The ‘ol Schnazzola

What I remember most about that winter day was being pinned down on a table by two white-capped nurses wearing freshly pressed white dress uniforms.  An attending doctor shoved two chopsticks, tipped with gauze, up what used to be my nose.


We lived in the basement apartment of the white house at 52nd and Albany on Chicago’s south side.

I had dragged my Flexible Flyer sled six city blocks down to a parking lot at a steel factory in Chicago called Central Steel at 47th and Central.  There were big snow hills there, created when plow trucks cleared the huge employee parking lots.  To my eight year old heart, it was as wonderful as any ski hill in Colorado.

My blue snow coat was trimmed in white and it had a hood which kept my ears toasted.  My hands had gotten a little cold inside the wool mittens I wore, but since I could still feel my fingertips, I was good to go.  On that particular day, none of the other neighborhood kids had shown up yet.  Figuring the rest would be along soon, I started to fly.

Racing down was so much fun.  I went over and over again until the thrill was gone.  It was time to explore my options.  I figured if going down on my tummy, face-first, was so much fun, then wouldn’t it be even grander to go down on my tummy, backwards, feet-first with my knees bent to the sky.  No one else had shown up yet, so I was free to work on it.

The first time down was fun.  The next time down, I wanted to look and see the icy snow rush past the rails under my sled.  About halfway down, I lowered my head between the red rails and watched them carve a path down the hill.  “Let’s do it again!” I thought.    After getting some speed going and taking control of the red steering bar with soaking wet mittens, stuck to the metal like a wet tongue on icy pipe, I lowered my face into position to see the mechanics of sledding.

Sudden Impact.  A round ice chunk  plowed into my nostrils, hitting my upside-down nose like a sledgehammer.  The amount of snot that a young child can create is truly incredible.  Tears, pain, and blood created a trail of thick mucus that Stevie Wonder could follow.  I remember a lady driving a red Chevy Impala with the big fins and round tail lights stopped to ask me if I needed help.  The trim on my blue coat was green and red at this point and my nose covered my face.  Never one to accept a ride from strangers, I kept walking, dragging my downed Flyer by its rope.

Forty years later, my mother will still tell you she remembers the exact moment I stepped through the front door.  She had to check to see if her daughter was standing behind what might be a nose on the face that just walked in.  “Jim!  Get her to the hospital” she called out to my dad.  He swooped me up, snots and all, into his arms and buckled me into our 1968 green Ford Fairlane 500 with the 289.  Dad hit the gas.

The diagnosis was a badly smooshed moosh.  Nothing was broken but my pride.  I survived the doctor’s poking and cleaning that day, remembering the sterile, antiseptic smells.  The only lasting after-effect I suffered  is an aversion to chopsticks.

The Pear

Technology has finally caught up with my dad.  He invented “The Pear” which today is similar to a facebook “Poke” with a sinister twist.  The hand gesture is made by placing all fingertips (and the thumb) together and pointing it at your victim.  It is a “gotcha” when you consider that he and his grandchildren discovered The Pear during an innocent visit to Medieval Times. 

The  pear of anguish is the modern name for a type of instrument displayed in some museums, consisting of a metal body (usually pear-shaped) divided into spoon-like segments that could be spread apart by turning a screw.  The instrument was inserted into the victim’s mouth or rectum, and then slowly spread apart as the screw was turned.  Of course the six to ten year-olds were fixated by the latter use and giggled uncontrollably all night.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Gramps invented “The Pear.”

“Getting Peared” became the end game of our family times together as the grandchildren grew and became parents themselves.  They peared each other, they peared inappropriately as often as possible, and they peared ME!    Technology helped them find long distance pearing methods.  My niece, Sarah, living in Washington state recently “got me” with this one.  Gramps would be proud to know it has TRICKled down to another generation.

The pear is especially handy when most socially inappropriate…like getting someone with it during a long, boring meeting or doing it when only the recipient can see it.  For example, you might be meeting someone important (like your child’s teacher) and as introductions are made, your kid gets behind the teacher and shoots you a Pear.  Sometimes I pass one of my kids today on the road and as we near each other, I stick my hand up and out of the moon roof and shoot him a Pear…this is known as a drive-by Pearing and it gets extra brownie points.

The real challenge lately has been to keep myself from driving 360 miles to Pittsburgh to spank my nephew’s butt for encouraging his (otherwise) wonderful son, Caleb, to draw pear pictures and mail them to me.

Caleb, when he is not drawing pictures of pears.

I get the mail, my heart swoons because Caleb has sent me a letter!.  But nooooo….   that stink pot is at home giggling, just waiting for Aunt Kelly to get Peared.   His dad is lucky that he is a U.S. Marine and only me and Chuck Norris are afraid of U.S. Marines.

When my oldest son went skiing in Switzerland, I asked him to bring me something back (I’m thinking CHOCOLATE).  Silly me.  His “gift” was a photo of himself, standing so triumphantly in front of a 10′x15′  public transit billboard of a ripe, dew covered pear.  I have to admit, I kind of admired his choice.

