Oh Mine Leo

March 24, 2015

It’s 2AM. Leo climbs into our bed, takes Kevin’s pillow, kicks him until he’s fully awake, then absent-mindedly plays with Kevin’s hair instead of his own while he tries to fall back asleep.

At breakfast Leo announces to everyone that he wants to ride a rattlesnake. As there are no rattlesnakes around for thrills, after breakfast he stands on the arm of the couch that Rocco is laying on. Rocco says, “No Leo! Don’t jump on me!” Leo says, “But I’m going to do something really epic!” I talk him down, explaining we don’t have an exception for “really epic things” in this case.

Later in the day Leo is holding his favorite Skylander, Bushwacker, and we have this conversation:

Leo: I am going to name him Dick.
Me: Duck?
Leo: No, DICK.
Me: Tick?
Leo: No, DICK.
Me: Dick?
Leo: Yeah.  Dick.

We go to the park and Leo keeps ruining the mountains Rocco is building. When I tell him to stop stepping on Rocco’s mountains he says, “But I’m a mountain climber!”

At dinner Leo sits down and asks for “shrimps.”  I ask if he wants me to take the tails off and he screams, “NO!”  Ten seconds later he screams, “TAKE THE TAILS OFF!”  Before taking a bite he leaves the table, saying, “I have go potty.”  He gets distracted by Lego magazine on the way.  I say, “Leo, don’t you need to go potty?”  He screams, “NO!  MOMMY!  Why you sayed that?!” 

He returns to the table and gets angrier and angrier with each minute that passes, as happens when he has to go potty.  It gets to the point that anytime somebody even looks in his direction he screams at them.  The rest of us think this is funny and start screaming if anyone looks at us as well.  This does not help the situation. 

Finally Leo says, “I have go potty.”  He wants to be carried. 

No, he wants to walk. 

No, he wants to be carried.  Definitely carried. 

I bundle him into my arms and carry him down the hall, whispering, “I love you even when you’re cranky.”  He says, “No, you don’t love me cranky.”  I insist I do, I do, and I tickle him until he doesn’t concede but at least he stops disagreeing.  I put him on the toilet and smile at his bare, dangly legs.  He screams, “CLOSE THE DOOR!  I NEED PRIVACY!”  I tell him I love him even when he needs privacy, then quickly close the door before he can yell at me again.

Just before bed we say prayers together and Leo prays, “Thank you for mine beautiful boys.”

And just like that, all is forgiven. I love that twerp.

Beef enchiladas
Brown rice
Refried beans
Steamed broccoli
Chocolate chip cake with milk chocolate frosting


Little thangs

March 19, 2015

1. Vincenzo’s class is doing science experiments this spring and I couldn’t help but come up for this terrible but awesome idea for one of his friends:  Which kind of nut am I most allergic to?

I just keep thinking about how the experiment would look and giggling.

I heard Vincenzo telling his friend he was thinking of doing a science experiment where he took a month off of school and saw if he was smarter or dumber at the end of it.  Brilliant!

2. This picture from one of our kids’ books makes me very uncomfortable.  Once you see it, you can’t unsee it.


3. This was Kevin’s Valentine card to me—read it if you want; the reason I am showing it is to point out that he left it without a message or signature.  He said, “So you can use it again!”  Valentine Fail.



4. This weekend Vincenzo was laughing that Leo sounds just like Mickey Mouse so we looked at a video to see how accurate the comparison was.  The conclusion: 100% (Just watch the from 1 minute to 1:15 of this clip to hear Leo’s voice double-and don’t forget to crank the volume to 11.)

Darn, I’m stopping at 4 “thangs” again.  You know how that drives me crazy!  Fill in with your #5 in the comments, if you have one.

