Food, Glorious Food


I am not generally a fan of food trends. I don’t follow the latest crazes (acai berry, anyone?) My Dad always taught us, “All things in moderation, including moderation.”

I eat meat, dairy, wheat, veggies, fruits, cookies and just about everything in between. I am, in a word, an omnivore.

But I am also the friend of some very intelligent, highly informed, super healthy women. When they talk about nutrition, they know of what they speak.

The upshot of these friendships is that I am now living a gluten free life.

The thing is. I don’t have a particular difficulty with wheat. My digestive system is generally pretty reliable, as long as I go easy on the brussel sprouts and black beans.

But I do have fibromyalgia, and I complain a lot. So on one of our women’s getaways we were talking about all of the potential effects of gluten. Most of the women in the room had researched gluten intolerance. In fact, 6 out of the 8 of my pals were not eating gluten anymore.

“You should try the gluten free diet, ” said my brilliant actually-a-real-live-nurse friend Karen. “It might make a big difference with your inflammatory issues.”

“I lost a lot of weight once I stopped eating wheat,” added our equally brilliant (and very tiny) friend Cindy.

So. What could I do?

I came home from our weekend and decided to try it out. How hard could it be to stop eating wheat?

HA.

First of all, I’m Italian. Pasta is my middle name.

Second of all, I am a food snob. I refuse to eat things that are processed and preserved and all that. No fake gluten free pizza dough for this woman!

So I stopped my morning toast, my noon time sandwich, my crackers for snack and my pasta for dinner. I happily ate my meat and more fruits and veggies than usual. I was careful to add in gluten free carbs, like quinoa and rice.

Healthiness, here I come!

Within two days I was shaking. My palms were sweaty. I felt weak. And that reliable digestive system? Holy rumbling grumbles. I wanted a bagel. I wanted ravioli. I wanted toast.

I wanted salt.

By day four, I found myself salivating at the thought of potato chips. I bought a bag of “Skinny Pop” and ate it. I was craving fries. Pretzels. I kept adding salt to my pots of quinoa.

By day six, I noticed that I was tasting things more sharply. Adding a little cumin to my chicken marinade made me feel like Giada DeLaurentiis (without the perky boobs.) A bit of turmeric on my saffron rice? Magnificent!

And by day 7, I had lost three pounds.

What the hell.

I wanted my bagels back, but….three pounds in a week?

As week two got underway, I noticed that I was still shaky, still feeling weak and still craving salt. And the digestion issues were not getting better. Ugh. I would have quit right then, but….three pounds.

So I reached out to my wise women of the village. My super healthy, super aware friend Maureen said, “Your body needs time to adjust. Stay with it.”

I did.

It’s now week three.

I have lost another two pounds. I have mastered the fine points of preparing both quinoa and polenta, neither of which I thought I’d ever achieve. I feel fine. The rumbles and grumbles from my slightly smaller belly have subsided.

But my fibromyalgia and the aches and pains that go with it are unchanged. My energy level is unchanged. Stuff still hurts.

So now what do I do?

Well, I certainly have given all of this some thought.

While I don’t believe that gluten or wheat are hurting me, I sure do wonder how much salt I am taking in with my store bought bread items. I definitely know that bread fills me in a way that other foods don’t, which is why I think I am losing a bit of weight.

Here is my plan.

I am going to limit my wheat consumption to a few times a week. And I’m going to go back to baking my own bread. I even have a yeast free sourdough starter going. I’ll skip the crackers with my cheese and will eat carrots instead. Or olives. Or fennel!

I’ll enjoy my newfound quinoa and polenta skills. Maybe I’ll even master lentil salad. Who knows?

I feel happy to have tried this food adventure. I can tell myself that I did what I could to control the fibromyalgia aches. I have learned that commercial breads, muffins, bagels are loaded with salt and sugar.

At last, at last, I can whip up a batch of quinoa or a big pot of polenta and cheese with basil.

So even though we are heading into the hot part of the year, I’m going to renew my efforts to make my own pasta (which has a really unpredictable success rate), my own bread and my own (yes, I mean it) bagels.

And I’m going to NOT give in to my potato chip cravings.

Instead I’ll eat an entire jar of pickles.

Thanks, wise women of my village! I love youse!

 

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I Think I Know Why Nothing Gets Done


We’re constantly wondering, we Americans, what exactly has gotten into our government leaders. We watch them bluster and blather. We hear them pontificate and pander.

But do they ever actually accomplish anything? Pass any new laws? Set some clear policies? I don’t know, maybe figure out an actual workable year long budget?

Nope, nope and nuh-uh.

Don’t you wonder why?

Well, I think I’ve figured it out. It’s actually pretty simple.

