Kids at Play

Last week was an exciting but busy one, with Rocco and Leo being in plays over the weekend. Leo played Smee in Peter Pan and Rocco played Trinculo in The Tempest, Disney Cruise Version, as his play director is the creative sort.

A few weeks after rehearsals started, Leo began asking about what bouquet I was going to make him. He gave me a lot of suggestions and asked so many questions about it, I grew suspicious it’s the only reason he signed up for the play. He had big expectations after the Twinkie minion bouquet I made Rocco last year. It was a lot of pressure! Fortunately, I managed to pull it off.

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In Rocco’s play, most of the lines were true to Shakespeare’s work, but every once in a while a line was altered to have the name of a candy in it to work in some of the Disney Cruise stuff, so I made Rocco a bouquet of all the candies mentioned. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it until he and his friends took literally one bite out of all the candy.

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This was the first time any of my boys had a role not added in to uphold the “no cuts” policy (you may remember Vincenzo as the left front wheel in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or as a member of the on-stage audience whose role it was to have occasional facial expressions in Mid Summer Night’s Dream).

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Rocco is in the penguin costume, as I’m sure Shakespeare intended.

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Leo is the one grinning as his throat’s about to be slit.

He had to put on a few pounds to play the part.

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Leo was so proud of his big role. He identified as Smee so much that for the past month it’s been all “Aye aye cap’n” and “Ahoy, mateys!” at home. He actually practiced the songs and dances on his own and learned how to play his solo, I’m a Little Teapot, on the piano, even though he hates playing piano.

His excitement was so contagious, even wearing a mask didn’t prevent me from catching it. I’ve never done more than the minimum duty for plays, chaperoning the required rehearsal and signing up for a committee that requires the least amount of work. This time, with my boys having bigger roles, and specifically with Leo having a role big enough to have its own understudy—well, I couldn’t help myself. There I was, showing up to practices I wasn’t chaperoning, coaching my kid on the way home from rehearsals, making my own adjustments to his costume, and having the music director send me a copy of his mini solo so we could practice at home. I did everything short of spray-tanning him.

The month and a half of practices flew by. Opening night happened. Closing night followed. The boys took their final bow, collected their bouquets, then went home and picked up life where it left off six weeks ago.

Well, almost everyone.

I’m sitting at home, looking at the fridge where last week hung an intense, color-coded schedule, feeling a bit empty. I don’t want to go back to normal life! I want the songs and dances, the spotlight, the applause, the bouquets. I want my little monkeys to dance again! Here I am on the couch, feeling like a bride the day after her wedding.

*slaps left cheek*
*slaps right cheek*

Okay. Reality check. My boys were in plays. They had a fabulous time, they loved their roles and their bouquets, and when the plays were done they happily moved onto the next thing. That’s all a mother could hope for.

That, plus a stage, a musical director, an ensemble, a spotlight, and an audience…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Brown sugar glazed salmon
Roasted potatoes
Parmesan broccoli

Random Haps

It’s been a while since I blogged, so let me get you all caught up:

Mother’s Day was not a bust after all. Vincenzo purchased one of the cards from student market (for the mere price of an empty Milkita wrapper) and surprised me by actually signing the inside of it!! Leo even made me some coupons:

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There was a coupon for a million dollars in the mix…but it expired in November of the year 1100.

That day we also visited Kevin’s parents, who had us build a kayak in their bedroom, then my parents’, where Poppy juggled flaming torches on the lawn. You know—normal Mother’s Day stuff.

For a thank you card, Kevin’s mom sent us a 3-D paper kayak with a print-out of her head inside it. Unfortunately, Kevin tossed it before I could get a picture, but I do have this other equally fabulous thank-you card she sent for something earlier in the year.

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Other haps from the past couple weeks:

The excitement over Vincenzo getting his license and going places on his own has dimmed. Yesterday, an hour before dinner, I caught him sneaking out to the car. He was going to Wendy’s to get a snack, but he promised he’d still be hungry dinner. His “snack” was a double cheeseburger, a cheeseburger, fries, and a soda. He did not eat dinner. Too much snacking, apparently.

