Thanks, Mr. Postman

Hey everybody!  I got a letter from Vincenzo at camp!  My first ever letter written to me by one of my sons!  I will keep this day forever stamped on my heart!

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Oh, okay.  So he wants money.  The first ever letter my son writes to me, and he asks for money.

I am never going to let him live this down.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Red curry with yams and chickpeas
Rice
Roasted yellow beans

2 Down, 1 To Go

I shipped two of my kids off to camp on the weekend.  Vincenzo left at 5AM, leaving my in bed trying to sleep, then remembering, FLOSS!  WE DIDN’T PACK FLOSS!  And, SOCKS?  DID HE PACK ANY OF THOSE AT ALL?  And, FLOSS!  I SENT MY CHILD OFF WITHOUT ANY FLOSS!

Rocco left with a friend on Sunday morning and after he drove away I turned to Kevin and said with a sniff, “There goes Rocco, off to college.”  That’s what it felt like, him driving away all smiles and excitement, me and Kevin standing on the front porch with our empty house behind us.

Oh, right.  Leo. 

So the house wasn’t entirely empty, but going from three kids down to two feels like trading in all your children for one sweet little kitty cat—especially when the one remaining child thinks he is a kitty cat.

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had just one child to care for, and I had forgotten how easy parenting used to be.  Look at the stats since Sunday:

Fights I have broken up: 0
Tattles I have listened to: 0
Brother-inflicted injuries I have patched up: 0
Sports practices driven to: 0
Questions I have answered 3 times in a row because only one child is capable of hearing me at a time: 0
Times I have yelled, “JUST STOP IT!”:  0
Load of laundry I have done: 1.  Just one!!  In three days!

Yesterday we went to Costco and we only had to listen to one child whine about it.  Last night at dinner, we could actually hear ourselves chewing! This morning I sat down and ate breakfast with Leo.  When’s the last time I sat down to do anything?  (Bathroom matters excluded.)

I’ve given no reminders!  Usually our day is full of reminders and reminders about the reminders and reminders about those reminders too, as the older two boys constantly fall into book traps.  Leo isn’t reading yet, and I’m thinking we should just keep it that way as long as possible because once the boys start reading they seem to lose their hearing and I lose my mind.

I don’t want to sound heartless.  Of course of course, I miss V and R.  I miss V’s sweet and silly smile; I miss seeing Rocco building his empire of robots that will one day rule the world.  I miss the perfect moments when all three boys are playing together like the best friends they sometimes are, and I miss the laughter times three when we watch a movie together.  I miss having a crowd to cook for, I miss us all packed into my bed for nighttime read aloud, and I miss the brilliant ideas that three little boys’ minds working together come up with in a day.

But oh man, did I need a break from all that.  It can be exhausting living amongst  such brilliance, especially when the brilliance does not apply to cleaning up, personal hygiene, self sufficiency, and solving problems in a logical, peaceful manner.  

I am going to spend the rest of this week taking full, complete breaths and petting the kitty cat.

Then, when the boys return on Sunday, I will give them a hug the size of a week and tell them how glad I am they are back. 

And by then, I’ll really mean it.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pita pizzas
Roasted wax beans

MrsMouthy’s Quality Childcare

Sometimes McStreamy leaves her kid with us for the day.  We love these days—we call them Double Leo days because we named our kid after her kid.  That’s how much we like them.

Anyway, I just wanted to show of the kind of high quality childcare the McStreamies gets at Mrs. Mouthy’s Quality Childcare.

Yesterday the boys made weapons and armor out of our garbage.*

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Then they wanted helmets, and you know what?  I’d like to see you try to make a helmet out of a gigantic piece of black construction paper.

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Some of the kids wanted the same helmet made in white, but we told them no.  That’s the kind of thought that puts the word “quality” into Mrs. Mouthy’s Quality Day Care.

Next we went outside to pick blackberries, and when our buckets were full I had to pick just one more clump, and that clump happened to be the front door of a wasp’s nest, and these wasps were not asking any questions.  An army of them came zinging out of the bushes and launched an attack on my stomach, causing me to throw my bucket of blackberries into the air and yell “RUN!”  The boys just stood there, so I yelled, “RUN!  RUN!  RUN!” until they got the message. 

The kids in my care get such great physical exercise!

Once I deemed it was safe and there was no cartoon-sized bee swarm chasing us down, I apologized to the boys for what I was about to do next and then whipped my shirt off to make sure no more wasps were on me. 

Let’s call that moment a lesson in health ed.

(If this blog were about me and not about my fine quality childcare services, I’d mention that this was not my first  whacking-myself, shirt-removal, crazy-dance bee sting of the day.  I’d mention that there was another wasp that got me in the morning, so I thought I was cleared for the rest of the day.)

(Seven stings.  SEVEN stings, plus some weird looking spots that are maybe hives, maybe cluster stings, if that’s a thing.  Probably cluster stings.)

On the way back in we stopped at the vegetable garden to pick cucumbers (banana for scale). 

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Let’s call this lesson a continuation of health ed.

Back inside, Mr. Mouthy had gotten home and wanted to try out a juicer attachment he got for the Kitchenaid mixer.  We loaded up the blackberries, and voila!  Juice came out one end and as a bonus, blackberry turds came out the other end.  Mr. Mouthy then taught the boys the expression “pinch a loaf,” and got the boys chanting, “Pinch!  Pinch!  Pinch” as they watched the turds fall. 

The vocabulary enrichment at Mrs. Mouthy’s Quality Childcare, guys!  It’s insane!

Well, as they say, you get what you pay for and Mrs. Mouthy’s Quality Childcare costs absolutely nothing.  And they say nothing in life is free!

