Tag Archives: Family

We Remember… 9/11/01

Last summer, I visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time. Actually experiencing being there was nothing short of amazing- seeing all the names of those we lost, my fingertips gently grazing some of their names while I was silently saying prayers for each of them, hearing the peacefulness and tranquility of the waterfalls; feeling the same emotions strike me that I felt that day -maybe even a tad bit harder by actually being there. I simply could not wrap my head around the fact that people had died right where I was standing, that the streets I was walking through to get there were the same streets that people were running for their lives- struggling to see, to breathe, to live…

These were the very same streets that the Heroes of New York were heading in the opposite direction, towards the buildings, towards the fires, towards the thousands of people who needed them and were counting on them. I cannot even fathom the anguish, the fear, the hopelessness that almost 3000 people felt that day right before they died; the unbearable pain and suffering that their families and friends endured- that they still endure.

Unimaginable.

I was pregnant with my son when I was there last year and I can remember having the painful realization that he was going to learn about 9/11 in a future History class. His generation and the generations to come will not know how each of us felt that fateful day, how we can all remember exactly what we were doing when we heard, how we all ran to put on the news and sat there numb, speechless, paralyzed while we witnessed the 2nd plane hit.

At the time, I was a somewhat sheltered 20-yr-old suburban college student whose biggest problem was what major I was going to declare and which party to attend the following Saturday night. Reality hit me in the face like a ton of bricks- panic slowly setting in with the realization that there are terrifying people in this world who hate America, who hate the Freedom that we stand for, who want to destroy us.

They didn’t though. They deeply wounded us, left us with abysmal scars, whipped us into a cold, hard, dark reality check- there is absolutely no denying that. They knocked us off our hinges for a long while, but we did not break. We did not crumble. United We Stand, strongly and proudly, as we remember those that we lost 13 years ago today. I know all of us live busy, hectic lives but remember to take a minute out of your day today and say a prayer to those that we lost.

Let them know that we remember, and that we will never ever forget…

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Small Town Girl

GetAttachment88      This Labor day weekend and every other labor day weekend for 33 years, I have attended the Taste of Melrose Park. I was there earlier today, and I was so happy to be able to bring my son Matteo to his first Taste and it got me thinking how much I love being a small town girl and how much my hometown will always be a part of me. Melrose Park is a small suburb of Chicago where I was born and raised. Though I do not live there anymore, I will never forget where I’m from. It is the same for many of my childhood friends as well. No matter where we are in life, how far away we move, how successful we become, how big our families grow, we still find our way back to Melrose. It is, after all, our own personal Cheers, the place you want to go where everybody knows your name. Big cities have their glamour and their shine, but the charm a small town depicts is impossible to beat.

The Taste is a fest where all the food is 3 dollars or less and it is absolutely free to get in. Not many fests are still free of charge, and not many have food this good or this cheap. It has music, rides, arts and crafts,  and some of the best food around.  It’s a place I come every year to see friends and family that I have known all of my life. Everyone has grown up, moved away, have their own families now, have huge careers, etc. but the Taste is a time where everyone we grew up with goes back to where it all began.  It is always nice to catch up, to see familiar faces, find out what everyone is up to, get to see everyone’s kids and how they are growing, and of course, we do it all while eating some mouth-watering delicious food.

When I was growing up, everything at the Taste was 1 dollar, including the roses that the neighborhood boys used to buy to hand out to the girl they were crushing on at the time. The girls would collect roses and it would become a friendly competition to see how many roses you ended up with at the end of the night. If your crush gave you a rose, it sent butterflies to your stomach and sent you giggling with your girlfriends in the corner. It was the most innocent and sweetest tradition and one  that I will never forget. It was a romantic act that displayed the boys being chivalrous at a very young age and the girls feeling admired and courted and wooed. All my girlfriends and I had to look our absolute best for this weekend each year. While most kids were going shopping for back-to-school clothes, we were scrounging together our saved-up  money to buy the cutest outfits for the Taste each year.

The town just has a special place in all of our hearts, and many outsiders will never understand it. It’s a place that just will always feel like home. Though I moved out of town almost 9 years ago, I still got married in the church there, the same church that my parents were married and that my grandparents were married.  I think that’s beautiful. I think that’s amazing.  I still baptized my child there a few months ago, where my siblings and I were also baptized. There’s honor in that. There’s value in that to me. To be a part of a small town like that, to have been lucky enough to create the childhood memories we all had together and still get to see each other at least once a year is a beautiful thing to me.

I am truly loving the life I have now, I am truly loving the town I live in now and the new memories I am creating while raising my family here,  but Melrose will always hold a special place deep within me  and no matter the distance away or how old I get,  I will always be a Melrose girl at heart.