They don’t have time to govern! These are very busy people!!!

I mean, look what our leaders are up to at the moment.

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.38.30 PM

Yup. The big boss of our duly elected House of Representatives is doing his best to prevent his opponents (also our duly elected representatives) from working to get our votes.  He doesn’t have time to legislate.

Then there’s this:

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.47.06 PM

See? They don’t have time for insignificant details like keeping the lights on, or protecting our Social Security. They can’t be bothered with the minutiae of approving or disapproving of the bombs we drop overseas. They’re busy with pre-emptive actions to prevent something that hasn’t happened and might never happen.

These people are BUSY! They have important work to do!

For example,

Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 8.50.09 PM

Oh, sure, Mrs. Clinton LOST the election that took place almost a year and a half ago. Comey has been fired. But our Congress is busy trying to root out any possible infraction of any possible law that one of them might have committed at some point in the past. They don’t have time to work together to reach a compromise on little things like the impending death of the planet.

So it’s easy to see that our members of Congress are so busy trying to poke each other in the eye that they can’t be bothered with keeping the country going.

I suggest that we lock them all in a big room and let them play a killer round of “Words With Friends” or “Trivial Pursuit.”  Or maybe “Cards Against Humanity.” The winning team gets to run things for six months, then there’s a rematch.

It would save us billions of tax dollars in “investigations” and, God willing, we’d never have to hear the words “Benghazi” or “Pee-pee tape” ever again.

 

 

 

 

Desperately Seeking Solace


Oh.

Oh, my.

Ohmygod.

Dear young Moms, please help me! I need you!

Dear Grandmother’s, please please tell me it will all be OK!

What. A. Day.

First thought: I love my grandchildren more than I love my own heartbeat.

But.

After 25 or so years as a momma, you kinda forget how hard it can be. Today I had my reminder.

I picked up my little grandchildren, the same way I do it every day. “HI, Ellie!” I chirped to my 2 1/2 year old best beloved. “I need milkies.” she answered. “OK!”, I said, “When we get home!” We pulled into my driveway some 12 minutes later, and I got her out of her carseat. Luckily for me, her grandfather, her adored “Papa”, was there to help. I put her down on the driveway and filled my hands with all of the stuff she’d need for the day. The bag with the extra clothes for her and her baby brother. The bag with some toys that might (hopefully) keep said baby brother occupied for two minutes. The milk for him. The boots for her.

Papa grabbed baby brother and went into the house. Ellie, who normally walks casually into the house, ran down the driveway screaming, “I need my zipper!  I need my zipper!”

I was unable to convince her that she didn’t need to zip her jacket because we were walking into the warm house. I had to resort to grabbing her around the waist, hoisting the multiple bags of stuff, and dragging her into the house.

She howled. Like a freakin’ wolf, she absolutely howled.

Now. This ain’t my first rodeo, so I ignored her. Eventually, she came upstairs and joined us in the living room. All was well.

Sorta.

We sat down to breakfast, a nice big oatmeal breakfast. I served Ellie a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries. I put a pile of oatmeal and blueberries onto ten month old Johnny’s tray. I sipped my coffee.

Ten minutes later, Ellie was finished. She carefully wiped her face and hands, put her dish in the kitchen, and went to play. “Yay, me”, I thought. “I know how to handle cranky toddlers!”

Then I looked at baby John. There was oatmeal on his face. On his chest. In his hair. Packed into both nostrils. And on the wall beside him.

Johnny oatmeal

“Uhhhhhhhhhhhhh”, I said. I grabbed him out of the booster seat, and carried the tray and his dishes into the kitchen. I had to clean him up, obviously. It didn’t seem like the best idea to just toss him into the tub fully dressed, so I placed him, very carefully, on the couch. I knew that the back of his pajamas were clean. I thought I could scrape the crud off of the front while leaving the nice clean back against the couch.

Sure.

That was when he went into the “alligator death roll” to quote of his Mom’s best friends. He flopped, he flailed, he twisted himself into a pretzel. After roughly 20 minutes, he was dressed in clean clothes, but I was faced with the awesome task of removing globs of blueberry filled oatmeal from my leather couch, my rug and the curtains behind the couch.

I scraped it up as fast as I could, letting Johnny crawl around the living room. Meanwhile Ellie kept demanding “I want MILK!!!” and “I NEED to color!!! NOW!!!”

So. By 10 AM, my teeth were gritted, my jaw was tight, my heart was skipping some very important beats.

I got Ellie her milk. I got Johnny dressed. I went into the kitchen to deal with the pile of dishes, bibs, dirty clothes, and oatmeal smeared walls. All was well. I soaped and scrubbed and started to relax. I forced myself to be calm and patient. “I am Nonni,” I intoned, drawing on my inner loving self.

