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Fabulous Fall Watercolor Trees

September 17, 2014

I helped the boys make a watercolor tree on canvas for their Great Aunt.  After we finished, Rocco wanted to make one all on his own.  It’s kind of hard to tell which is which…can you?

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Darn, the signatures gave it away, didn’t they?  I swear, I didn’t even help that much with the top one.  I know you don’t believe me, but I believe me!

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MrsMouthy Gets a Little Sad

September 10, 2014

This, dear readers, is making me so sad this week.

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No, not the mess or the three shades of paint in the wall—it’s the deconstruction of our nursery that is fairly breaking my heart.

I have always loved this room.

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I remember installing the hardwood floors, pregnant and nauseous but full of optimism, hope, energy, dreams.  I remember the furniture trickling in with each holiday and baby shower that passed that first pregnant year.

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Everything in this room has a beloved relative’s name attached to it, a story, a purpose.  It was all chosen by a young mother-to-be who knew nothing yet of babies but who couldn’t wait to learn it all. 

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A mother-to-be who had time to carefully fold, put away, and label everything in the room, once upon a time.

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Everything in this room comes with a story, like the beautiful cross-stitch from a good family friend and how she brought tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and we sat there eating ice cream and marveling at this tiniest of creatures I had made. 

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And the chicken on the floor rug that our cherished cat, Rocky (rest in peace), always attacked with a move we called “kangaroo pants.”  It was always the chicken.

And the changing table where baby Vincenzo consistently peed on Aunt Jeanette and only Aunt Jeanette when she tried to change him there.

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And this tile I added to the room after Angelo’s birth and death to remind me to keep moving forward.

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I remember sitting in the green glider before each baby was born, rocking and dreaming of what life would be like.  Then later I’d rock in that chair holding my newborn baby and wonder and wonder at how the reality was  so much sweeter, so much bigger than the dream.  Because I had really dreamed big.

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It’s been ten years since we laid down those hardwood floors.  Four awful pregnancies that I sometimes thought I wouldn’t survive.  Four beautiful babies who were so worth it. 

And now, three big boys.

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The quiet sacredness of newborns has been replaced by the loud hilarity of young children.  Like now, as I am typing, Rocco has made Leo a fort and Leo emptied an entire bag of gnaan into it, followed by a box of shell noodles (yes, opened and yes, all over the floor).  He followed that up by sticking some beads on a board and telling me he made “a doggie and a zombie.”  Vincenzo and Rocco are cracking up.  We all laugh a lot.

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But also, as I type, Kevin is ripping off the wainscoting in the nursery, getting it ready for its “big boy” status. 

While I am feeling crushed about the deconstruction of the nursery, I’m not exactly laying down in my grave to die.  I am still a young-ish mother with optimism and hope, only now with a few gray hairs mixed in.  I still have energy (though maybe not as much).  I still have dreams, if a little bit smaller than before. 

I have more now, too.  I have wisdom, confidence, maturity, and an ocean’s worth of love that I didn’t have ten years ago.  I have stories and memories that get us all laughing again.  I have the family of my dreams to go through life with.

But still.  Nobody in my house needs to be rocked anymore or falls asleep on my chest, heaving tiny breaths while I sit there feeling like I am falling in love for the millionth time, knowing that this baby is falling in love even harder because it is his very first time.

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Kevin tells me he’ll fill in and heave tiny breaths on my chest if I want.  I roll my eyes.  (At least one of my boys will never grow up.)

I’ve just always hated goodbyes and somehow, taking down the nursery feels like a forever goodbye.

So MrsMouthy is a little sad this week.  And look–now you are too. 

But it’s all right.  With these three stooges around, we’re too busy laughing to sit around feeling sad for long.

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A Day In the Life of Leo

September 4, 2014

This kid is a trip and a half.  I have taken to calling him “My Drunken Little Friend” lately because…well, read on.