 

 

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Stay my baby

illloveyouforever4

Today my son is 6 months old. 6 months old. 6 months old. It sounds so foreign. It feels so unreal.  In the last month, Matteo now rolls over, has started to reach for me, is now eating fruits and vegetables, attempted his first sippy cup, and just yesterday, his two bottom teeth started poking through. Whaaaat?  I am his biggest cheerleader, celebrating and encouraging and hollering for each milestone, but that one sick part of me is saying Noooo! Waiiitttt! Stopppp! Don’t get any bigger. Stay my baby forever.

It’s already going by so fast. Now I know what all these mothers and fathers are always complaining about. My own father always told me one of the hardest things for him was when he realized I was getting too old to watch cartoons with him anymore on Saturday mornings, all snuggled up on the couch. I want to tell him I’ll watch cartoons with you, Daddy. I’m never too old. I’ll always be your baby.  Because now I know just how bittersweet it was for my parents to watch my brother, sister, and I grow up. The word ‘Bittersweet’ rings so fitting and so true to my newest Mommy Dilemma. I am extremely proud and amazed and happy that my son  is growing so fast, that he is so strong, that he is excelling beautifully. But I am so sad that some day soon, he won’t fit in my arms when I cradle him, he won’t hold tightly onto my fingers or stroke my face gently, or look up at me adoringly while I am feeding him his ba-ba.

There’s going to be a time that his eyes won’t light up when I walk into a room, a time when I won’t be the girl that puts the biggest smile on his face, a time where he won’t think every single word I say to him is so funny and interesting. There is going to be a time where he is going to be embarrassed by the millions of kisses I give to him each day and he is going to start to push me away. There is going to be a time when I can no longer dress him in all his cute outfits, no longer watch him splish splash and giggle his sweet baby giggle in the bathtub, no longer see his little legs and feet dance in delight as I come near him, no more mommy and Matteo reading time, no more morning selfies sent to Daddy each morning to brighten his work day, no more adoring looks of love that he sends my way no matter what he is doing, just to make sure I’m looking.

The way my son looks at me now is something I wish I could capture in a glass jar and treasure forever. I might not need that glass jar though. That mesmerized look, that twinkle  in my son’s eyes when he looks at me will be forever imprinted in my brain and engraved in my heart. It is something I could never forget. It makes me feel like no matter what else I have done in life, I have done at least one thing right.

The one piece of advice I would give any woman about to become a mother is to treasure every single moment you have with them because it really goes by in the blink of an eye. I feel like I was just in the hospital giving birth to this beautiful gift from God and now I am pulling down the 6 to 9 month clothes bin and staring at it in disbelief. Each day with Matteo is a new discovery, a new sound, a new object he favors, a new unveiling of one of the many pieces that will help mold him into the man he will one day become. ‘Man.’ My tiny little boy will one day be a man. Unfathomable. But maybe I will have loved him just right and cheered for him just right and  taught him just right so that he will be this incredible, loving, smart, loyal, and amazing man. And though I will be tremendously proud of that man, he will still always be my precious little baby to me.

 

 

 

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Mommy see, Mommy do

Rookie. Newbie. First-time Mom. That’s me.  It is painfully obvious that I am not a veteran. I might as well be wearing it as a sort of scarlet letter branded across my forehead. That’s me- the one in the waiting room at the doctors office with my notepad of questions to ask the doctor. After almost 6 months now of my Matteo’s life- I think his doctor knows me well enough that at the end of her required tests and check lists, she sits down and says ” ok, what questions did you bring for me today ? “

Yes, I still sit in the backseat with my son while my husband is driving. Yes, I still sleep with the monitor literally next to my face and continue to run in his room at least twice a night just to get a closer look and to see him breathing up close. Yes, I listen to every guideline and rule book out there.  My doctor’s advice and opinions are like the bible to me. Yes, I jump 10 feet in the air and suffer mini-heart attacks when Matteo coughs or cries really hard or makes a new sound. Yes, I read book after book and article after article on the newest philosophies on child care and ways to always stimulate your baby’s mind and help develop the smartest babies. Yes, I read a new book to my son every single day even though he can’t possible understand any of it yet. Yes, I constantly ask questions to other moms, to my mother and my mother-in-law, constantly ask my doctor if the way I’m doing something is right, constantly over-think and worry and stress if I’m doing a good job and if others think I’m doing a good job. 