This morning I found a giant stack of old assignments in Rocco’s backpack. Most were done with minimal work—just an incomplete sentence or two where the teacher had left a paragraph-amount of room. Then I came to Rocco’s “Delete 3rd Children” campaign, which he poured a lot of effort into.

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Looks like I’ll be helping Leo start a “Delete 2nd Children” campaign this weekend.

And finally, in a rare of act of Doing Something Different, we visited our dear friends in St. Louis. We went to their daughter’s softball game, played around at the City Museum, and snuggled with their cats. Basically, we cheated on our own kids.  But actually, the whole weekend felt like a date, especially the part where we threw axes.

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(Kevin’s weapon of choice was the balloon pump.)

Thank you to everyone who hung out with our own kids while we were gone. Thank you especially to my mom, who followed the detailed directions I left to bring Rocco to a birthday party a whole day early.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Honey sesame chicken
Rice
Edamame
Chocolate chip cookies

To Market We Go

Leo wanted to do student market with the family again, which made us all groan, but he was so excited for it that we had no choice but to comply. Plus, we’re all a little afraid of him.

Leo sold perler beads, turns at the claw machine, and his least favorite Halloween candies.

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Rocco sold a variety of goods from the Asian market:

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Vincenzo sold a single Milkita.

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He said he’d raffle it off. He didn’t print tickets or anything because that would have taken effort, so he said he’d keep track of them in his head.

I forgot to take a picture, but Kevin set out a bunch of cups of popcorn and sold scooter rides (which is a topic for a different post).

As for me?

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Mother’s Day gifts.

And because I’m not totally evil I also sold ice cream Drumsticks.

At noon sharp, Market opened and the shenanigans began. Rocco traded Vincenzo a mochi ice cream for four Milkita tickets. Leo tried to buy a popcorn from Kevin. Kevin said the popcorn was just for him, but if Leo would like a scooter ride he had several available. Kevin bought 50 chances at the claw machine and won several Milkitas. Vincenzo offered me 5 Milkita tickets for a drumstick but I no-deal’ed him until he got up to 4 million. Rocco realized his four raffle tickets were now worth nothing and immediately invented Scamcoin, then offered 5 million Scamcoin for a drumstick. Thusly, the trading continued until there was a fairly even distribution of Minisoft ice cream cones between the five of us.

But you know what no one would buy?

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That’s right. Not even the FREE HUG coupon. Not even after I gave them a bag of quarters and told them everything cost a quarter. (“Thanks for the quarters, Mom!”)

As Market came to a close, Vincenzo bought 100 million of his own raffle tickets, ran the raffle, and won his Milkita. He went to claim his prize only to find that someone had sneak-eaten the Milkita and left only the wrapper.

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Well, Mother’s Day might be a bust, but on the bright side, we may have ruined Market enough that Leo won’t ask for it again.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Linguini with salmon and lemon cream sauce

I’m Freeeeeee!

I think I’ve blogged about my giant hiccups before. They’re not really hiccups. Hiccups are cute but mildly annoying little things. What I get are these giant SQUAWKS that make everyone in a restaurant turn and look. They don’t feel great, either—like my throat is a squeaky toy someone keeps stepping on. They sometimes get so bad I can’t read aloud to the boys at night because my throat is just too worn out.

It wasn’t just my throat giving me problems. I was having a lot of muscle pain, too. First my calves…then hamstrings…then glutes…then hip flexors…then shoulder…then lower back. Some days I couldn’t even go for a walk, my hip flexors hurt so much. I was still able to eke out a workout at the gym, but my exercise list was shrinking by the week.

I was starting to feel like this guy:

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I left pilates with Kevin one Saturday in March. Pilates is something I do in between gym days because it’s so much easier on my body, but that day I had barely made it through the workout. I didn’t mean to, but I let out a sob. “I just feel like I’ve been beaten up.” “What hurts?” Kevin asked. “Everything.” Everything

I’ve been to regular doctors, naturopaths, and therapists. I’ve done physical therapy, had ultrasounds, X-rays, and MRI’s, an endoscopy and a colonoscopy, and tried every treatment the experts recommended except the metal detoxins footbath, but in the end they all said, “I can’t find anything wrong.” They also said they’ve never heard of someone SQUAWK like that before.

