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Author: toni

~ 05/01/19

There are moments in life that define you.  You don’t always know those moments as they occur. Sometimes it takes years, introspection, and retrospection.

I remember the moment I decided to leave the Catholic Church. It is one of the clearest memories of my childhood. Yes, I said childhood, because I was in 4th grade when I made that decision. You might say that a 10 year old does not have enough understanding of the world to make such a huge decision. But I say that depends on the 10 year and the situation.

My mother was Italian. She grew up in a Roman Catholic household in Lucca, a little town outside Pisa, and had a deep faith in the church. So deep that, despite marrying an American Southern Baptist who brutally commanded obedience in virtually all matters (that is another story of male toxicity) she somehow managed to convince him to raise us kids in the Catholic Church. And so from the time of our births we were exposed/subjected to all the rituals of Catholicism. Baptism, weekly church, catechism classes, first Communions, etc.

There were four of us all in a row. Me, then three brothers. One after another. You can guess why, given the church’s stance on birth control. Every eighteen months or so, with regularity, my mother gave birth. The last two births were difficult ones, resulting in C-sections and had profound and lasting effects on my mother’s health.

You see, she was a child of WWII. In Italy, she grew up among the bombings and poverty. She knew the fear of hiding in the dark recesses of the catacombs of the wall that surrounded her medieval hometown to escape the bombings. She knew what it was to go hungry and traveled the countryside with her mother, older brother and uncle, artists all, eaking out a living by performing marionette shows and songs (she had a beautiful soprano voice) and collecting coins thrown their way. She told stories of sleeping in abandoned, bombed out villas, playing dress up in the elegant gowns that were left behind in the panic to run from the invading forces. She watched an uncle, a Partisan who fought against Mussolini and the Nazis, slowly die from a gunshot wound to the eye. And she recalled joyously the liberation by American troops, signalling the end of the war as they passed out Hershey bars to the jubilant children.

And in the midst of the horrors of war, living in less than sanitary conditions, unable to get medical care, she contracted rheumatic fever which damaged her heart and gave her mitral valve prolapse from which she suffered for the remainder of her days, through three open heart surgeries and which would eventually lead to the congestive heart failure that killed her at the age of 74, one day before her 75th birthday.

So by the time I was 10, a fourth grader, I had seen my beautiful young mother struggle with her health and heart issues. I had more than a few times been the one with her when she passed out in the course of the day,  while doing housework or caring for her brood. And I was the one to call the ambulance,  my brothers running around in diapers in the background.

By the time she had my fourth brother, the pregnancies had taken such a toll on her already damaged heart, that her cardiologist sat her down and advised her against ever getting pregnant again, as it could kill her. He advised her to go on the birth control pill to avoid the life-threatening pregnancy. I think you know where this is going.

I came home from school one day to find my mother weeping. I went to her to ask her what was wrong. And she told me.

Now some would argue that and adult woman had no business telling a 10 year old girl what she told me. But you must understand that I had long been in a role of a responsibility in our home. My mother, who learned English late in life, had trouble navigating the English speaking world. And I was often thrust in the role of translator. No other family around, and an often absent and disinterested father, I helped my brothers with homework. I filled out the paperwork for school. I walked them into their first day of class. So in reality, in our reality, it was natural that she would confide in me.

She explained that she had just come from our church where she had gone to see our priest. She explained to him her dire, life-threatening situation and asked if she might have permission to use birth control.

And the priest told her no.

But, she explained, she had four young children at home, and a husband who was gone for work a lot, and did not want die and leave them without a mother.

And the priest said, “If that happens, that is God’s will.”

God’s. Will.

God’s will that my mother should die rather than be allowed to use birth control. That four children would be left motherless rather than use birth control.