Salmon chowder
Sourdough bread
Butternut squash with shallots and sage
Pear crumb cake


Boys’ Blue Room

March 16, 2015

I just realized I never posted the much-anticipated pictures of the boys’ “new” room.    So, just to review, here’s what the room looked like before:


Sigh, I still miss that nursery.  Well, mostly I miss my babies.  But moving on…


Beds are hard to make:


The art/picture wall (I left some room for it to grow on the sides; the uppy-downness of it will meanwhile drive me crazy.)


The boys’ desk:


What the boys’ desk really looks like:


A couple notable features– the Lego light switch:


…my obsession with lighting, that extended to the closet:


…and this lamp which I thought was the most hideous thing I had ever seen but then it got installed and, well, I saw the light.  Here it is closed…


…and opened:


(I’ll have to retake this picture at night.  I feel you are not appreciating the awesomeness of the lamp right now.)

So that’s it!  We crammed a ton into the little space, but somehow it all works.  Of course, we can no longer hold big ballroom dances in the room anymore, but having kids is all about making sacrifices, ain’t it?

Tofu stir-fry
Brown rice
Magic bars



March 9, 2015

1. On the car ride back from Great Wolf Lodge Leo spilled applesauce all over his lap (don’t ask why he was eating applesauce in the car).  I scooped it all back into the container then offered it to Kevin.

“Want some lapplesauce?”

2. Me: If you were to get a cat, what kind of cat would you want?
V: Siamese cats!
Me: Vincenzo!  In these modern times I think we’re supposed to call them conjoined cats.

3. Me: If I ever write a novel, I am going to make the main character’s name Maiden China.  Get it? 
Kevin: And she can be in fierce competition with her sister, Hechoin Mexico!

4. Me: If I ever own a hockey team, I am going to make its mascot the hawkies. 

(By the way, these four snippets all came out of my mouth in about a 30 minute period.  If someone had asked me to solve global warming during that 30 minute period I totally could have done it.)

5. Rocco: Dad, are you going to hot yoga?
Me: Rocco, he’s wearing jeans.  He doesn’t wear jeans to hot yoga.
Kevin: That would be fancy yoga.
Me: No…that would be haute yoga.

6. Me: I think I might move the desk out of the cloffice and put in storage shelves instead.  The only problem is…what would we call the cloffice?
Kevin: The clorage.

Now that I’ve written this post, I see it for what it is: a bunch of groaners and eye-rollers…not the comedy gold it felt like at the time.  It’s best for you to just to keep your distance when we get like this.

Fried corn tortillas with goat cheese and roasted peppers, ancho chile sauce, avocado-tomatillo salsa, and fresh corn salsa
Brown rice
Refried beans


Food Rules Suck

March 6, 2015

I thought I’d raise non-finicky eaters—kids who openly enjoyed the vast choices I put in front of them because I am a good cook and because they have been offered good food since they first got teeth.  I have never cut the crusts off of bread.  I don’t make my kids special food to eat at dinner.  I give them a big variety of foods throughout the day and week, mostly bought in the produce and dairy aisles.  I don’t get into food wars, don’t cajole them to eat one more bite, don’t make getting dessert the whole point of eating a meal.  I just consistently put healthy food choices in front of them.  And yet…

One of them likes everything cut in strips.  One likes everything cut in squares.  One just uses his hands to eat everything (and sadly, it’s not the youngest one).

One likes just butter on his pancakes, one likes just syrup, one likes butter and syrup.

One never likes butter on his toast unless there is also cinnamon sugar.  One only like butter on his toast.  One likes anything on toast.

One likes his pasta with just parmesan cheese on it.  One likes it with red sauce but no parmesan cheese.  One likes it with both red sauce and parmesan cheese.

One only likes graham crackers with peanut butter on them.  One only likes them plain.  One says he hates graham crackers, then proceeds to eat an entire bag of them.

One likes milk plain.  One only likes milk with a splash of coffee in it.  One likes milk either way but usually prefers water.

One likes his cheese sandwiches with mustard only.  One likes his cheese sandwiches with butter only.  One likes his cheese sandwiches with mustard, turkey, pickles, and peanut butter on them.