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Leo wakes up early and when I go into his room he tells me, “It’s mine burfday!” (He does this every day.) He adds, “It’s your burfday too, Mom!” We sing happy burfday to each other, just like we do every day.

Then Leo has to go to the bathroom and when I am not instantly there to turn the light on he throws his naked self onto the floor and lays there in the fetal position, ranting and railing, until I turn the light on. He pops up and cheerfully walks to the potty.

We go to the play kitchen set and make birthday cakes. When I ask him to put sprinkles on mine he sets the whole jar of sprinkles on my cake and says, “There you go, Mom.”

His brothers wake up and we make waffles.  Real ones, that is.

At 7:30AM Kevin comes home (from hot yoga) and Vincenzo asks why he’s home so early. I tell Vincenzo that maybe it’s not early—maybe he slept all day and Dad’s just coming home from work and the sky outside is actually getting darker outside, not lighter. Leo snaps to attention and says, “I’m not tired! It’s blue one! It’s blue sky!”

The waffles are ready. Leo brings me the exact cup he wants his milk in. I give him milk in that cup. He then gets a different cup and pours his milk into that to drink. He spills it all over the table, so I toss him a towel to clean it up. The towel lands on the ground. “Can’t reach it, Mom.” I tell him to pick it up. “Can’t pick it up, Mom.  I’m too strong.”

Rocco tells me his tummy hurts and I ask if it’s a need-to-go-to-bathroom hurt or an I’m-gonna-puke hurt. Leo yells, “Puke! I puke Rocco!”

During breakfast Rocco gets a time out for making Leo cry by repeatedly saying, “It’s everyone’s birthday.” He is issued a time out and has to wish Leo a happy birthday once he is out of time out.  On one hand it feels like the wrong thing to do, but on the other it makes perfect sense.

After breakfast Leo spies a bottle of wine I was given in a cloth wine bag. He mistakes it for a birthday present. We give him the bag (without the wine) and he fills it up with toys then says, “I’m weddy speech fuppy!” (He’s ready for speech therapy—we often bring toy bags with us.) I tell him great, we’ll leave in five hours.

After breakfast we go blackberry picking on the trail behind our house. Leo picks exactly two blackberries, eats them, and then retires from blackberry picking. He keeps asking me to fill up his container so he can eat them, saying, “More booberries please!” He insists on calling them blueberries all morning and laughs at us when we say, “They’re blackberries,” like he’s too clever to fall for that one.

At 10 we are back home and Leo has both hands in his hair, which is a definite sign he needs a nap.  He happily lies down in his crib and sleeps.

Later, on the way to “speech fuppy,” Rocco decides to quiz Leo to get him ready for his lesson.  “Leo,” he says, “Say twwwaaain.”  Leo says, “Twwwaaain.”  I remind myself to schedule another two years of speech fuppy for Leo.

As we pull into the driveway Leo throws his hands in the air and yells, “WE DID IT!!  WE DID IT, MOMMY!”  We all celebrate, even though we’re not exactly sure why.

At dinner the boys get to talking about Minecraft.  It goes like this with Leo:

Leo: I play Minefwaft.
Me: Minefaft.
Leo: Fwaft.
Me: Fwaft.
Leo: Fwaft
Me: Minefwaft.
Leo: Minefwaft!  Minefwaft!
Me: Minecraft.
Leo: Yeah.  Minefwaft.

After dinner Leo crawls onto my bed to read books with his brothers and his cheeks are all chimpunky so I say, “What do you have in there?”  He opens his mouth.  Inside is an entire, full-sized carrot, all chewed up.   Before I can even say “What’s up, Doc?” there is carrot juice all over Leo’s shirt, his hands, my pillow, our bed.  I make a mental note to flip my pillow upside down before going to bed.

After a few minutes Leo runs off saying, “I go potty!” and comes back a minute later saying, “I go standing up!”  I groan, then yell to Kevin, “Clean up, aisle bathroom!”