And my mom sobbed and said she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t want to die and leave us, but she did not want to go against

 I don’t remember what I said to my mother in response. After my initial horror and disbelief that the church, that God, would demand such a thing, I think I comforted her the best I could.  And then, I do remember getting very angry. And thinking that if these men and this church really believed they had the right to sentence my mother to death, then I wanted no part of it. And from then on, I refused to be a part of it. I refused to go to church or catechism or choir practice. And, to my surprise, they did not make me. I’m not sure why. I didn’t wonder then. I look back on it now and think maybe they were afraid of what I would say at church, to the priest even, if made to go. But from that day forward, the rest of my family attended and I stayed home.

I still, to this day, don’t believe that a god would make such a horrible demand of a young mother. But I know men would. We have seen it. The level of male toxicity in the Catholic Church has been brought to light. In their treatment of women…of children… I don’t say all in the church are guilty. There are good people. Good priests. But there are some men, men in power, who are more concerned with the preservation of institutions than the suffering of human beings. And it is wrong. Even as a 10 year old girl I knew it.  And that is why, to this day, I choose to celebrate my spirituality outside the confines of organized religion.

My mother never told me what she chose to do. I suspected it when 18 months later I did not have another sibling. Or even eighteen months after that. She did regularly attend confession. You know the saying, better to ask forgiveness than permission. The church is good that way.

Author: toni

~ 09/23/10


This week was parent/teacher conference week at my kid’s school and I think all you MAMMAKAZES out there know what that means.  Five days worth of early dismissal days, minimum days and don’t even come to school at all days!

For a kid, that’s heaven. For a mom who works as a freelance writer from home and gets paid when she actually completes her projects, well, not so much heaven.

I did schedule some playdates which are a work-at-home mom’s version of a free babysitter. I don’t know if that’s true for moms with boys, but I have a girl and the girls pretty much play nicely and entertain themselves. I usually only ever have to look up from my computer keyboard to do little things like replace a battery in Barbie’s Dream House table lamp, nuke some chicken nuggets or videotape a choreographed dance number to the Monster High theme song.  

Generally very easy breezy lemon squeezy. Still, it’s not the same as totally uninterrupted work time. So naturally, thanks to parent/teacher conference week, I’m now officially behind on my work. Which now means I must work on the weekend (not a fan!) which is NOT going to easy because Randy the perfekt husband won’t be available to entertain our daughter.

What does this all mean, you ask? It means I NEED A COCKTAIL!

How exactly is that going to help me catch up on my work? It won’t. But it’ll go a long way toward keeping me from lying awake at night worrying about getting my work done which would result in me being completely unable to get any work done because of lack of sleep and therefore falling even MORE behind.

It’s a vicious cycle. And I’m going to nip in it in the bud with a little nip of this fall cocktail called….



2 oz Tuaca (an Italian liquer)
Hot apple cider
Whipped cream
Cinnamon stick for garnish

Pour the Tuaca in an Irish coffee glass.
Fill with hot apple cider.
Top with whipped cream.
Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Yummy huh? I’ve always loved fall. It’s my favorite season with its harvest moons, turning leaves, crisp cool nights and crackling fires. And now I have one more reason to love it.


ENJOY! And remember, don’t feel guilt and parent.

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Author: toni

~ 06/07/10


Okay. I know some of you have no idea what I’m talking about in that title up there.  You know who you are – those of you who googled BAD, ASS and MOM, looking for some kind of mommy related porn and accidentally ending up at a humorous mom website that discusses “bad” parenting, “ass” spread as a result of giving birth and well, anything “mom”.

If you’re one of those guys… first of all, ew. Second of all, get a job! Third of all, does your wife/girlfriend/mother know how you’re spending your time on the computer?! Whatever. It’s a free country.

For the others of you who ARE  regular followers to MAMMAKAZE, you will know that my daughter JULIA and her friend ALY performed in the school talent show recently. And that endeavor (and many end of the year mombligations) took me away from my regularly scheduled posting. Soooo….

Thought I’d share with you the result. It’s a fun little duet to the song “SISTERS” by Irving Berlin that Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen sang in the movie WHITE CHRISTMAS. This time, it’s done by a couple of very cute and talented young second graders. Yeah, I can say my kid is cute and talented. I’m a mom after all….