I joked that it was all in my head. I worried that it was all in my head. I knew that it definitely was not all in my head. It was hard to see so many things I love—running, exercising, playing with my kids, hiking, gardening—disappearing. It felt like my life was shrinking.

Kevin, engineer that he is, tester that he is, convinced me to do a gut intelligence test. He was so optimistic. I was so without hope. But I sent off a blood sample and stool sample anyway because Kevin is hard to say no to and because bleeding and pooping were two things I could still do.

A few weeks later the results came back (I went through Viome) and showed that I shouldn’t eat tomatoes, cucumbers, or turmeric. They also showed I should limit sugar to 1 teaspoon a day, limit my intake of fatty meat, and not drink too much caffeine, which made me skeptical. That’s not personalized advice; that’s the curriculum of a fifth grade health class!

But to make Kevin happy, I stopped eating tomatoes, cucumbers, and turmeric, throwing in peppers for good measure. Actually, I didn’t do it to make Kevin happy. I did it so that I could say, “See? I told you so. Nothing works.”

Except that…it did work. Two weeks after stopping cucumbers, turmeric, peppers, and tomatoes my hiccups all but disappeared. I sat cross-legged on the couch one afternoon. Cross-legged! Can you imagine? Feeling brave, I went for a walk. I started out in my slow, granny way but then got bolder and bolder until, unbelievably, miraculously, I was walking briskly!  The next week I tried running. Readers, I can run. I can run!!!

It feels like I’ve traded in my body for a new one. Like I reversed time. Like I tossed my crutches into the bushes and ran down the road, yelling, “I’M FREEEEEEE!”

I’ve never been happier for Kevin to be right.

Not all my problems are solved. I still have some muscle stuff going on and have to be careful. It’s become extremely difficult to eat at restaurants with my list of things I can’t eat (I also can’t do citrus, coffee, and a few other things). I’m still three inches shorter than I’d like to be. Kevin has more work to do.

But I am up and running again, all thanks to this guy. My hero.

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Maybe not the best picture?

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This guy. My hero.

WHAT’S COOKIN’  2NITE:
Subway

Baby’s First Job

So Vincenzo got a job because apparently they give 11-year-olds licenses and jobs here in Washington State. Or it could be that I’m losing track of time and actually have a 16-year-old man-child on my hands now.

Any guesses what kind of job King Sticky Fingers got?

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That’s right! He’s in the bubble tea biz now, working at Bobae, where they call him Big V. Now instead of making messes at home, he makes them at work and gets paid to clean them up!

He’s gone a lot now, but I see him more. He works 5 to 10 then stops at the grocery store to pick up mac ‘n cheese because no matter what I cook for dinner (unless it’s mac ‘n cheese), that always sounds better. He makes his dinner and we chat, and we actually have things to talk about now that he leaves the house.

For the first time since his flying fighting secret service ninja turtle days, Vincenzo is excited about something. He gets his homework done without nagging, he shaves without being asked. He went to the mall and got shirts with buttons on them, and he wears them even though it’s not Christmas. (Also: Vincenzo knows how to do buttons!) He goes to Bobae on his days off because it’s fun and he loves it there. He brings me boba tea in the middle of a Saturday and says, “Today I brought you a Sapphire Moonlight. It’s our lavender tea that we brew it in house with organic lavender. The blue on top is our pea flower tea. It doesn’t have much of a taste but it is an antioxidant. Be sure to mix well and enjoy!”

It’s changed him in other ways, too. When we went to a restaurant in Hawaii, the first thing he noticed was everyone in the kitchen, toiling away washing dishes and doing all the prep work. “That’s like me!” He opened the menu and his eyes bugged out. “Well I was going to get the steak, but that’s like four hours of work!” At the gelato place, he said, “I’LL TAKE THE NUTELLA AND SALTED CARAMEL PLEASE,” in a clear, confident voice.