After story time Kevin tells the boys to put on shoes so they can go outside.  Leo puts his shoes on like this and insists he’s doing it right:

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I go inside to get my bag of gym clothes.  When I come out, Vincenzo is hanging from a tree laughing at the place Rocco chose to go potty outside, which was on the Totem Pole; Rocco is pulling up his pants looking cross and hotly defending his decision; Leo is standing in the grass with his bare buns to the neighborhood, peeing outside because that’s what Rocco did; and Kevin is looking at me, shaking his head.

If when I get older I only remember one thing from my days of raising young children, I want it to be that exact scene.  I want it to be the last thing I see before I die.  I want to live in that moment of hilarity and seriousness sweet baby buns forever.

Anyway.  Leo.  My Little Drunken Friend.  It makes sense now, right?

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Third grade. THIRD!

September 2, 2014

It’s too weird to think about having a third grader already, so I will instead tell you about curriculum night and how Kevin and I always behave so badly at these things and go home feeling like our parenting license should probably be revoked. 

This year V’s teacher left a blank piece of paper on each student’s desk so we could write our babes a little note for the first day of school.  Before I show you what Kevin wrote, think about what you might write on your note.

I’ll wait.

Right?  Something like, “Have a great first day!  We’re so proud of you!  Listen to your teacher!”  Something like that.  But no.

Here is Kevin’s note to V, front, middle, and back (FYI I am Mamba, and yes I did read):

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Some of the humor probably escapes you, as much of it is based on previous jokes and harassment by Kevin of Vincenzo’s friends, but you get the idea.  I sat there on curriculum night giggling and giggling in the back of the classroom while other parents asked questions about workload and number sense.

I don’t think V’s teacher be biased against him though, since we were sitting in a different kid’s seat.  That’s always important on curriculum night, we have found.

And now, my baby boy, on his first day of third grade.

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And can’t forget about these guys who are always hanging around him!

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Date night

August 29, 2014

My boys spent the night at my parents’ on Tuesday.  I have not had a night at home without the kids since before I knew the difference between BeyBlades and Ninjagos, so MAN was I ready.

I dropped the boys off at 4:30 and then panicked because I wanted to both work out and go out to dinner with Kevin, and it was already 4:30.  Then I remembered—the boys aren’t with us!  We can eat dinner at 9 at night if we want!!  So I dusted off my old rollerblades (that is not a figure of speech—I really own and still use a pair of rollerblades) and hit the trail. 

I called Kevin to tell him I was on the way and we started to tell each other about our days and then I said, “Wait!  We can’t waste all our conversation now!”  So we hung up.  There’s only so much you have to talk about when you’ve been together almost 15 years.

I’ve declared this fall “The Fall of Hometown Dates” because it’s been so long since we’ve gone on regular dates that all the restaurants in our city have changed.  The waiter came to ask for drinks and Kevin said, “I think we could order everything now,” and I told him to slow down…we don’t have kids with us!  We can order one course at a time and then wait for each one to come out! 

And while were waiting for our food we did not play any games of tic tac toe, get in a fight over the rules of I Spy, crawl under the table for any reason at all, ask to play games on each other’s phones, knock over any water glasses, or need to be taken outside to get our wiggles out.  We just sat there, sharing the conversation that we wisely did not waste in the car earlier that afternoon.

It has never felt nicer to be made to wait for food.

Back at home we got some cheap thrills speaking to each other in non-hushed voices even though it was past 9PM.  We yelled things down the hall to each other like, “HEY, CAN YOU BRING ME MY GLASSES?”  and, “WHICH ONES, THE PURPLE OR THE BLACK ONES?”  I’m not joking, it got my heart rate up, yelling to each other right outside the rooms where the kids are normally sleeping.

In the morning I woke up because I had had enough sleep.  I woke up because I had had enough sleep!  Not because any other member of my tribe had had enough sleep but because I had had enough sleep!  I can’t believe that is so exciting, but that is so exciting!!!