One hates oatmeal.  One likes it with raisins and brown sugar.  One likes it with raisins and brown sugar, but any other time he hates raisins.

One eats everything on his plate.  One picks and chooses.  One eats nothing on his plate but when a friend shows up with a bag of chips he manages to beg the whole thing off him and devour it, then ask for a treat because he ate so much “body food.”

When you put my boys all together they are a three-headed beast with the most particular, temperamental confusing feeding habits.  And the beast is hungry now.

Anytime I accidentally cut the wrong waffle into squares, anytime I accidentally put butter on the wrong piece of toast, anytime I offer the wrong kid raisins—I get yelled at.  I get raged at, screamed at, hated on, shot with laser beam eyes by the boys I love more than anything in the world. 

I used to serve them my heart on a plate.  My heart couldn’t take it.  Now I serve them plain old food on the plate, and it comes back with my mood on it, as determined by how my they all received the food.

Sometimes I think I know how villains are created.

Sticky finger ribs
Homemade macaroni and cheese
Roasted asparagus
Chocolate chip cookies

(Actually, this was the menu for last night.  I am posting it so I can tell you that Vincenzo ate one bite of the ribs and said he liked them but never took another bite.  Rocco took a bite, made a face, and said he didn’t like them.  Leo screamed  like a howler monkey when we tried to even put a piece on his plate.  Vincenzo ate all his mac ‘n cheese and said it was the best ever.  Rocco spontaneously burst into tears because I made it too cheesy and he only likes the kind from the box.  Leo was no longer at the table by the time we dished his up.  Vincenzo and Rocco ate the asparagus, though Rocco complained about it.  Leo returned to the table just long enough to scream when we tried to put the asparagus on his plate.  Then he left.  Surprisingly, everyone liked the chocolate chip cookies.)


Just for fun

March 2, 2015

1. My sisters and I took the kids to an arcade and at one point Jnet found Rocco wandering around by himself.

Jnet: Are you supposed to be walking around on your own, Rocco? 
Rocco: I don’t know.
Jnet: Don’t you think we should go find your dad?
Rocco: Well, he’s the one who lost me…

2. We were sorting through Rocco’s shirts to see which ones fit.  He came to this one:


He said, “My next shirt will say Vote 5 Me because I’ll be five!”

(He later decided he will get one with a new number for every year except 8 because it sounds weird to say “Vote 8 Me,” like he got eaten by the vote.)

3. Vincenzo: Is there an X-Box 3?
Me: No.  Well…kind of.  X Box 1 is the third X-Box they made, so it’s kind of like X-Box 3.  The second X-box was called X-Box 360.  And the first was called…
Vincenzo: I know!  Playstation!

Chicken tettrazzini
Roasted vegetables
Mini Oreo cheesecakes


Leo is Three. Oh!

February 24, 2015

Leo, oh Leo. How do I explain this one? I think this entry is going to get messy and require a lot of patience to write and read.  It fits.

As soon as Leo sits down for breakfast Rocco announces, “You can’t have any Chocolate Cheerios because I ate them all.”

Leo cries and cries.  Angry crying directed right at Rocco; hurt crying directed at me; unjust crying directed at the world.  Cries and cries and cries.  I tell him he is ruining breakfast for al of us so  “either to to your room to cry it out or stop crying and eat breakfast with us.”  He manages to stop.  He starts to take a bite of cereal then notices some wet spots on the table and gets mad—really mad—that they’re there.  “Get it off, Mom.  Get it OFF!”

I don’t even make him say “please” this time.  We’ve been through enough.  I just get a cloth and clean them up.

The wet spots?  His own tears.

That’s life with Leo.

(This is the only way he would eat for awhile.)

Leo will take a car straight from Rocco’s hands and when you tell him not to take toys from Brother, he’ll insist, “I’m not taking!  I’m sharing!”