Then I heard a sound. “Clank!”

I turned around.

I saw my little Johnny, holding the dog’s water bowl in both hands. It was on his head like a jaunty little hat. Water was pouring down his face and over his body.  He was soaked. The floor was soaked. He was, dare I say it? He was chortling.

A shriek came out of my throat before I could stop it.

Fast forward 15 minutes. I had now dealt with a soaked floor, a soaked baby, another round of alligator death roll, a thirsty dog barking at us all and a two year old tyrant demanding “I WANT TO WEAR A SKIRT!!! NO!!!! NOT THAT SKIRT!!!!”

I was ready for a martini and it wasn’t even 11AM.

I needed a moment.

Johnny was plopped into the playpen. Ellie was settled on the couch with a video. I went down the hall and into my bathroom. I washed my face. I brushed my teeth. I looked in the mirror at my haggard old self. “You can DO this,” I told me. “You are NOT going to crack. They’re just being kids. It’s OK.”

I grinned at me.

I looked like everyone’s image of the scary hag who comes to haunt them in the night. I brushed my hair and straightened my shoulders.  I forced myself to be calm and confident as I walked back into the living room.

Ellie looked up at me.

“I just peed in my pants.” she told me with a grin.

Ellie yelling

“I’m two! And there’s nothing you can do about it!”

Sleep Training, Nonni Style


john asleep

Remember when your babies were little? Remember those long, long, long nights when they’d wake up roughly every 42 seconds to nurse?

Yeah. Me too.

My daughter, the goddess of motherhood, is in the middle of this struggle right now. She has a beautiful, brilliant, (not kidding, she’s way smarter than I am) 2 1/2 year old daughter. And an almost ten month old son.

It’s little Johnny who is waking them up all night long.

I feel a tiny bit responsible for this difficult situation.

See, I watch the two kids every day, and I don’t always manage to get Johnny to take enough breast milk during the day. That makes him want to nurse all night long.

I mean, I try, God knows, I do! I give him oatmeal with breast milk, cheerios with breast milk, noodles in breast milk. I even have a new bottle, with little handles that he can use to feed himself that precious momma’s milk.

Except that he doesn’t. When I try to give him a bottle, I settle into our usual glider rocker and I lay him across my lap. I hold the bottle to his lips. He looks up at me with his huge brown eyes, all filled with love and joy. He takes approximately 2.2 sips. Then he grabs the handles of the bottle, jerks himself into a sitting position and proceeds to smack me in the head with the breastmilk filled bottle. He chortles. He giggles. He shakes the bottle so that milk flies through the air.

Just as I’m about to grab the bottle and the baby and wrestle both of them into submission, Johnny pops the nipple into his mouth, looks at me with the innocent eyes of a saint, and take two good gulps.

Repeat. After 30 minutes he might have taken one ounce. Two more are on my floor.

And then nap time comes.

Because we are sleep training, I have tried gently placing our sleepy little boy into the pack and play crib. The idea is for the little one to learn how to soothe himself to sleep. He should cry for a few minutes, then settle down to nap.

Of course, this doesn’t always go as smoothly as I’d like. In the first place, the crib is so low and the side are so high that in order for this old lady to get the half-asleep child into the bed, I have to lean over far enough to dislocate at least two vertebrae. And on the way down to the mattress, our beloved Johnny has learned to arch his back, turn his head, throw his arms up and generally make it clear that if I actually let go, I’ll do him irreparable harm.

Nevertheless, I get him in there every damn morning.

Then I go into the kitchen and I desperately try to wash dishes while listening to him scream as if his toenails are being removed with tweezers. I can hear his internal monologue, “MOMMA! She’s killing me!!! She hates me!!! She threw me into this pit of hell! My neck got twisted! My back hurts! WHY does she hate me???!!!!”

I leave him to cry it out. I hold on as long as I possibly can. His big sister usually looks at me with her own accusing brown eyes. Sometimes, I swear, she shakes her head in disbelief at my cruelty.

So 27 seconds after I put Johnny down, I scoop him back up again. I hold him to my chest, stroking his back.

He sobs. He hiccups, he lifts his tear stained cheeks to me and looks at me with accusing, melting chocolate eyes. He grabs my shirt with his tiny fists. He lays his head against my chest. He sighs.

I sit in the rocker, holding him to my heart. He falls asleep with his angelic face lifted to mine. His lips, so pink and perfect, make a lovely bow. His cheeks flush and his beautiful long lashes brush them gently.

I hold him. I watch him sleep, feeling his every breath against my own.

“I tried, ” I say aloud into the room. “I did. I tried.”