Then I cleaned up the house and it was incredible—as I put things away, there were not three people simultaneously dumping things out!  Things stayed where I put them!  There was no anger or frustration!  There was no despairing, no sense of hopelessness!  These past eight years I thought I hated house keeping but now that I’ve done it without children around I realized I really enjoy house keeping!  I just hate house keeping with children!

Then I went downstairs and kind of blacked out at my craft table and when I woke up, four whole scrapbook pages were finished.

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Later in the morning I  went to Goodwill freely, without hiding anything or lying about what was going on in the trunk of the car while the kids were strapped, forward-facing, in their car seats.  I left without being made to feel like I had just dumped a beloved family pet along the side of the road.

By then I was hungry, so I stopped at McDonald’s and ate a greasy, fried, sugary lunch without the guilt that my children were also eating a greasy, fried, sugary lunch.  Incredible.

That was pretty much the end of my alone time.  I picked the boys up, gave hugs and kisses, put them in the car, and turned the key.  Then the masses from the back of the car came alive.   “Mom, can I have some of your McDonald’s drink?  Wait, you went to McDonald’s?  Why didn’t we get to go to McDonald’s?  Is it diet Pepsi?  I love diet Pepsi!  Leo hab some!  Leo hab some!”

Oh, Parenting.  I missed you, too.

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Rocco @ Five

August 28, 2014

Rocco. Ohhhh, Rocco. Stubborn, silly, smart, sophisticated, irritating, persistent, brilliant, talkative, generous, kind, independent Rocco. He gives everything his all, from making pasta by scratch to making his older brother cry. It is always no-holds-barred with this one.

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I was going to chop this blog post into two because it gets very long and wordy, but then, that’s Rocco. If we are in the car for an hour, he will talk for an hour. If we are in the car for two hours, he will talk for two. He will talk for three, four, five hours straight and the car is his favorite place to talk because no one can walk away from him.

And just what does he talk about? Mostly about the lane we’re in. He checks that this is the best lane, points out the many varied lanes that I could switch to, wonders if I’m going to change lanes, reminds me to put on my “curving signal” should I decide to change lanes.  It’s like living in The Wonder Years, Rocco being both the star and his own voice-over, only it’s the unedited version where for 59 minutes he talks about absolutely nothing and then on minute 60, just as I am about to park, he tells me he thinks he is allergic to the color beige and starts squinting all funny like and saying his eyes hurt, this car is so full of beige.  An hour of blather for 20 seconds of viewable material.

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While the constant critique of my driving sometimes gets on my nerves, I have to give Rocco credit for paying attention—he can tell his grandma exactly how to get to his speech therapy across town, which exit to get off on and which level to park on. Sometimes I wish I could tell Rocco which exit he could get off on, but I know he means well. He’s just very passionate about, well, lane changes.

Yes, I used the word “irritating” to describe my beloved son, but I know it’s just those in his immediate family who sometimes feel this way. Specifically, those who often find themselves in a car with Rocco. To others Rocco is a sweet child who can focus on a task for hours on end, who loves everything boy but who reigns himself in and is gentle and caring.  He is the child who invites everyone else in, who places a board game on your lap and asks you to play it with him, even if he doesn’t know your name.  Funny, everyone seems to know his.

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Rocco puts up with a lot of abuse from his baby brother, and while sometimes he yells “NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!” at Leo and makes him cry, so many times he tries to be peaceable. He is always offering to help Leo put on his shoes or to sing him a song or to get him a special spoon at the table, and he continues to ask even though Leo consistently screams, “NO!” at him, just for asking.  It’s sweet…except that I’m starting to get the feeling Rocco asks just to hear his little brother scream.  I’ll have to pretend I didn’t make that realization.