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Author: toni

~ 05/11/10


We mommies have an unspoken language that only we can understand. It’s wordless… based on subtle expressions of the face, mostly the eyes, and a little bit of psychic understanding thrown in. It’s a way of communicating that I’m sure dates back to prehistoric times. Probably a survival mechanism where females could secretly complain to one another about their foul smelling mates with bad teeth without their mates knowing and the females consequently suffering the repercussions, or concussions, whatever the form of cave husband disapproval was back then.

In fact, I had just such a wordless conversation with another mommy on Mother’s Day. I didn’t even know her. But, I KNEW exactly what she was thinking.

Here’s what happened.

So, Randy the perfekt husband took me and Julia to the La Quinta Resort and Spa in Palm Springs for Mother’s Day weekend.  After a lovely, relaxing day Saturday, we awoke Sunday morning and headed to Twenty6, one of the resort’s restaurants, for Mother’s Day breakfast.

The three of us were seated at a small table near a larger party of two families. Between them they had 7 kids and, from the looks of one mommy’s profile, another on the way. 

Well, I happened to look over (okay I was staring cuz I couldn’t imagine how those women did it with so many kids) when the mommies  began opening their Mother’s Day presents. One MOM was right in my sight line. Her Husband handed her a little gift bag from which  she removed a very promising-looking, smallish box.  I could see the anticipation on her face. I KNOW she was thinking, “I wonder if it’s a diamond?”  as she smiled a BIG SMILE. I didn’t even have to be psychic to figure out that part.  

Then she opened the box. And I knew instantly –  SHE HATED IT! Not because her smile faded or anything. Oh, no. Like any mommy experienced at sometimes (or maybe always) getting the absolute wrong gift, she held that smile like the Miss America title was riding on it.   There was even “ooohing” and “aaahing”  coming out of her mouth. No, in fact, to the untrained eye, all the outward signs pointed to her loving it.

But this mommy knew better. Whereas her smile was initially very natural and relaxed, suddenly it took on a slightly forced look. Just around the edges. Subtle but there. Only obvious to those lacking a Y chromosome. And the anticipatory glimmer in her eye went out like a burned-out bulb. Shark eyes are the only way I can describe them. Dead. Dead to all hope of a good Mother’s Day gift from the one human being on Earth who was  supposed to know her better than anyone – her husband.

Our eyes met for a moment, this mommy and I.  I knew. And she knew I knew. Yet without missing a beat, she looked back at her hubby and kids and proclaimed SHE LOVED IT!

Then she held “it” up so I could finally see the object of her disdain. It was THE BIGGEST, GAUDIEST RING EVER!  I mean, this thing was honkin’ huge. It had the subtlety of a mack truck, this ring did. Which would have been tolerable if it was indeed a diamond because hey… big is good when it comes to diamonds. Yes?  But  it wasn’t a diamond. No sirree.

It was one of those giant rectangular black onyx things with lots of little rhinestones all around it. So big it covered the two neighboring fingers. The only appropriate use for such a huge, flashy, non-diamond ring would be to have Christopher Columbus kiss it before he set sail on his adventure to decimate the New World with the pox.  

I whispered to Randy, “She doesn’t like it.” And Randy who up to that point had been completely oblivious to anything but the stack o’ butter- soaked pancakes before him – the kind that men always seem to get away with eating without gaining weight, replied, “Huh? Who?”

ME: That mommy over there, at the other table. She DOES NOT like the ring she got for Mother’s Day.

Randy glanced over.

RANDY: But she’s wearing it.

ME: It means nothing.

RANDY: Well, she keeps saying she loves it! THAT means something.

TONI: It means she’s polite. Now watch, she’s going to set up for the return… Wait for it. Wait for it.

Just then, between her gushing and her “I love its”, the Mommy suddenly said:

MOMMY: Wow. It’s kind of too big on me. I don’t know if they’ll be able to resize this. I’ll have to take it back to the shop and see.