He’s excited. I’m excited! I’m here clapping and smiling, as happy for him as the day he took his first steps. Of course, I was also a bit sad back then, thinking how each step took him farther from babyhood. But here he is 15 years later, still taking his first steps. It brings me just as much joy to hang out with Big V as it did to hang out with Baby D.

Although I was wrong about the kitchen messes.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Noodles with Beijing meat sauce
Kale salad with shaved parmesan

Jennifer Aniston’s Big Problem

One evening in Hawaii Kevin and I had a talk with Vincenzo about college majors and how some turn into jobs, like computer engineers or accountants. Others you can major in but you can’t really be, like poetry. Then we remembered that one person gets to be the poet laureate each year, so we modified our answer. One poet makes $35,000, plus $5,000 for travel expenses each year.

Later, Kevin and I ducked out to the Big Save for some groceries and I spied an US Weekly magazine headlining JENNIFER ANISTON’S BIG PROBLEM. Below that, it said that Jennifer Aniston:

  • is 50 years old!
  • doesn’t have children!
  • is trapped in a $50 million prison!

I threw my hands up.

Being 50 and not having children is not a Big Problem, I said to Kevin. They’re only saying that because she’s female. If it were a 50-year-old male actor without children, he’d be living in a $50 million “palace” and the headline would read HOLLYWOOD’S MOST ELIGIBLE BACHELOR! They’d probably give him some kind of trophy. They’d probably name a constellation after him!

“Right?” I asked.
“Right,” Kevin said. “But we should be focusing on the bigger problem here.”
Me: What’s that?
Kevin: Jennifer Aniston’s big problem. I really want to see her get help.

Some days I think Kevin is a saint. Some days it’s me who’s the saint.

In the car, I searched up a bit more.

Me: US weekly claims Jennifer Aniston is“going after younger men.” Are rich guys ever accused of going after younger women? No! Instead, younger women are accused of being gold diggers!
Kevin: Well, we don’t have to worry about Jennifer Aniston going after younger men anymore.
Me: Why not?
Kevin: Because she’s in a $50 million prison.

I threw my hands up.

A few minutes later, we set the groceries on the table, where Vincenzo was finishing up a box of pizza.

Vincenzo: What’s up with Mom?
Kevin: Apparently she doesn’t like the word “spinster.”
Me: It’s true! I don’t! There’s no male equivalent of the word “spinster!”
Kevin: I just looked it up. There is an opposite.
Me: What is it?
Kevin: Bachelor.
Me: That is so not equivalent. You never hear of HOLLYWOOD’S MOST ELIGIBLE SPINSTER, do you?
Vincenzo: Maybe the word you want is waifu.
Me: Waifu? Am I saying that right? What’s a waifu?
Vincenzo: You know, when you’re simp for someone, if I remember my anime.
Me: What’s a simp?
Vincenzo:  To fawn over someone.
Me: Fawn over someone? What are you, like 70?
Vincenzo: No, I think I’m a poet! I’ll take that $35,000 now!

I threw my hands up.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Matzo ball soup
Honey wheat bread
Brownie sundaes

Leo’s Version of the Trip

So you already know my answer to the question, “How did you spend spring break?” Leo’s fourth grade teacher asked the class to write about theirs, and he took a different spin on the whole thing. Here’s his essay:

Spring Break
by Leo

Over my spring break I went to Hawii. First, me and my familly started doing last minute packing. Suddenly, we were driving to the airport. Then we were at the airport. I think: “What if something happens and we don’t make it to Hawii” before I realize it, I’m on the plane. It’s a little bumpy, but we make it to the next flight even though there was a slight delay. This is a very bumpy flight, but we make it to the VERY hot Hawii. Then we check into the hottel. Then we spend the rest of the day at the pool

All in all, it was a fun spring Break. If you want more content, please suscribe. We interupt this message do to an Alien Invasion.

I don’t think his teacher had any idea what to even do with it.