Rocco is a spender—he never has a cent in his saving’s account. But he is endlessly generous with his money and possessions. Rocco chose Lucky Charms for his birthday breakfast cereal, then gave most of his to Vincenzo, who he knows loves the cereal as much as him. He saved all the lollipops from his Halloween candy for Poppy because I once mentioned that Poppy loves Tootsie Pops. Rocco would give a friend the piece of gum he was chewing if his friend asked for it. He’s just that kind of guy.

He says he wants to study crafting in college.

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Rocco doesn’t want to do anything without Vincenzo, then the minute they start playing together he starts working on getting his older brother to yell at him. It usually takes about 20 seconds.

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Rocco makes the most outlandish conclusions about the world, then says, “Right, Mom?” You know, like, “The bouncy house has a hole ripped in it because we’re wearing socks right, Mom?” I have no choice but to tell him he’s completely wrong. Like a scientist, though, he is not bothered by being wrong and just makes another conclusion. “Oh. Then probably a bad guy came in the middle of the night and ripped a hole in it. Right Mom?”  I throw my arms to heaven.

Rocco is still that kid who can figure something out and if he doesn’t get it on the first or second try, he’ll try a third, fourth, fifth time. The other day I sent sandwiches down to Rocco and a bunch of older kids in the playhouse. The older kids came up a few minutes later saying they were hungry and wanted lunch, and I asked, “What about the sandwiches I just sent down?” They had gotten the basket but hadn’t known what to do with the packages inside it. Just then Rocco came strolling into the kitchen, finishing up one of the sandwiches he had found in the basket, no big deal. Things just make sense to him.

On vacation this spring our toilet got plugged. While Kevin and I tried to get ahold of the front desk, Rocco pushed and poked and prodded around the toilet and came out a few minutes saying, “I fixed it for you.” And he had.

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When Kevin tells the story of Rocco’s labor, he tells it this way: I went into the hospital with contractions at midnight, but it was determined I had false labor. The doctor would have sent me home but Rocco’s heart rate was a little irregular, so they put me in a bed for a couple hours. Kevin then explains that, by sheer determination, I forced that baby out of my body just a few hours later.  It’s basically the truth, too.

It’s funny how perfectly that labor story fits Rocco. He will be told he can’t do something and he will try every way possible to get around that rule until he either completes the impossible task or is given a time out–whichever comes first.

And it’s tricky. I want to raise a son who doesn’t mindlessly accept what he is told, who has to try it himself to believe it.  I want my child to forge his own path. I want him to push boundaries and question the truth.  I just don’t want him to question my boundaries and the truths I lay down.  Lord, help me.

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I do my best to be patient with Rocco and hope he doesn’t notice the irritated undertones of my voice here and there because I love that kid like mad, and I know I’ll never fully understand him. His brain is wired so differently than mine. I totally respect and admire him for that and can’t wait to see the path that he ends up on, with his big, marvelous brain and his generous disposition. Rocco, slathering determination on everything in life. Unfailingly optimistic and resilient. Confident. Rocco takes good care of his Mama and I know he does not mean to upset me. His brothers, yes, but his Mama—he just wants to make his Mama happy. And usually, he does.

But always, always, I love him.

With everything in my heart, I love that little man.*

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*Wait, did I make it to the end of an entire post about Rocco without once writing the word “trains?”  That’s just not right.  Trains.  TRAINS!  Whew.  Better.

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Quickies

August 27, 2014

I have drafted so many epic blog posts this week, but drafting is the easy part—I spend more time editing than I do writing!  So to tide you over…

1. Rocco, touching my leg today: Mom, your fur feels nice!

2. I went shopping without kids the other day and got carded for the first time in a looooong time.  Is it good or bad if the cashier looks at your i.d. and says, “Wow!”

3. I guess I haven’t been the greatest driver this summer.  Lately whenever I step too hard on the gas or brakes, Leo says, “Sorry guys,” to everyone in the car on my behalf.

4. Leo calls broccoli “bwoccoweed.”  It makes me smile.

5. Rocco, as we turned the lights off and left the room last night: Vincenzo, how slanty are we sleeping tonight?

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