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 admits 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 bend all the way to the ground.


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.


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.


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.

“Red” jumped up onto the lilac. Lennie growled. I smiled. Red leapt onto the window ledge. Lennie barked. I covered my ears. Red 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. Red 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 by.

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. Red 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.

Red 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, Red. 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.


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.


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.


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.


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

How I Became One of the Cool Kids


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?


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.”


“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.”


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.


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… get it, right?… 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.”


“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.”


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.


The Infamous Snot Sucker

It’s a funny thing, but every generation of parents seems to think that it has invented the absolute best way to raise kids. Every generation creates new ways to do the same basic tasks of parenthood.

And every generation of grandparents rolls its collective old eyeballs and says, “Oh, brother.”

Some of what’s new is based in science, so even when it seems counterintuitive, we old timers do it. Like putting babies on their backs in cribs with no bumper pads. Pretty sure this practice has saved a lot of lives.

But some of these newfangled ideas are just plain ridiculous.

Take the diaper genie, for example. Wrapping disposable diapers in plastic bags that you stick in another plastic bag so you can throw it into your plastic trash bag? Nope. Nopie, nope, nope. Some new Moms think this thing is fabulous. It’s not.

We old ladies used to wrap up the poop and just drop it in the trash. That way, when the trash is full and the entire house smells of fresh doodies, NO ONE argues about throwing the trash. Trust me.

Likewise the latest “must have” item on most new Mom’s wish list. The famous “wipe warmers.” This is a device that keeps your box of butt wipes at body temperature so the little one doesn’t experience a chill on those most important little body parts.

Just plain stupid.

I mean, jeez. My parents thought using throw away wipes and throw away diapers was sissy stuff. My generation was NOT going to condone an electronic device to warm up the butt wipes. No freakin’ way.

Like every generation of old folks ahead of us, we grandparents are pretty sure that we know what we’re doing when it comes to raising kids. We regularly get together with our silver haired friends and say things like, “Oh, man, can you believe the car seats they have now? You could send a kid to the moon.” We fall asleep thinking, “When are they finally gonna give that kid some solid food?”

You know what I mean. We’re all puffed up thinking, “Well I raised three healthy kids even though I did use Vicks Vap-o-Rub.”

We’ve been there. We’ve done that. This ain’t our first rodeo.


There is one new device that has absolutely revolutionized baby care. It is a device that should make every grandparent sing songs of praise.


I call it, the “Infamous Snot Sucker,” although it has other names.

Remember this thing?


Back in the day, when your baby had a really bad cold, you used this thing to get all that green goo out of their noses. It was relatively efficient, but you had to shove the pointy part halfway up to the kid’s brain to get it to work. AND you had to be really coordinated while you were trying to suck out the snot or you’d end up blowing air into those little nasal passages and just making things worse.

Not only that, but once you had a plastic bulb full of gooey green, germ infested slime, you could never be sure that you had actually cleaned it out.

I had very allergic kids. We had a LOT of upper respiratory infections. I threw out a bulb a month, I swear.

Now, though, we have the newly invented “NoseFrida” or “Infamous Snot Sucker”!!! Angels are singing, I kid you not.

Here it is, in all it’s glory:

nose frida

I don’t know who “Frida” is, but she’s a freakin’ genius.

Do you hear the angels? I do!

This device is amazing, if nauseating. See, when the little ones come down with terrible colds, and the huge green bubbles of snot are continuously bursting out of their tiny noses, this is the thing you need.

It uses a very simple scientific premise to work its magic.

It’s just a teeny, tiny vacuum. It sucks the snot right out of those minute nasal passages. And it is powered by….well….suction.

Suction from the mouth of the desperate adult who pokes the open tip of the device into the nose of the sick baby. Suction from the mouth of the exhausted, cranky adult who holds the little red mouthpiece in her aging lips and sucks.

Like, she inhales. You know. Toward her (gag) mouth.

Here’s where it gets good. (Stay with me.)

The giant globs of yellow green goop come streaming out of the tiny nose. The grandmother on the other end of the device thinks, “What the HELL? That thing is bigger than HE IS!” If said old lady can avoid the desire to shriek, drop the snot sucker and run to the bathroom, she can reach for a tissue and wipe the whole disgusting mess off the face of the sick child.

She can then switch nostrils and do the same thing on the other side.

The bad part?

Well, the first three or six or twenty times you do this, you will find yourself gagging like you haven’t gagged since that college night with the bottle of Southern Comfort.  This process is. so. disgusting.

But the good part?

This genius design prevents the actual snot clots from traveling the length of the blue tube. Which means that they never reach the tiny sponge that is placed strategically to block their passage into your mouth.

You are safe. I promise. You will not suck up the snot.

That snotsucker name? It’s, like, a euphemism.

What WILL happen is that the enormous worm of infected mucus that has been hiding in the nasal passages of your beloved baby will be pulled out by the power of your grandparenting lungs. It will slip out of the tiny nostril, where it will immediately attack the cheeks, lips, eyeballs and hair of the afflicted. It will then slither down to your hand, onto your shirt, and will try to make its escape before you grab it with the tissue of death and deposit it into the toilet.

