to do that if I tried.

I do think it’s important to help a kid when they need help and I felt my son needed help, so I stepped up to the plate.  I’m not sure if it’s hormones or what, but this year has been a struggle for him.  He’s not the smartest kid on the planet, but he is smart and he is in all advanced classes but I think he’s struggling with the extra effort he needs to put in.  And by struggling I mean he doesn’t want to do it.

This is where I come in.  I’ve tried to figure out a way to help him improve his study habits, and it’s not been easy.  My oldest daughter is wicked smart and knew when it was time to hunker down (she may have not done that her freshman year in college, but she learned that lesson quickly).  My other daughter hasn’t been a studier and that’s been a big problem for her, but my son is mostly like my oldest.  He can memorize anything, but now memorizing isn’t enough. He needs to find a way to apply and truly understand what he’s learning.

Of course, being the google queen that I am, I researched and researched ways to help him learn but I got a whole bunch of crap.  Be organized, review, etc.  I know all of that.  I’ve tried to teach him all of that, but so far it’s not working.  He can’t grasp the concept of ‘reviewing for a few minutes each night’ even though EVERY teacher has suggested this.

So needless to say, we had to learn 29 vocabulary words for language arts and a whole butt load of Georgia and US government history.

I took his social studies study guide and used his online book (because they don’t have enough money for actual books anymore) and went through and found every answer.  No, I didn’t give it to him.  I made him go through and find every answer also.  He’s not going to learn if he doesn’t do the work.  I did it also so I could make sure he had the right answers.  What’s the point of doing it and learning it if you’re learning the wrong information?

Once I finished that, I copied all of his worksheets and notes and along with the study guide, made about 100 note cards.  I gave him those to review, which bored him to death.  So I took the note cards and wrote out about 100 questions on individual note cards and 100 answers on another set of note cards.  We laid the answers out on the floor in rows and he took each question and matched it to the answer.  He loved it.  Then we reversed it.  He loved it again.  He busted through it and got every single one right, and even corrected the ones I did wrong (hey, it was a lot to cover in a few hours and I haven’t been in school for a long time!)

We did the same with the vocab cards and he nailed them.  Then I made him use them in sentences and did word association with them, too. His vocab quiz was yesterday and he missed two that he knows of.  I feel like  I failed him.  He missed two words that were similar.  One was nefarious.  The quiz required him to fill in a word in a sentence.  His sentence was about the Grinch being nefarious.  He didn’t believe the Grinch to be evil, which is part of the definition.  I guess technically, the Grinch isn’t, but I really can’t make that argument with the teacher.  Either way, considering he’d had the words for TWO WEEKS and hadn’t touched them, I’m good with missing two.

The social studies test is today.  He knows it all, except possibly the last few amendments to the first 1o on the Bill of Rights.  Have you read those things?  I haven’t in years, but in finding them on the internet, I couldn’t tell you what any of them meant.  He had a ‘cheat sheet’ from class that shortened them into understandable verbiage, but left it at school.  I sure hope he doesn’t blow it with those.  I’m sitting on pins and needles waiting to find out.

He also has a math test.  The kid is in advanced math, and they’re doing algebra.  Waaaayyy past my level of knowledge.  I made it to long division and then went down hill from there.  My husband helped him some and we got him a tutor because my husband travels and I can’t answer any questions that require me to add, subtract, divide or multiply a number with a letter.  X, regardless of what they say, does not have a numeric value in my head.

The next two tests are Spanish and science.  I’m pretty sure he’ll ace those, because he usually does.  I’m pretty sure he’ll ace the government test too.  The vocab quiz would have been a big fat fail because he hates language arts. Who birthed this kid?  How can he hate language arts?  As for math, he’s struggling, but that seems to be the general consensus of all of the kids in that class.

Needless to say, my creativity tanked over the past few days.  Focusing my brain like that has worn this menopausal woman out!  I’m so glad I don’t have to learn things I don’t want to learn anymore.  Give me stuff that interests me any day but the rest, let’s just leave that to the middle schoolers.