Yes, I’m that girl. I’ve always been. Of course I like to think I’m not – but I’ve always been a please-approve-of-what-I’m-doing girl. I’m a student down to the bone. I read, I analyze, I research everything. Having my first baby brings it out in me even more. There’s not one item in my house for my son that I have not researched thoroughly and hmmed and hawed over before buying.  Preparing my registry for my baby shower was like a full -time job. I drove my husband crazy, my sister crazy, my best friends crazy, my cousins crazy. I did not stop. I needed to have the very best, the most practical, the safest, the cutest, and I needed to be very sure before adding anything to the registry. 

I downloaded app after app after app during my pregnancy to ensure I was doing all I could do, that I was finding out everything there was to know about my child’s development and growth. I bought one of those at-home heartbeat monitors to check on the baby and I did it more times then I’d like to admit. I just had to make sure he was safe. My own personal angel that was sent to me from heaven. You bet I was going to do anything and everything I could to protect him and keep him safe. After all, I have been waiting for him all my life.

So yes , I am a first-time mom and I’m a little crazy. I’m a little irrational. I’m a little over-bearing and over-protective . So what. It’s more like a badge of honor to me, than a scarlet letter . I wear it loud and proud. I am proud that I am new at this, proud that I want to give my son the very best life has to offer, proud that I would move heaven and earth to give him anything he needs, proud that I would walk through fire to keep him safe and protected, and proud that I’m doing a damn good job for a rookie, if I do say so myself.  

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Sunday Dinners with Mia Famiglia

Growing up, I missed a lot of  ” Sunday Fundays” with friends; whether they were swimming, hanging out, shopping, whatever. If it was a Sunday, everyone knew where I would be. Sunday was a day for family. All day long. I wouldn’t have it any other way. It was an amazing way to grow up. It helped mold me into the person I am today and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  Growing up Italian Catholic meant two things on Sundays:  1) You went to church  and 2) you had Sunday dinner with your entire immediate family. To most, immediate families meant mom, dad, brother, sister, dog, whomever lives in your home, right? Not in our family.  Immediate family meant  my grandparents, aunts, uncles, first cousins, and yeah, even sometimes 2nd and 3rd cousins. And when I say Sunday dinner together, I mean all at one long table.  It doesn’t get any better than that… or any crazier/louder than that either.  The first time my husband who is only a tiny bit Italian came for sunday dinner, he asked why everyone was screaming, and he seriously had a headache the whole night after leaving.  I really didn’t notice what he was referring to!  “That’s just how we talk,”  I said! 

 The smell of sunday dinner is something that will never escape my memory. The smell of fresh warm garlic bread, a fresh batch of  gravy (no, not sauce)  on the stove simmering all day long, creating an aroma that filled your nostrils the second you walked in the door.  Wine was poured, plates were completely filled and you couldn’t leave the table until you finished your plate, oh and the salad was always eaten last.

I was lucky enough to begin life with both sets of grandparents.  That meant church, then going to my paternal grandparents for an early dinner (Italians also eat very early on sundays, usually around 2pm or 3pm) and then heading over to my maternal grandparents for dessert and then cards.  It was never a complete sunday without cards! And you want to talk about loud?  I think we knew every swear word in both Italian and English by the time we were 3!  My family always fought hard,  everything was an argument, but we loved even harder.  Kisses and hugs, food galore, laughter, love, and family, every sunday.  What more can you ask for? 

Unfortunately, Sunday dinners ended early on my paternal side, when I lost my Nani and Papa at a very young age. My Nani first, then my Papa a few years later. The void of losing them that early has still never left me. I was fortunate enough to still have my other grandparents and the Sunday tradition carried on with them  until I was 30 years old, almost 4 years ago. I lost my maternal Nani first,  then my Papa a few years later. History sadly repeating itself.  I’d say that is pretty lucky and pretty damn amazing though to be able to say that every sunday for 30 years, I had the wonderful comfort of knowing that no matter how bad the week was, what was going on in any of our lives, no matter what time of year, no matter who was getting along and who wasn’t, we were together as a family every single Sunday. 

We still carry on the tradition with my real immediate family now at my parents house with my brother and sister and their families and myself, my husband, and my son Matteo.  No, it’s not the same. It’s still loud, it’s still crazy, it’s still filled with love, but it’s just a little quieter,  a little tamer, our hearts are a little heavier with the loss of more and more family members each year. But I will say this, sundays are still for family, we still sit at one long table,  the pasta is still served,  the bread still warm waiting for us, laughter still fills the house from morning to night, and the love for one another is still growing strong. We still know that no matter what, we always have sundays together as a family. I like to think my grandparents are smiling down on us from heaven, clinking their wine glasses together, and still smelling the fine aroma of great food,  love, laughter, and family at every single Sunday Dinner.

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