You will be grossed out. You will probably need a very, VERY hot shower as soon as your grandbaby goes home. Also a shot of good Scotch.


The little one will look at you with wide eyes, filled with joy and laughter. Not only has he managed to cover you in green snot, he has also suddenly rediscovered the joy of breathing.

So. New grandparents, new parents, new aunts who might be watching the kids, do yourselves a favor.

Invest in the “Infamous Snot Sucker” and prepare to be amazed.

Nauseated, horrified, disgusted and amazed. All at once.


Hearing That “Click”

I’ve always been enormously grateful to have married into a fun, warm, welcoming family. My husband’s extended family is full of people I really, truly love. A lot. They laugh. They kiss. They’re just plain fun.

But from the beginning of our dating life a few decades ago, I’ve also been aware that I am a little more ethnic than all those gorgeous blonde cousins and their kids. I remember times over the years, where I just felt so ridiculously Italian.

Like the time I ate dinner with Paul’s family and was so impressed with the meal. I had never had anything like it! I was both delighted and amazed. “What do you call this?” I asked innocently. Even 35 years later, I remember the awkward silence, the glances around the table, and the answer to my question.

“It’s a pot roast.”

Yup. I felt a little out of the WASP world at that moment.

But one day Paul and I went to visit his Uncle, a man I hadn’t yet met. Paul was eager for me to meet Uncle Curt and his wife, Mary. All the way to their house, my sweetie talked about how much he loved the delicious veal cutlets that Mary cooked.

Mary, it turned out, was Italian. 

When we got to their house, Mary greeted us with a big smile, a hug, and warm brown eyes. She took both my hands, we smiled at each other, and there was a magical little “click” somewhere in my heart.

I don’t remember much of the visit, but I remember that when I met Mary, I met an image of myself. I met a friend. I know that we laughed, we talked about red wine, we talked about food.

It was a wonderful day.

I’m not sure that I every saw Mary again. If I did, it was only once or twice, and only in a crowd. Still, she’s always stayed in my memory. Her lemon cutlets and her big smile.

And that “click”.


A couple of years ago, we were away on Paul’s annual camping family reunion. It was a beautiful July night, and everyone was gathering around the “Happy Hour” table. There were a few people there that were new to the yearly experience. One young couple came with their little year old baby boy. I didn’t actually get the details about who they were, and how they were related, but I smiled and admired the baby.

I was happy to meet everyone, but I was also a little distracted. You see, my daughter was within a couple of weeks of her due date to deliver our first grandchild. My thoughts were mostly on her as we all set up our campsites.

Still, as I talked to the young woman with the beautiful curly hair, as we compared our feelings about motherhood, as I looked at her warm, smiling face, I swear to you: I heard that tiny inner “click” once again.

But I didn’t have a chance to think much about my new “click” or what it meant, because my daughter went into labor at midnight, and instead of spending the weekend hanging out with relatives, I hung out in the maternity unit, meeting my sweet Ellie.

I nearly forgot about the “click”.

Until very recently.

Over the past two years, I have started to get together once in a while with that lovely young woman. She’s now the Momma of two beautiful boys, and I’m the Nonni of two little ones. We both love the time we spend with the kids, but we also both really love spending time with another woman in the same situation.

It’s kind of hilarious. My young relative, Angela, is young enough to be my own child. But when she brings the boys here for a play date once a month, it doesn’t feel that way. It feels instead like I’m with one of my friends. Like I’m with that rare and most prized person, a woman from my tribe!

When Angela and the boys are here, we push back the furniture. We put out bowls of snacks, let the kids empty out the toy box, and just watch what happens. The kids play. They argue. They take turns on the potty. They eat, they spill, they climb on the back of the sofa.

Angela and I drink coffee, begin sentences we never finish, scoop each others’ kids up, grab the milk, make peanut butter sandwiches.

And the years, for me, melt away. I am back in the days when I was a young mom, sharing the joys and stresses with my tribe of women friends.

For me, the “click” I heard when I looked at Angela has lead me to a place where I feel less alone. I’m not the only ethnic one around. I’m not the oddity of an old lady taking care of babies.

Instead, I’m a woman in our family. I’m a caretaker. I’m a maternal figure. Like my heart’s own “clicking” friend, Angela, I’m a diaper changer, bottle giver, bandaid applier, sharing-rules-teacher.

And I am not alone.

And it took me six months to figure out that Angela is Mary’s granddaughter. Isn’t that just lovely???


Sometimes we give in and pop in a movie.



Pulling An All-nighter

When my three beloved babies grew up and moved out, I was devastated. Bereft. Heartbroken.

I told myself that I would spend the rest of my life missing every beautiful moment of motherhood. “Oh, woe is me!” I cried to the universe and my very patient husband, “How I will miss those little moments of mother love!”  I just knew, with every fiber of my overly emotional soul that I would miss EVERY SINGLE THING about spending time with little ones!

I was, of course, completely delusional.