But then, she doesn’t have a blog.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Crab cakes
Ricotta gnocchi

Planet Hawaii

Hawaii was so vibrant and vivid, so familiar and yet completely different that it felt like we were on another planet—one even more beautiful than Earth.

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Was this planet here the whole time?

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If so, why are we still living on Earth when we could be living here?!

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The above pictures are from our first hotel. It was hard to leave such a paradise for our condo in Lihue. But then we got to the condo.

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Well, that’s not so terrible. Plus, it came with this beach:

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And that beach:

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We did manage to pull ourselves away from the condo a few times to explore the Planet Hawaii, like Waimea canyon. We took a little detour to Mars on the way up there:

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We found water on Mars!

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Then we pulled over to a lodge where we both ate chicken and fed the chickens. (The doves thought we were there for them.)

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And finally…the canyon:

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Al that was just one day! I better speed things up before we get to TLDR. Here are cliff notes for the rest of the week:

We did some snorkeling:

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And some boogie boarding:

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We learned it’s called “shave ice,” not “shaved ice”:

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Leo did some peeping:

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We saw a couple waterfalls (notice I’m moving down the line-up in my family):

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The boys climbed trees:

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and drank fruity drinks:

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Maybe too many fruity drinks?:

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We went to a luau:

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Inner-tubed down the irrigation canals of an old sugar plantation…

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…and tried not to take pictures of all the grocery store signs (though each was as wondrous as this):

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These pictures make it look like we did a lot, but it felt like the opposite. It felt like we did nothing but take it all in—the beaches, the sky, the chickens, all the kinds of juices. It was hard to say goodbye.

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But again…

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Hawaii was a dream I didn’t want to wake up from. A perfect week, except that by the end of the it, my hair had turned into wet rope and everything was sticking to my skin. I was ready to go home.

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But still.

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I was ready to go home, but I’m not ready to be home, where I have Mostly Impossible Expectations of Myself. I miss the Hawaiian Me.

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But at least I know where to find her.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Apricot chicken tagine
Couscous
Brownies and ice cream

No Joke

I always tell the boys they can’t say “everything” when I ask what their favorite part of a trip was. I tell them it’s the same as saying “nothing.” But here I am, newly returned from Hawaii, and if you ask me what my favorite part was, I’d say, “Everything.” Every moment. Every memory. They were all my favorite.

Up until the trip, I kept saying we shouldn’t count our chickens until they hatched, with all the things that could go wrong: airline strikes, fuel prices, the threat of nuclear war, a sore throat. It wasn’t until the plane’s wheels left the runway that I told the boys, “Okay, it’s time. We can count our chickens!”

Coincidentally, the first thing we saw when we left the airport in Kauai was a rooster, standing on the side of the freeway. We laughed about the absurdity it. A rooster! Just hanging out in Hawaii!

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But then we saw another…and another…and another. Roosters, everywhere, standing on alert, one foot in the air, ready to go. Roosters scratching for grubs. Roosters running full-tilt beside our car, like they were trying to catch a train.

Roosters!

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Chickens, too, and baby chicks. Dozens upon dozens of them.

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Apparently some domestic chickens got set loose by hurricanes in the 80s and 90s, mated with wild red jungle fowl, and boom!

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(Whoops—the last one is not a rooster. It is Rocco’s hair, after a week of saltwater, sunblock, and forgotten showers.)

I had planned an April Fool’s joke not knowing about the island’s feral chickens, but that only made it better. I made square hard-boiled eggs with molds I brought from home, and I told the boys that the reason there are so many chickens here is because they lay square eggs that don’t roll away.

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They didn’t buy it.

Leo, at least, was open to the idea, but Rocco remembered that I used to make those when he was, like two years old, and Rocco is not the type to forget anything ever. Well, except he did forget one thing, which I’m getting to.

I made the eggs on April 3rd, as we were in a hotel on the 1st, but I explained that in Hawaii they celebrate April Fool’s Day on the third because of island time. That one they bought.