I cradle him a little closer. I close my own eyes, feeling a sense of relaxation and peace that so often eludes me.

Two hours later, when we both wake up from our naps, I hold him upright on my knee.

“Seriously, kid, ” I tell him. “Tomorrow we are going to let you cry it out. We ARE.”

He grins. He reaches his hand out and grabs me by my little finger. He looks me in the eye.

“Gabagoo.” He says. And I believe him.

 

 

Throwing Up My Hands


There are times in life when we have to be honest with ourselves. We have to step back, try to let go of our anger and take a deep breath.

Sometimes we have to admit that our continued struggle against a particular foe is pointless. We have to release our determination to “win.” We must, at those times, admit that the war is over. We must learn to embrace our enemy.

For example, let me tell about me and Rusty. We have been at odds for months.

It all started when a bought myself a clear acrylic bird feeder that sticks on my picture window. I loved watching the birds! I used to have a long feeder that hung out on a pole in front of the house. It was great.

Right up until the April night when a bear ripped it out of the ground and walked away with everything except the steel pole, which was bent all the way to the ground.

Gulp.

I was delighted when Amazon and I worked together (again!) to find me a window feeder. I was so excited with it that I bought another one! And my grandkids and I have spent hours watching the lovely little birdies that flock to the window for food.

goldfinch

And the feeders were set way up high. The bottom of my window is a good 10 feet off the ground, and the feeders are three feet up the window. No bear could get into those things!

I relaxed. I was thrilled with my cleverness. Take that, Mother Nature! You’re no match for a smart Nonni, are you?

Ah, the joys of birdwatching from the comfort of my living room!

“Look, Ellie! I see a chickadee! And a male cardinal! And a junco! And a big, fat squirrel…..”  WHAT?!

red up high

Note the squirrel tracks in the yard. Also notice the BIRD SEED spread on the snow.                        For the squirrels.

Yes.

The squirrels recently discovered all that beautiful birdseed in my window feeders. At first I was completely baffled. How the hell did he get up there?

Aha. The lilac bush is close enough for them to jump onto the windowsill and the up to the feeder.

I wasn’t having it, though, oh no. If I could outsmart a bear, I could outsmart a little rodent, right?

First try: I hung a string of brass bells on the window, touching the feeder. Clever, clever old lady!  I watched the window carefully. I was smug. I saw him approaching…..

The cute little red squirrel hopped up onto the window and “jangle, jangle, jangle”! He froze. The he reached out one little paw and jangled it again. He grinned at me through the window. Then he jumped up, ate 30 dollars worth of seeds, and hopped back down. He rang the bells at me on his way out.

Next attempt: I left the window open just a crack. My dog Lennie has a voice that can break glass, I’m not kidding. His bark is so high pitched that it makes my teeth hurt. So, I figured, let the mighty hunter dog scare him away. I sat back, ready to triumph.

“Rusty” jumped up onto the lilac. Lennie growled. I smiled. Rusty leapt onto the window ledge. Lennie barked. I covered my ears. Rusty scrambled up onto the feeder. Lennie jumped at the window, knocking over a picture and two wooden trains. BAM! CRASH! HOWL!

Through the cacophony, I heard the sound of chewing. Rusty was in the feeder, happily gorging on the sunflower seeds. I wrestled Lennie back down to the floor, the two of us panting and growling. Why wasn’t the squirrel afraid?

“What the hell?!” I yelled at him. “Why aren’t you scared?!” He stuffed another handful of seeds in one cheek, knocked on the glass with his tiny knuckles and winked as he strolled away.

He rang the damn bells on his way out.

A couple of days went by. I refilled the feeder every four hours. I would NOT give up my birdwatching.

I googled “squirrel proofing” for ideas. I plotted. I planned.  I armed myself with a spray bottle and hid behind the curtains, waiting for him to show up.

He jumped into the feeder. I flung open the window and sprayed him right in his tiny face. Bam! Take that, you little red thief!

He jumped, seemingly in a panic, into the lilac. I stepped back. “VICTORY!”

He jumped back into the feeder. I flung open the window and spayed him even harder, aiming for that little black eyeball. Direct hit!

He jumped into the lilac and down to the ground. I stepped back. I waited.

He jumped back into the feeder.

This went on for a full ten minutes. Back and forth. Jump, grab seeds, spray in the face, jump down, jump back up, grab some seeds, spray in the face. Finally I ran out of water. I slumped to the floor in defeat. Rusty boy cleaned out the feeder.

The other day I covered the lilac with a sheet and attached it to the window. No squirrel.

Then the wind kicked up, the sheet billowed in the air in front of the window. Ellie shrieked in terror, Lennie barked in reaction to her shriek, Johnny burst into a wail when the dog barked.