In my grief over missing the hugs, kisses, and bedtime stories, I forgot about the fevers, tantrums and midnight pukies.

But guess what?

Now I remember!

Yesterday my grandkids were here, as they are every weekday while their parents work. Two year old Ellie wasn’t looking so good in the morning, as pale as milk and droopy eyed. She wanted extra hugs and snuggles, though, so I didn’t make too much of it. Her baby brother, the red cheeked, ever grinning Johnny, was as robust as ever.

Then their Mom texted to say she was heading home from work. She was sick herself, so could I keep the kids until the end of the work day? Of course I could! I was happy to watch my beautiful little ones so Momma could get over her norovirus. In fact, I had an inspiration!

“Why don’t we keep Ellie here for the night?” asked the generous and kind Nonni. I pictured us snuggled up under the covers, her arm around my neck. I pictured her eating breakfast and chatting with me and Papa. Visions of happiness danced in my head.

Mom and Dad agreed to my plan, with gratitude, and I cheerfully made dinner for Ellie, Papa and I. We ate, we baked butterscotch cookies. We watched a movie, got our pj’s on, and snuggled into bed.

Perfect. Just absolutely perfect. Right down to the goodnight kisses and that little arm around my neck.

Then reality poked its grimy, nasty head into the room.

The little body next to me turned as hot as a stove. The arm around my neck became a vise. The “I love you, Nonnis” turned into “I want you to walk away RIGHT NOW!”

The next 9 hours consisted of taking her temperature (“OWWWWW!!!! YOU’RE HURTING ME!!!”), giving her Tylenol, (“I want MORE tasty medicine!!!!!”), and trying to decode the meaning of the sob coated screams (“PICK! UP! MY! BLGHRUMNAH!”)

Every once in a while, we’d both fall asleep, and then the neck choking and fever rantings would start again. Ellie would whimper, “I need water…” and I’d fumble around on the bedside table, invariably knocking over the water bottle. Plop myself out of bed, find the water, hand it to her, try to stay upright while she drank, put the water back.


Sometimes it would seem as if we’d been asleep for a while. When Ellie’s whimpers would start again, I’d think to myself, “It’s OK. We’ve probably been asleep for a few hours.” I’d fumble around for the phone and my glasses, and check the time.

“Gah!!! It’s only been 13 minutes!!”

That must have happened at least ten times. There was the time when I had to turn on a light to locate the missing Elmo (hiding from all the noise under the quilt). And the moment when she kicked me in the chin while trying to figure out why she was all turned around.

We made it until morning, when I was awakened by a warm cheek on mine. “Wake up time now, Nonni.”

It was a long and grueling night, that’s for damn sure. But I learned a few things during those uncomfortable hours.

I learned that there are definitely aspects of motherhood that I do not miss.

I learned that the old adage about grandparenting is true; one of the best parts is that you get to send them home.

I learned that taking care of little ones is a young woman’s game.

Now I’m sitting here in my flannel pants with a plate of butterscotch cookies, enjoying the silence and wondering how many naps is too many for one day.


Jeez, what a jerk

close up me

Do you ever have those days when you know, with absolute certainty, that you are a big fat jerk?

I do.

More often than I like, actually.

I mean, I try to be a good person. I try to be kind, to be generous, to be welcoming. I do. I try.

But sometimes in the middle of a visit or a social event, I step back just long enough (like 2 seconds) to listen to myself, and I have to think, “Oh, my God. What a JERK.”

Sometimes it’s because I’m not listening well enough. Sometimes I catch myself doing that awful, selfish thing. I sorta, kinda listen to the other person just because I’m dying for the other person to pause so I can respond.


And then there is the whole “I know everything” syndrome from which I have suffered for years. I HATE people who answer every comment with how much more they know about everything than I do.

No kidding. I can’t STAND that. I mean, maybe I mention something about making homemade ravioli and the other person immediately jumps into a long lecture about the proper ratio of semolina to whole wheat flour. It does not matter if that person lived in Tuscany for a year studying under a master chef. It still just plain pisses. me. off.

So why do I do the same thing to my own friends and family?

I don’t know.

The other day I had a rare and very treasured visit from two family members. Two wonderful women who I’ve loved for 40 years. Women who are kind, smart, funny, loving, and (thankfully) forgiving. We started to talk about the medical issues that face us in middle age. You know, aches, pains, insomnia….I should have listened. I should have asked how they were feeling. I should have commiserated and made supportive sounds.

Instead I launched into a stupid lecture about medical treatments, benzodiazepine dependence and the benefits of cannabis butter.


Even as the words were flowing like a backed up sink right out of my big mouth, I was thinking, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!!!!”


I guess its a good thing to recognize my weaknesses and personal foibles. That way I can a) keep myself awake for three nights in a row telling myself that I’m a horrible person and am totally undeserving of friends and b) work toward being a better listener, friend, relative.

It also helps to put these thoughts into a little blog that is rarely read. That way I’ve thrown it out there, given it to the universe and possibly garnered a few supportive comments.

BUT: tell me the truth! Don’t you just HATE those know it all types?