(Here he is “crotch-hoarding” about 10 of Rocco’s Hot Wheels.  They’re under there.)

Leo wears on everybody’s patience but his mama’s. He is the Eddie Haskel of my sons, all sugar and spice when I’m near and then just a pissant when I’m not. I’ll hear Rocco screaming from downstairs and if I go down soon enough, I’ll see that Leo has not only smashed his marble set down but is also laying on it, making swimming motions and singing to himself.

If I don’t go down soon enough I’ll come down later to see Rocco crying beside a smashed marble set, saying, “Why? Why?” and Leo happily playing with a different toy beside him, all, “I don’t know what’s wrong with brudder, Mom, but looks like he needs a hug.”

(“Finally,” Rocco is thinking, “a car that Leo can’t crotch hoard!”)

To me, though, Leo is a doll. I have to admit, my doll isn’t cuddly like it used to be. It’s more like a pull-string toy that repeats one of five phrases throughout the day, like, “Wakey wakey hands off snakey!” (We totally should not have taught him that, by the way.) Or “What day is it?” Or, “I love you Mom,” only he says it in the same voice he used to say, “I’m Zombie Rasta,” so it’s a little creepy. Instead of spontaneously crawling into my lap for hugs like he used to, I have to pretend to be a hug machine that sends Leo through a cycle like a washing machine does, then gets imbalanced on the spin cycle and does all sorts of crazy things. But still, a hug is a hug is a hug.


I don’t know what Leo likes. It might be stuffed animals; it might be trains; it might be board games or Hot Wheels or Skylanders. Maybe it’s none of those. He makes his toy choices based on what his brothers are playing with because toys are so much more fun when plucked straight from the hands of a screaming brother.

I do know he loves books—any books, all books, every chance he gets books. I think he even loves books more than Vincenzo, and if you have ever met Vincenzo then you know that is a crazy statement to make.

But not books with monsters. He does not like those.

Actually, he likes to read those, too. He’ll pick out a book like Where the Wild Things Are for bedtime, but then he skips all the pages that have monsters on them. It reads like this: “The night Max wore his wolf suit and…[flip flip flip flip flip flip flip flip] The End.”


Leo is a One-Man Band. He is a self-entertaining unit who is never short on ideas of what to do, though many of those ideas are a little sketchy. He’ll leave dinner early, singing and jumping, and when we look over after a few minutes he’ll have disassembled the couch and created a Wipeout style course for himself and he is standing shakily on the arm of the couch. He yells, “ONE TWO FREE GO!” and jumps off.


Or he’ll come screaming through a room with a helium balloon that he wrestles to the ground then sits on, lays on, attempts to jump on, trying to pop it. He is, in fact, the only one of my boys who laughs when his balloon pops. Earlier this year he got a balloon animal from a balloon artist and immediately put it on the ground and stomped it to smithereens laughing wildly the whole time.


Oh Leo.  He eats too much junk food. He calls blankets “blanklets.” He always loves dogs except anytime he’s near one. He talks in either a high-pitched mouse voice or a post-apocalyptic devil’s voice. He sleeps with 50 stuffed animals, then wakes up and throws them all down the stairs. He screams at Rocco whenever they are close but misses him whenever they are not. He wants me to sing him anudder song. He runs on ballerina tiptoes.  He shouts his joy to the world then screams his anger to the world then comes to his mama because he doesn’t know what to do with these big emotions, but he knows his mama will.


How do I wrap this up? I want to bring it back to Leo being all sweet, for making up for his Joker-like tendencies with acts of huge generosity and kindness, but he’s not there yet. He has instead perfected the mischievous-eyed smile that challenges you to discipline him because, you know, he is your baby after all and he will always be your baby, so how ‘bout another round of Hug Machine instead?


Set the dial to “heavy duty,” people. This is not a delicate load coming through.


Fresh pasta with meatballs
Molten lava cakes


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