And there is was. Randy looked at me in amazement.

RANDY: How did you know?

As the Mommy got up from the table NOT WEARING her ring, our eyes met again. Her eyes told me I was right, that sucker was going back, no matter what the shop said about resizing – if she even bothered to ask, which she probably wouldn’t.  I already knew it. And she knew I knew it.

ME: (to Randy) We mommies just know.


Randy started in on his bacon and I watched as the Mommy and her group headed out the door. And she shot me a final parting glance that told me she hoped I had better luck with my Mother’s Day gift.

Oh. I had. Know why? Because unlike some husbands (hers), mine had learned the key to good gift-giving a LONG time ago.  Take me to pick it out. Yes he did. And yes I had. And I was happily wearing my necklace, bracelet and earrings as I nibbled away at my health conscious yogurt and berry medley breakfast that we women have to suffer through instead of butter-soaked pancakes so as NOT to gain weight.

No bad gifts for this good mommy.

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Author: toni

~ 05/05/10


Welcome to movie math where we take a look at a movie and see if it ADDS UP to family fun… and is worth the outrageous prices they’re charging in the theaters these days!

FURRY VENGEANCE - Despite the fact that I had to explain the concept of vengeance to Julia and that it stars Brendan Fraser the reigning king of movie crap, I took my kid to see this film. More accurately, I was elected to take her. And all because I made the mistake of  giggling at the trailers. (Sue me, I find silly animals funny). Randy the perfekt husband took that to mean that I wouldn’t mind being the parental sacrifice on the altar of really bad movie-making. It was simply a momentary lapse in sanity. And I had to pay for it by sitting through this abomination.

Let’s begin by saying, Brendan Fraser continues on a streak that started way back with GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, was followed over the last few years with the likes of BEDAZZLED,  INKHEART and now this.  The difference now is that Brendan Fraser used to at least be  nice eye candy for mommy to look at. But in this movie. HOLY MOLY! He looks like someone who needs an all-you-can-eat buffet intervention. The guy is only 41 years old but he’s so out of shape, bloated and entirely unhealthy. Normally I don’t comment on the appearance of an actor. But  he spends a scary portion of the movie running around shirtless or wearing Brooke Shield’s too-small jogging suit with YUM YUM across the butt. Yeah, someone, he or the director, decided to make fun of all his jiggly parts. And I gotta tell you, like everything else in this movie, it was trying too hard. Or maybe it wasn’t hard enough.

Look, I appreciate the whole preserve nature theme. Frankly, I wish it was pushed at our kids as much as the “you can be a secret world famous pop star if you only follow your dream” theme that’s on every Nick and Disney show. But is it too much to ask to write a decent story, with some intelligence, instead of this insulting piece of drivel?

Bottom line, the kids DID  laugh. Well, little kids laughed. Know why? Because kids think that farts, pee and poop are funny. Also skunks spraying. Sprinklers shooting into people’s crotches. And Brendan Fraser, as naked as he could possibly be without violating some ratings law, bathing in tomato juice while wearing a red bra for a group of construction workers to see. Yep. It’s like.


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Author: toni

~ 04/23/10


Gravity is an insidious thing. Oh I know it keeps us tethered to the planet and that without it we’d float away and our bones would break in a pillow fight. Still, this gravity thing has a serious down side. And I mean that literally.

I first started suspecting the dirty dealings of gravity last year. See, things about me didn’t seem as perky as they used to. And I’m not talking about my personality. I’m talking about more EXTERNAL things. Okay I’ll say it… my breasts and my butt.

I mean, I was never a Victoria’s Secret model or anything. But my B&Bs were pretty good about standing at attention without the support of things like, say, foundation garments.