Rusty took the opportunity to jump into the feeder.

I put a full bowl of bird seed on the snowy ground in front of the house. I sprinkled seeds on the snowbank. I have thrown almonds at the squirrel. I’ve yelled at him. I have moved the feeders three times.

No dice.

This morning I woke up to see this.

Red in the feeder

Morning, Nonni! Nice day for a healthy breakfast, no?

So I am admitting defeat.

We are no longer at war with the red squirrels in the feeder or the huge gray squirrels who have eaten every suet cake all winter.

I am embracing their furry cuteness. I am learning to admire the courage and tenacity of these wild creatures who are determined to survive.

The truth is, if I had to work that hard to live, I’m not sure I’d make it.

So come on, Rusty. I’ll put Lennie outside for now.

 

 

I’m Thinking of Writing a Cookbook


I actually am thinking about writing a cookbook.

I need a source of additional income, and my only two reasonable skills are cooking and writing. Hence: a cookbook!

I know, I know. The market is absolutely flooded with cookbooks right now.

But MINE will be special.

You see, I have been experimenting with some truly unique recipes.

Here’s the backstory.

My grandson Johnny loves to eat. His nicknames include “Johnny Cheeks”, “Big Goomba” and “Johnny Pork Chop,” At a mere nine months old, the kid can chow down with the best of them.

johnny's first pastina

Good for him, right? Nothing makes Nonni happier than feeding babies.

The thing is, he’s still an infant. He’s supposed to be getting his nutrition mostly from breast milk. His mother is a milk producer par excellence. Think Holstein and you get the picture. She has enough of nature’s perfect nutrition to feed a whole barnful of Johnnys. She wants him to have her milk. She says it’s the best possible food for him.

He doesn’t particularly agree. Maybe he doesn’t want to seem immature, you know? Or maybe once you taste meatballs there’s no going back. I’m not sure.

All I know is that my boss  daughter leaves me 8 ounces of fresh mother’s milk every day, and my job is to get it into the Goomba. I’ve tried his usual bottle, a sippy cup, a straw, a spoon, and a bottle with handles he can use to feed himself.

No dice. No matter what I try, he pushes it aside and reaches for the nearest ham sandwich.

So I have become an expert at hiding breast milk in everyday foods.

Oatmeal in the morning? Sure! We cool it off with breast milk. Pastina? Yup, breast milk goes in there, too. Scrambled eggs with spinach and breast milk? One of his faves.

I have even given him risotto with carrots, peas and chicken. Made with….you guessed it. Breast milk.

Can’t you just imagine how awesome my cookbook will be once I pull it all together? How unique, how different? How useful?

I’ll need super shiny, fancy photos to grace every page. I figure I know enough cute babies to pose them with my breastmilk and maple sugar pancakes. They can even give the testimonials for each dish.

Johnny oatmeal

“Mmmmmmm. Numnah!”

Naturally, I’ll need to come up with chic hipster names for each recipe. I read “Bon Appetite.” I know how this works. You have to include at least one non-English word in each title, and it has to be served “with” something.  All the new restaurants and cookbooks feature items like “Wild boar ragout with chanterelles and persimmon sauce.”

I have a few recipes already, and plan to spend the next three months perfecting others. Right up until the Pork Chop is fully weaned.

How do these sound to you? Delicious? Be honest. What do you think?

“Bananes frites with mother’s milk and fresh blueberry sauce.”

“Best of the Breast omelette with mushrooms.”

“No Cow Juice For You Fruit Shakes- a healthy mix of Mom’s pride and fresh fruit.”

“Pastina con latte materno.”

“Risotto a la Mamma Mia.”

I think it will catch on. I can’t wait to start working on desserts. Just think of the creamy custards!

The Times They Are A-Changing


I came of age way back in the early 1970s. It was a time of newfound freedom for women, in the early days of the Women’s Liberation movement.

I became a woman at a time when we were just beginning to discover our power and our strength. We were just beginning to push back against the pressures of society to be beautiful and silent.

In other words, I came of age at a time when high school girls had thrown out the cashmere sweaters and poodle skirts and had embraced the freedom of jeans and flannel shirts.

Back then we wore our hair long, frizzy and parted straight down the middle. We were proud of our red canvas high top sneakers and our bleached bell bottom jeans.

We did NOT wear makeup.

(Except for cherry flavored, unbearably sticky lip gloss that came in small pink pots. For unknown reasons, we all seemed to be addicted to that stuff. I can still taste it. It reminds me of 8th grade algebra class.)

Not wearing makeup was fine for me in those days. I had big brown eyes, long dark lashes and naturally tanned olive skin. I was cute. It worked for me.

