Thursday, July 26, 2012

Italian Mama

I was just posting to my cousin Antonio's Facebook wall, and thinking about family and connections and celebrations.  Tonio's mother is my "Aunt Anne" who is really my mom's cousin, so we're second cousins but being Italian, we just say "cousins".  In our family, you wouldn't get introduced as, say "this is my mother's cousin's stepdaughter" which is who one of my "cousins" actually is!  When you're in, you're in.

It's funny, I'm only 1/4 Italian, which thins down to only 1/8 in Lauren's blood, but if you ask her what her cultural background is, she 'll proudly say "I'm Italian!" because it's the most fun part.   It's the side that throws big elaborate meals with her favorite cheeses and pestos and lots of laughter and grown-ups drinking wine and talking in big boisterous voices with lots of hand gestures.

Lauren's Nonna's Nonna came from Italy.  The family recipes we make the most are from that side.  My great-grandparents came here over 100 years ago but they're the most recent immigrants in our lineage.  We still have cousins that live in Parma,  we visit and correspond with them.  There is a town named after the family (or the family was named after the town, we're not sure!)  I've been there twice and I've been welcomed into their home both times.  Lauren longs to "go back".  (She was there in utero.)

We have food words we use from Parmigiana (the dialect my great-grandparents spoke).  We say "boo fa" which means to blow on something when it's too hot, and "poo cha" which means to dip the bread in the olive oil.  We have a song in Parmigiana that my grandmother used to rub my eyes and sing to me, about the rain.  I've never seen any of this written down.  I don't know how to spell the words.  Our traditional foods for the holidays are (to me) much more interesting than "American" fare.  Lasagna at Easter, not ham.  About 10 different kinds of antipasti.  And all of those desserts, would make my mouth water just to type about!

If you have an Italian mama, you never go hungry.  Italian mamas love to see chubby little babies and love to kiss cheeks.  I've got a lot of (especially male) grown up cousins who still live at home.  Or bring piles of laundry to their mamas on weekends.

I never thought I would turn into one, but now when I look at those little chubby cheeks and KISS them and KISS them, I think  "Lauren, William, you can still live with me when you're thirty, that's just fine!  Mangia!"

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The tail end of summer: adventures thus far

We're more than halfway done with summer break, which seems crazy!  The reason it's so short this year is that LA Unified decided to move the start date to August 14th.  Last year they started the 2nd week of September.  So everyone has 3 weeks less of summer.  They say they're doing it to keep high school, middle school and elementary school on the same schedule, and they want high school to get out earlier so that students will have more time to prepare for national standardized tests-AP, SAT, etc.

What this has meant for us is a rather condensed summer.  Lauren spent the first week of it at Camp Nonna & Poppy, swimming and enjoying herself.  William and I were there for the first 2 days of that, then I came back to go to work, and she remained there the rest of the week. My parents drove her to a halfway point from their house in San Diego, we met in Orange County and drove her home.   She did not want to come back.

Then she had 3 weeks of STAR camp which she absolutely LOVED.  We decided to go car-free as much as possible and walk or bike to the school.  The trip there and back became one of our favorite parts of the day.  What a luxury, to be able to walk to school every morning!  (Instead of the 20 mile round-trip drive we do during the year!)  The campus was just over a mile away.  I wish it was our our home school, I would send her there in a heartbeat.

We signed her up for one week of "Supercamp", which was just the fun stuff, nothing academic, and 2 weeks of summer school-classes in the morning, fun stuff in the afternoon.  All 3 weeks at the same campus.  Every morning I would drop her off and watch her scamper over to her friends with excitement,  (Meanwhile, William was thrilled each morning to run over to a cage full of basketballs and kickballs, and try to shoot a basket, climb on the "big kid playground" and to try desperately to pass for a 5-year old so that he could join the camp, too!)

The 2nd week of camp, I dropped her off as usual and at pickup, I asked her what she learned at summer school.  "Oh, we didn't really do anything yet, probably they'll start the learning part tomorrow."  The next day, she went on and on about the science project they had done, and begging me to please enroll her in this school, which was so much fun, much more interesting than her school.  Third day, I asked her again what they had studied, and this time "I don't want to talk about that, Mommy!" and she told me instead all about the game of Capture the Flag, and the storytelling class and the nice kids she sat next to.  On Thursday, they went to an amusement park.

On Friday, we were running late so she missed circle time and the kids had already broken into groups and gone off to the classrooms.  One of the directors said "Oh, hi Lauren!  The Supercamp kids are over this way."  When I said "No, she's in Summer School", the woman got a funny look on her face.  I then realized why Lauren was having so much fun at "school"-she had been cutting class!  Turns out, they had been marking her absent at Summer School each day, and handwriting her name on the attendance sheet at Supercamp.  The camp staff was mortified when they figured out what happened, and they gave me a partial refund (because Summer School costs more).

Evidently, the first day, Lauren went to sit on the same bench she'd been sitting on the week before, and no one caught the mistake.  By the time she realized what happened, she also realized that if she could get away with it, it would be much more fun to stay where she was.  So, age 6, her first experience cutting class!