And then one day last year, as I passed the mirror naked after a shower, I stopped dead in my tracks. Something about me was different. What was it? Had I changed my hair? Gotten new glasses? Finally gotten around to having my eyebrows professionally done by those ladies who use thread? I knew it wasn’t any of those things because, well, wouldn’t I have known it? Okay, maybe not given my tendency toward forgetfulness since I’ve become a mom. But after looking through receipts and my calendar, I quickly ruled those out as possibilities. I thought long and hard. And then it struck me. Something WAS different, all right. And they were staring me in the face.

Whereas at one time my breasts were so alert I would have sworn they pointed True North, they seemed to now, oh dear god, be pointing ever so slightly South!

I was horrified! My own personal compass rose (or roses if we’re going to be more literal in our metaphors) had suddenly gone haywire! How could this be?! I mean, everyone knows that north can’t suddenly become south. Unless of course there was some catastrophic event, like those earthquakes that make rivers run backwards for days.  

But I hadn’t suffered any such catastrophic event, had I? The answer was NO. So I shook the whole thing off as a result of wearing my sports bra too long after my workout. I mean, nothing can change the landscape quite like a boob-immobilizing sports bra. Right?

WRONG! Because the other day,  after my shower, the reality of my changing landscape hit me like a ton of bricks when I went to dry myself.

Now if you’re like me, you have a drying ritual. A certain order in the whole drying process that covers all areas, which you have done so many times it’s as instinctive as breathing or saying “no” to your kid when you pass the toy aisle in Target. And when you’re done with the toweling process, you’re dry. Except this time, I wasn’t completely dry! No, in fact, as I went to put on my clothes, I noticed there were little “trenches” shall we call them, that were still wet! Namely, the two little areas beneath my breasts, and the areas on the top back of my legs where the legs meet my butt cheeks.

How could this be?! I had dried myself as I always had. How could I have missed those spots? Well, turns it’s easy to miss them if they’re covered up by gravity-battered FLESH!

I was mortified. Not only had the landscape changed, it was overlapping. Kind of like two tectonic plates that meet and, as a result of the pressure (or in this case that infuriating gravity) one goes UNDER the other.

On close examination, I saw this was the case. Flesh was indeed meeting flesh. I hadn’t seen anything like it since the time Julia went through her plump baby phase where she had so many folds I was sure a DNA test would prove the Michelin Man was her father.  I kid you not when I say she looked like she had three extra joints on each arm and leg. There were so many crevices on her little body that I had to take extra care to wash deep inside them, lest any urpy found its way in between and over time turn into oil.

Well, now it was happening to me! I was becoming the Michelin Mom. But how? Why? And then it occured to me that while, true, no catastrophic event had occured to my body – I had been suffering a lot of little tiny temblors over several years that could definitely have changed the landscape a little at a time in a way that was almost imperceptible. And those little earthquakes were called birthdays.

I’ll tell you, it’s a rude awakening when your body parts start migrating. I guess it’s all part of the natural process of time passage meeting the forces of nature. I mean, the Earth doesn’t look like it did millions of years ago. Remember that super continent you learned about in school called Pangaea? Well last I checked on Julia’s Academic Challenge study sheet, there are now SEVEN CONTINENTS! And if something like the continents can succumb to the forces of time and nature, how can we expect our bodies to be immune?

Especially if we’re living life right. Heck, we should be using the heck out of our bodies! Eating. laughing, loving, having babies! And as things get used, they well, change. I understand that.

I accept that. Stop laughing. I DO! Really! I mean, it’s not like I have any choice. None of us do. But you know what can take the edge off a little?  A husband who loves you no matter how you look. Who “loves the sorrows of my changing face” to slightly misquote my favorite poet William Butler Yeats. Know what else helps? A couple of margaritas with so much  tequila in ‘em that I can’t feel my cheeks (the ones on either side of my mouth).

Meanwhile, I’ll enjoy (or at least try not to be horrified by) watching my own little Pangaea in action on my torso.  In fact, maybe I’ll set up a camera and do a stop motion thing! Yeah! And then, in forty years it’ll be the hit of Youtube! … And be one more reason Julia will blame me for her high therapy bills.

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