At some point in my 20s, I remember trying to use makeup. I remember purple eye shadow, frosted lipstick, rosy pink cream blush.

I also remember that I looked remarkably like a clown while wearing said make up.

By the time I was in graduate school, and through my 30s when I was a young mother, I had reduced my daily makeup to a few strokes of mascara and a little foundation. It took under two minutes, and there was no big crazy Bozo the Clown looking back at me from my mirror.

But…Being bad at make up had another effect.

I never did learn how to take care of my skin. How to clean it, moisturize it, smooth it out….I was young, I was attractive, I was blessed with nice Italian coloring. I washed with soap and I called it a day. I never really thought about skincare.

When I hit my 40s, I realized that I should probably start to worry about wrinkles. I can remember buying myself a 4 dollar jar of some kind of generic face cream. I bought a makeup remover, too. They both lasted at least a decade before I decided to throw them out because they had become solid masses of grayish white goop. I just never got into the habit of taking care of my skin.

All of this information is to set the stage for my awakening this past winter.

My first clue that I was missing the beauty boat came during a weekend away with my closest women friends. These women are smart, powerful, independent and beautiful. I love them dearly.

But they were all with me in that whole “coming of age when we didn’t pay attention to beauty” thing.

Somehow, they had managed to learn a few things over the decades that eluded clueless Nonni here. They talked about facial and leg hair removal, waxing, skin smoothing, lotions, potions and notions which left my tiny head spinning.

I had never thought about any of those things! I hadn’t even known they existed.

H’mmmm.

My second clue came while reviewing photos from various Christmas gatherings this past December. Although I had been right there in the middle of the fun at each of them, in all of the photos I looked like a big gray blob standing in the background.

Really!

I was gray. All gray.

I have gray hair. Or as I like to tell myself, I have white and black hair. Gleaming white and dark deep black.

In the pictures, though, that hair was just colorless. As was my face. My once dark eyebrows were gray heading toward white. My once olive skin, in the dead of winter in Massachusetts, was as gray as ash. My lips? The same pasty color as my face.

And what the absolute hell was I thinking when I picked out my Christmas clothes? Black sweater? Gray shirt? White vest?

I was a ghost. An old, faded ghost with old faded skin.

Even I could hardly see me standing there with my invisible arms around my glowing, colorful, vibrant family.

Yeeesh.

So here I am. Just about to turn 62.

I am now the proud owner of one bottle of expensive makeup remover. I have not one but TWO containers of retinol/hyaluronic acid moisturizers. My bathroom shelf now supports two shades of “all day” lip color, one bronzer, one tinted moisturizer and a whole new palate of “mature woman” eye brightening makeup. I have wrinkle remover, wrinkle blender, concealer, eyelid moisturizer and lip cream.

As the owner of a head of hair that has not only lost its color but also its glorious thickness, I am also now in possession of specially formulated thickening shampoo, special conditioner, bamboo fiber thickening and enriching cream, volume enhancing gel and two kinds of scalp treatments.

So I’m sure you want to know: am I looking younger, more vibrant, more dewey and moist?

I don’t know. At my age, the whole looking in the mirror thing isn’t that successful. I think I can see me in there if I squint.

Ah, well.

At least I didn’t discover all this beautifying stuff until I had retired. This way I actually have the 45 minutes every morning and night to goop myself up before I have to face the world.

I don’t know if its working, but at least I know that my grandkids see me at my best when I’m scraping poop off their butts. And at least I know that I’m doing my best to support the beauty products industry.

Selfie

Don’t I look vibrant and dewey?  Johnny thinks so!

How I Became One of the Cool Kids


0008309490_10

Upstate Rubdown. The actual cool kids.

I think I was about 10 when I realized that the world is made up of those who are cool and those who want to be.

I wanted to be cool.

I wasn’t.

I tried to be less of a nerd, but I was known as one of those kids who would sneak a good novel into my desk during math class.

Fashion seemed like the obvious way to become cool, but by the time I realized that hiphuggers were in, they weren’t any more. Nehru jackets in the late 60’s? Yup. I got mine in 1971.

Epically uncool.

But there was ONE thing I did manage to do in my life that shot me straight into the cool kid stratosphere. I discovered some really great musicians before they became huge.

So cool! The coolest!

Nothing turns a nerd cool faster than being ahead of the musical curve, you know what I mean?  Imagine having someone put on a CD of their new favorite band and being able to say, “Pshaw. I’ve been seeing them for years!” Coolness, hipness and general superiority come flooding right down over your nerdy little head.

Well, my friends, this is YOUR chance to become almost as cool as Momshieb.

Because I have a tip that you honestly can’t ignore.

