Tag Archives: Family

80 Years Young

This past weekend the entire family (all 19 of us) went up to Pismo Beach to celebrate my poppa’s 80th birthday. Pismo is such a quaint, relaxing little place. It was the perfect weekend getaway.

All Poppa wanted for his birthday was time away with all of us. Over the weekend I couldn’t help but think how proud he must be. He started all of this–three great kids and their spouses, and eleven beautiful grandchildren ranging in age from twenty-four to ten months. I’m not going to say we don’t fight. I’m not going to say there aren’t times when we annoy the hell out of each other.  But I will say that at the end of the day we enjoy one another. We don’t take for granted that what we have is special.

I don’t love anyone like I love these 18 people. I can’t imagine how Poppa must feel about us. What a good life he’s made…what a good life.


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The best thing about holidays in my family has always been the tradition surrounding them all. My grandmother (aka Nonna) is really big on tradition. Most of them are Italian customs that have been passed down over the years and a majority of them are centered around food (we are Italian, after all). I always enjoyed the traditions as a little kid, but as I’ve gotten older I really appreciate the importance of them.

Christmas and Easter are the huge events. Christmas Eve takes the cake and requires the most prep, but they’re all full-day extravaganzas. Cooking begins a week before with my nonna, mom and aunts baking like crazy. Usually there are kids running around and cousins stopping by. Everyone is frantically cleaning, decorating, shopping, etc. It’s chaos, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With tomorrow being Easter Sunday, my mom has been over at my grandparents’ house since early this morning finishing up the Easter “Pizza.” Yesterday the whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents) all went to mass and then we decorated eggs. All week the Easter cookies, or Tatalucce, have been being prepared. With there being so many of us, I swear they make hundreds!

One day this week I stopped by to see my mom, nonna and zizi (auntie in Italian) who were finishing up a batch of the Tatalucce at 10:30 at night. I was watching these three women who have so many other things to be doing, but they’re making these cookies for their family because of love and because of tradition. It’s in these moments that I recognize how blessed I really am to have this big family that I do and to have these wonderful people in my life. We’re loud, we’re unbelievably nosy, we fight, we’re together A LOT, and there really aren’t many of us that have a filter when we speak, but we have one another for always and we love each other like crazy. If you ask me, it doesn’t get much better than that.

I thought I’d depart by leaving you with some pictures of the Tatalucce baking. My nonna wouldn’t let me post the recipe, but she said if anyone asked for it we could give it to them on an individual basis. 🙂

Buona Pasqua! Happy Easter!

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Samantha & Michael

My family recently made a trip to New York to see my brother who is going to school on Long Island. Because he’s there on a baseball scholarship, he’s pretty much signed his life away and there’s a good chance he won’t be back home until next Christmas, so we’ve all been frequenting the  East Coast to visit and watch him play. New York (particularly Manhattan) is absolutely fabulous and Long Island is great as well. You could tell there was usually a lot of greenery, but Spring had yet to arrive, so it all looked pretty dead. It reminded me a lot of Wisconsin or Michigan though. And if you’ve never been to Port Jefferson, you must make a trip (preferably during the summer) because it is adorable!

Enough sidetracking, what I really wanted to write about today are my sister and brother. Amidst our time visiting Michael it occurred to me how lucky the three of us are. I’ve thought about it on other occasions, but for whatever reason, it really sunk in on this trip. Having Michael home this past Christmas was so much fun and it made me realize how much we genuinely miss having him at home. When I moved back to California last May, I had a lot of mixed emotions on moving back into my parents’ home, but one of the upsides was that it was probably the one last time Samantha, Michael and I would all be living there together. Don’t get me wrong, we fight like crazy. Sam steals my clothes and I have an extremely hard time sharing, Michael is one of the messiest people you will ever meet in your life and I have the annoying oldest child habit of acting like the mom. But despite all that, we had the best summer together. It’s funny because when I left for college I thought I would come home and it would never be quite the same, but I’ve come to learn that there are some things in life that never really change.

On the whole, we enjoy each other. We really, truly enjoy each other. We just all kind of “click.” We were all so excited to see each other in NY. Even Michael, who likes to pretend like he doesn’t care, was excited to see us. And I think that’s a really special and rare thing. I know that I have these two best friends that will have my back, no matter what, for the rest of my life. I love the people that they are, I love my time with them and I love the relationship the three of us have.

I was talking to someone about this recently and they said that it is really a compliment to my parents. Siblings share something exceptional because they have the same past and upbringing. They know every single thing about you (including what buttons to push), but they love you anyway. If you’re lucky enough, they love you unconditionally. They’re the people that have been there from the beginning and they’re the ones that are going to be there in the end. We share stories, traditions, memories, our childhood, good times, bad times, hard times – important things that you don’t have with anyone else. My parents always reinforced the importance of family and each other, but to be honest, I don’t know exactly why we’re all so close. What I do know is that I am so grateful we are.

I am really enjoying the age we’re all at right now. I like that we all want to spend time together and with each other’s friends. I can only hope that this stays the same as we get older. I love the people that Samantha and Michael have become as young adults. They’re good people. And I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the two of them.

“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.”  -Clara Ortega


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I think one of the secrets to happiness is to enjoy the little pleasure that each day brings, like a new cousin.

On Friday, March 4, we welcomed Evelyn Marie Kokenda (aka Evie)  into our family. That makes eleven of us now. I know I’m incredibly biased, but isn’t she the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?


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