Cell phones have taken this fixation to a whole new level.  I might be shopping at Target for a shower curtain and happen upon one covered in pears.  OMG…Instantly, my heart starts racing.  I have to “get someone with it.”  This generally results in a group text.

There was one year, though, on Grandparent’s Day, that I got even with my dad for all this when I framed this super sweet photo of his grandchildren as his “gift.”



















Blame Elvis

“It is Elvis’ fault.”  That’s what my grandparents said about the blue eye shadow, doing “the bump”, wide neckties, and the tube tops of my generation as their eyes popped out of their heads while watching the first adult male in televised history get “All Shook Up.”  Rock and Roll was declared a devil and Elvis had horns.


Flash forward 50 years.  Sorry, Grandma.   The problem with kids today are video games and the  associated violence, isolation, and seduction.   Seduction– it is a two horned devil:  (1) pornographic stereotypes of the game characters, and (2)  addicting the player to level after level of play as a precious childhood clock goes tick, tock.  Isolation is the cruelest side effect of the three because it sneaks up and becomes a way of life.  Isolation and seduction are related.  Players get addicted to the game levels and spend extended periods of time clicking a controller and fighting for life on a blinking-flashing-noisy screen,  alone.   A L O N E  becomes safe.    You don’t have to risk acceptance or rejection.  You don’t have to meet people, exchange ideas, or practice the art of conversation.  You don’t have to play an instrument, be judged, solve problems, help someone, or walk the dog.


I figured this out in the 1980′s when Super Mario Brothers came out.  My oldest was five.  One day we were playing the game and he had the controls because I couldn’t make the guys move or jump right (yet).   He was successfully passing level after level and we were both really into it.  Then there was a hard level and I was yelling at the TV.  He kept trying and we both kept pushing.  Eventually he threw up all over the carpet from stress.  It scared me.  I had no idea of the real dynamics at play.   I had unknowingly placed so much expectation on this five year old that he got sick.

We all learned to play these games with more care and caution.   I realized how addictive and isolating Super Mario Brothers was because I tried it and I liked it.  I started to play the game too much and recognized it when I would say things like, “Go make your own bowl of cereal, I’ve got to get past the lava.”   Eventually I accepted that Luigi was bad for me and for my family. It dawned on me…. POOF–”Elvis” was in the building.


So, we quit “gaming” and I became the mean mom when I said,  “Get out there and build a snowman” or “go outside and ride bikes” and when John and I asked the kids each night, “What did you do today to make the world a better place?”  Sure, I let them play some video games (who wants to raise a dork?) but time was regulated and we fought the games by creating an interactive family life.  We took the kids camping, fishing, rollerblading, water skiing, and played board games or cards.   We gave them chores.  We went to their grandparent’s houses as much as possible.   We tried to make our family more entertaining, balanced, and challenging than a video game.  It was hard because when the kids played video games, we had freedom.


Today, knowing how much time I spend texting, fiddling with my ipad, BLOGGING, downloading my itunes, editing photos, “talking” on facebook, and checking my gmail as an adult,  I HAVE NO IDEA HOW PARENTS PARENT TODAY.  All this tech stuff is just as addictive, too!  I catch myself isolated and find ways to justify it.  I have to be my own cop.   OMG…Elvis is in the building!


In the end, I grew up okay (so far) and my kids grew up okay (maybe).   I find myself swirling in a sea of worry– just like my grandparents.  For what it is worth, maybe some of my Mean Mom Rules can bring a little  “Mayberry, U.S.A.”  to you and yours.  My kids still hate me for them and I consider it of a badge of honor.  (wink)




  • Your bedroom is for sleeping or reading which meant:  1.  No phone in your room.  2.  No TV in your room.  3. No computer in your room.  Sure we all had access, but in family friendly areas of the home.
  •  Nothing good happens after 10 o’clock (p.m.)  This rule was very useful during the high school years.  I really didn’t care if they stayed out later, but I didn’t want them heading out to something at about that time.
  • “No, you are NEVER going to the mall.”
  • If I catch you driving with another human being in the car, your “wheels” are gone FOREVER.
  • I have eyes in the back of my head; don’t make me use them.
  • If you slam your bedroom door, I will take out the pins and you won’t have one.
  • Please love each other when you grow up.
  • Come home after every dance…no guy’s room and girl’s rooms at area hotels or going up north afterwards.  WTH!!!
  • Don’t tell me about everybody.  I didn’t give birth to them.
  • Don’t make me take off my shoe.
  • If you are at a party and drink, don’t drive…call me and I will come and get you–no questions asked.
  • Don’t lie – Mothers know everything and what we don’t know, we find out.
  • No tattoos, no smoking, and no body piercing.  You don’t want to go “there.”
  • Remember who your best friend is when the sh*t hits the fan.  I’m your first call.



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