Introducing “Upstate Rubdown,” my new musical obsession!  We first heard them two years ago on the advice of our already musically cool sons. Both Paul and I fell in love with the harmonies, the energy, the uniqueness of their music.

We have seen them about a dozen times since then and we listen to their first album so often that my 2 year old granddaughter can sing every word.

You need to listen to Upstate Rubdown. You owe it to your former nerdy self! You owe it to your musical self. You can find them on Facebook and on YouTube. Go!

But then come right back, because this is the coolest part. Upstate is working on a new album! For reasons that defy comprehension, they have not yet been signed by a record company. So they are funding it through a Kickstarter campaign.

You need to click right HERE so that you can send them some money, preorder the album, and insure your place forever in the pantheon of cool kids.

How can you say no?

Upstate 2

It doesn’t get much cooler than this.

To be completely truthful (“in the interest of transparency”) I have to tell you that both of our sons fell in love with the music, too. Then one of them fell in love with one of the beautiful singers.

That means that we know these young people. We are big time fans (just ask them how goofy we look singing along at their shows). But we also know that this band is the real deal. They are hardworking, smart, kind and so talented that I constantly have to fight the urge to ask for their autographs.

Go listen. I’m not kidding. You will NOT be sorry.

The Question of Mental Stability


Like approximately 99.99% of the people in the Northeastern United States, I have a wicked bad cold.

And like approximately 99.99% of Americans today, I am thinking about mental stability and the signs that a person is a little “off kilter.”

Oh, don’t worry. I’m not worried about that guy. I made up my mind about his mental state a long time ago.

Nope. Today I am fixated on the question of my own mental stability.

Did I mention that I’m sick?

I have a cold. A really bad cold. In fact, after two weeks of endless nose blowing, hacking, wheezing and general goop producing misery, I finally went to my doctor. I have bronchitis and a sinus infection. I came home with pills, cough syrup, inhalers and orders to “rest as much as possible.”

Now. Let me ask you this. What would a mentally stable person do in this situation? Probably take the medicine and go lie down, right?

Ha.

That’s what I tried to do. I came home, made some tea, took my various potions and puffs, wrapped myself in a blankie and put my feet up. Where my mucus clotted brain proceeded to have this conversation with itself.

“You aren’t really that sick.”

“Yes, I am! I have bronchitis! I can feel the crunches and crackles every time I breathe!”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like you have pneumonia. Some people are really sick. You slacker.”

“But the doctor told me to rest. This isn’t just a cold, I have a real sickness. I have prescriptions…”

“Probably got sick because you don’t exercise enough.”

“Nuh, uh. I caught it from the kids…I’ve been wiping noses and snot sucking every day…..”

“Probably because you don’t eat healthy enough.”

“But….I….”

“Chocolate eater.”

“I know, I’m sorry, I….”

“Alcohol drinker.”

“Well, yeah, but hot toddies…”

“Get up. Slacker.”

Could you keep yourself wrapped in a blankie after that?

Either could I.

So I decided to do a load of laundry. You know, real quick. Just do one load. Just to shut myself up. I grabbed an armful of dirty, sweaty sheets (from me FEVER the night before, just sayin’) and I wobbled my way down to the laundry. Tossed it in. Done.

Since I didn’t pass out or anything, I figured I should put away the dishes on the counter. Take that, snot brain.

At that point I was ready to hack up a lung so I wobbled back to the recliner and the blankie. With a fresh cup of ginger-lemon tea in hand.

And goopie brain started in again.

“See? I knew you weren’t really sick.”

“What?! Of course I am! You told me I was a slacker!”

“What, you like the word malingerer better? If you’re so sick, how come you’re able to do laundry and clean the kitchen, huh? Wimp.”

“Sputter…wheeze…whimper…”

I put my aching head in my hands and tried to make Goop Brain go away, but he hung around. Big green slimy jerk.

It’s always like this when I’m not feeling well. Truthfully, I’m hardly ever sick. I haven’t had a fever before this in about 10 years. For a flabby middle aged grandmother, I’m actually pretty robust.

But on the rare occasions when I do get sick, it’s always the same internal argument. It’s always the same guilt game.

I was raised Catholic. What can I say? Guilt is kind of our thing.

I’ve spent the past four days alternately pitying myself for how awful I feel and berating myself for not getting the hell over it already.

What a loser.

So I put the question to you. Do mentally stable people argue themselves out of getting better? Do they yell at themselves that if they weren’t such lazy slackers they wouldn’t be sick in the first place?

I didn’t think so.

sickie

I look awful, right? See?

 

 

You Can’t Fire Me!


You know, when my kids were little, I got myself all revved up for the famous “terrible twos.” I got ready for the tantrums and the irrational demands. But they never materialized.

Until the morning of each third birthday.