Then on April 6th, I told the boys to wish me happy birthday.  “April Fool’s!” they said, totally onto me. I continued to insist it was my birthday, much in the same manner I continued to insist Hawaii’s chickens lay square eggs. It wasn’t until they saw me type my birthday into the kiosk at the airport that they realized I wasn’t joking. The look of surprise and guilt on their faces was absolutely worth the forgetting.

We spent the entirety of my birthday at airports and on airplanes, losing three hours of it to time zones and coming home with only enough time to brush our teeth before forgetting it was my birthday one last time. It wasn’t much of a birthday, but as I had just spent a week counting my chickens in Hawaii (hundreds of them. Thousands of them!), I was in no position to complain.

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Stay tuned…more to come!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Potato leek soup
Crusty bread
Mango
Brownies

Definitely a Date Night

I’m confused about what it means to go on a date lately. The kids are old enough that we leave them at home whenever we want to go to the grocery store or the mall or to browse statuary. We used to have to arrange childcare for this kind of thing, which made it easy to identify it as A Date. (Yes, it’s true that many of our dates involve the grocery store, the mall, and statuary lots.) It begs the age-old question: If you don’t hire a babysitter, does it count as a date?

Also, before you tell me that going to the grocery store definitely does not count as a date, what if I wear lipstick and heels and we go to the nice grocery store? What if we engage in lively banter in the bread aisle? What if he produces a dozen roses from behind his back at the checkout counter? What if we bust into the box of Drumsticks and share them together on the sidewalk outside the grocery store?

The lines are blurry, my friend.

All this is to say that we decided it was time to go on a Definitely a Date date last weekend, and fortunately there was a movie that wasn’t too scary, dark, action-y, suspenseful, post-apocalyptic, or graphic, and that left us with The Lost City, starring Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. One of the reviews said that the movie was acceptable—the equivalent of a microwave burrito—and that was good enough for us.

Of course, I had to find something to wear. Most of my options were too cold, too dowdy or too Chewbacca-y, so I settled on the same sweater I wore when we took the boys to see The Mitchells vs. the Machines, deciding that it wasn’t so much what I wore as the fact that I put thought into what I was going to wear.

We pulled into the parking garage and Kevin effortlessly squeezed the minivan into a tight parking spot. “You know, so you’ll see what a good dad I’ll be someday.” I nodded. “There’s only one problem. I don’t want kids.”

I also told him he should have cleaned the giant smear of bird poop off the passenger’s side window before our date. He said he thought I wouldn’t notice amidst all the scratches his wife put on the car.

Despite the date getting off to a rocky start, the movie was actually pretty good. Way better than a microwave burrito. It was more like an enchilada platter, or a baja fish taco with pomegranate jewels. (Seriously, who comes up with this stuff?!)

The movie was especially relatable because Sandra Bullock plays a frustrated writer. My favorite scene came at the beginning, where the hero and heroine are lying on a floor surrounded by snakes, Indiana-Jones style, when the heroine says something like, wait a minute, why are there so many snakes? Whose snakes even are these? What do they eat? Who feeds them? This doesn’t make any sense! And we realize it’s the author’s voice poking holes in her plot as she’s trying to write it.

This is the exact reason I glower when Kevin asks, “So, how did writing go today?”

Anyway, the movie was cute and funny and Sandra Bullock absolutely rocks a pink sequin jumpsuit (that’s what I should have worn!). We spent the ride home looking up the actors’ heights, weights, and ages and saying how awful it must be for people to be able to look up your height, weight, and age any old time. Kevin guessed everyone’s age within a year except Sandra Bullock. I’m not going to tell you her real age. You can decide to rise above the muck and not know, or join me in the mud pit and look it up. At any rate, she looks uh-MAZE-ing.

When we got home we took off our shoes, hung up our jackets, and stood awkwardly in the kitchen. I broke the silence by whispering that I was going to slip into something more comfortable.  So I did and then Kevin went to bed and I watched zoo documentaries in my polka dotted PJ’s until late.

So overall, how did the date go?

Well, we could still use a trip to the grocery store, but I think I’ll stick around to see where this thing goes.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Cornbread taco bake!!!!!
Roasted broccoli
Mango
Mint chocolate chip cookies