No kidding. All three of my own children were fine from 2 to 3, but as soon as that third birthday rolled around, they turned into tiny tyrants.

Which is why I’m proud-ish to say that my beloved granddaughter, Ellie, is far more advanced than my own kids. She is only 2 1/2, but she has mastered the fine points of despotic rule in a way that could only make third world leaders jealous.

Tonight is the first night of Christmas break. Yeehah! This means that my daughter the teacher is off for a week, which means that old Nonni here is off for a week, too.

Which means, in the world of neurotic old Italian ladies, that Ellie and I have spent the week making cookies, creating gifts, watching Christmas movies and generally getting ready to be apart for a week. I tell her I’ll miss her. She tells me she’ll miss me. We hug. We kiss. We sigh.

We have also been battling a wicked respiratory virus, ear infections, coughs, nosebleeds and a little constipation. It’s been a loooooooonnnnnnngggggg week.

And today we hit the wall.

Both of us.

My beloved, adored, sweet, smiling, loving…..you get it, right?…..my darlingest little girl arrived at my house this morning wearing her Crazy Dictator Personality.

And she started right in.

“NOOOOOOOO!!!!! Daddy carry me to the car!!!!!!!”   “No, honey, your baby brother in his carseat is too heavy for me. Daddy will get Johnny, I will get you.”

“I NEED MILKIES!!! MILKIES!! MILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIES!!”  “Honey, you need to stop screaming at me. Ask me nicely.” MILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIESMILKIES!!” 

“Go away!!! Nonnie, you go away! I want to be ALONE IN THIS ROOM!!!” “Well, dear sweet child, this is the bathroom, and I was in it first. So you need to go……”  “NOOOOOOO!! I am NOT talking to you!!!!”

And the day went on.

Me, with my sinuses throbbing and my last nerve on edge. “Ellie, I am making you a waffle.”     “NOOOOOOOOOO!!! No waffle!!!! NOOOOOOOO!!! I won’t!!!!!!”

Me again, with the same nerves and throbs. “Do you want some oatmeal?” “NOOOOOOOOO!!! Give me a waffle!!! I NEED a waffle!!!!!”

Most of it was fairly typical Toddler Tyrant behavior, but some was enough to make me pull out my old gray hairs. Like this little demand, while I was in the middle of changing yet another giant yellow poopie from baby Johnny. “I NEED YOU!!! HELP ME!!!! ARGGGHHHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHG!!!”   Wrap baby in closest blanket, place him on the floor and rush into the bedroom. “Ellie! What’s wrong?!”  “I need you to make my lion sit up.”

Grrrrrrr.

I’ll be honest. I must confess. I started to count the minutes until the end of the babysitting day.

“I NEED a cookie!!!!!!”  Me: Roughly 94 minutes….

Other hysterical, tyrannical demands were just plain hilarious.

For example, the poor kid has had this respiratory bug for more than two weeks. Her nose hurts. She keep reaching into her right nostril with a pointed finger to try to take out the offending mucous. “Look! I finded a big boogie!” When I reminded her for the tenth time time an hour that she needed to keep her fingers OUT of her nose, she announced with a completely straight face, “Go away, Nonni. No talking to me. No looking at me. I don’t have to look at you!” And she went right on digging.

Or this perfect example of what today was like for Nonni and Ellie.

My little girl didn’t want to take off her red reindeer pajamas today. I generally insist on getting dressed, washing faces, doing hair. But today snow was falling and we were all worn down. I let her stay in her jammies.

Until the moment when Ellie asked me to help her put on undies. I unsnapped her jammies, pulled down the zipper, and took off her Pullup. Got her clean, took the pajamas off and handed her the nice clean underwear.

Which she immediately placed on her head.

Ellie pants head

And she immediately started to cry. “Put this on my head! Put this on!!!!”  “Ok, what? On your head? Um……” 

“I can’t!!!!!!!! I need my undies on my chest! On my chest! On my CHEST!!!!!”

At this point, Nonni gave up. Nonni has a cold. Nonni is tired, OK?  Nonni said, “STOP IT!!!!!! Your undies don’t go on your CHEST!!!”  I did not address the issue of whether or not said undies belonged on her head…..

It was a tough day.

By naptime, we were both pretty wrung out. As I pulled the blankets up over her shoulders, my tiny tyrant looked up at me with her huge brown eyes and said, “You’re gonna miss me. You will be sad.”

“You’re gonna miss ME.” I countered. She smiled, rolled onto her side to go to sleep, and murmured, “Night, Nonni. I love you so muck.” (she can’t make the ‘ch’ sound.)

I melted, kissed her cheek, tenderly smoothed back her hair, and went into the living room.

“46 minutes,” I said out loud.