And now, for my Amelia Bedelia lemon meringue pie moment of the day where something actually went right, please see what’s cookin’ 2nite.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Beef satay with peanut dipping sauce
Brown rice
Sauteed squash with parmesan
Fresh bread
Blackberry spritzers

*For anyone who is stalking me and who knows that 2 of my boys are away at camp this week, I somehow ended up with up to 5 boys at my house today anyway.  I loved it!

Weekly Check-In

Just a quick update to say I’m still here, it’s still summer, I still never want it to end but I’m so worn out, it’s probably good that it will end whether I want it to or not.

Here are a few quick photos to show you we’re still alive and well, even if I couldn’t think of funny captions for any of them.

Ballard Locks/fish ladder:

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Park day:

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Rocco’s 8-month check-up (he built a weiner dog in his spare time):

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Beached whale:

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All the Mouthies:

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I was kind of down last week—don’t know whether it’s the insomnia that just won’t go away or the president that just won’t go away  or the nuclear armageddon threats or the smoke blanket we’ve been living under  (Canada owes us one gigantic apology.)  But it’s weird to be down when the weather is super sunny and your kids are so happy.  I’m much better at sharing the light, funny side of my life than the dark, depressing one, but I thought I should fess up.  But!  I’m feeling better now so let’s go ahead and move on, shall we?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ LAST NIGHT (because in the summer it’s too hard to know what we’re going to eat next—we only know what we ate last):

Tagliatelle with crab
Corn on the cob
Ice cream

Ms. Understood

Get it?  See what I did with the title there?  Today’s blog highlights some of my favorite misunderstandings of recent times.

1. I was reading to Leo and we came across the word “limousine.”

Me: Do you know what a limousine is, Leo?
Leo: No.
Me: It’s a long, stretched out car that has lots of fun stuff inside—like a mini refrigerator, fancy snacks, maybe even a TV—and you would just drive in one when you’re going somewhere special.
Leo: I know—like when you go camping!

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Eh.  Close enough.

2. The backstory to the following conversation is way too long for your puny little attention spans, but you don’t need it to understand the conversation.  Okay, here goes:

Me: Rocco, do you know any swear words?
R: Yes. One.
Me: You do?!
R: Yes. I learned it from my big buddy.
Me: Wow. What letter does it start with?
R: F
Me: Can you spell it for me?  It won’t get you in trouble to just spell it for me here.
R: I don’t want to.
Me: I promise, it’s okay to spell it to me now—I just want to know what word you learned.
R, cautiously, almost in a whisper: Okay.  It’s M-I-D-D-L-E F-I-N-G-E-R. 

3. During another reading session with Leo we came across the word “headdress.”

Me: Do you know what a headdress is, Leo?
Leo: Yes.  It’s like a thing that goes around your head and then comes down your back a little bit.
Me: Exactly!  How did you know that?
Leo: Because I saw one in your wedding picture.

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Same dif, right?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Japanese style salmon
Cucumber & green tomato salad
Rice
Nerdy Rice Krispie treats with frosting and whipped cream (an abomination of a dessert that Leo dreamed up one day and I helped him make)

Gone Camping

My sisters and I took our boys camping this weekend.  The car was so packed I had to throw out any dead weight, and that included Kevin who, in true computer nerd fashion, is allergic to everything outdoors and who doesn’t understand why people go camping in an era when houses have been invented.  So he stayed home and, I assume, sat near one of the vents in the house staring at a wall until we all came home.

Still, I tried to make it seem like Kevin was camping with us by making comments he would have made if he were there.  He likes to pick on Jnet because she’s a vegetarian, so when we were all eating hot dogs around the campfire and Jnet instead was eating a cucumber and hummus bun, I offered to pick her some grass to go along with it.  And when I went to put away the tofu dogs she had brought I asked if it was okay to put them in the same bag as the real hot dogs.  She said it was and I said, “Okay.  I thought you might be worried the tofu dogs would touch the real hot dogs and accidentally pick up some flavor.”  And when Jnet was assembling a plate of food on the ground and my other sister, Michelle, said, “What are you doing down on the ground?!” I explained that this is just how vegetarians eat—they graze like that.

Kevin can be so insensitive, can’t he?

We camped on Bainbridge Island and the boys spent 80% of their waking hours on the beach.  They made a shop and started up some kind of a bartering system and basically played “Economics” all weekend.

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Not to brag, but this was my contribution to the store.  It’s called the Rainbow Collection.  You probably can’t afford it.

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Aunt Shel bought the boys all their own planes to decorate, complete with stickers and all.

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As you can see, not all the boys are equally gifted in following directions.

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The kids logged enough hours flying these planes to earn at least a temporary pilot’s license!

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I don’t know how to explain the goggles, so just go with it.  Many of our campfire stories ended with a goggle-clad ghost coming back to haunt the Fay Bainbridge State Campground, though.

The weekend was chock full of laughs and memories, blue heron watching, dead batteries, tent swapping, tire swinging, last minutes sprints to the ferry, injured feet, song singing, eagle sightings, ranger talks, instant coffee, S’mores eating, and splurging on fifty-cent, three-minute showers.

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All in all, we had a wheelie good time.  Ba-dum-bum.

But as wonderful as it was to spend a weekend adventuring, nothing beats the feeling of coming home.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Tequila lime flank steak
Pasta carbonara
Roasted asparagus with balsamic and lemon
Millionaire’s bars

Someone’s Eight

Spoiler alert: it’s Rocco! 

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It’s hard to shrink Rocco back down to a baby in my mind because he never really wanted to be a baby.  He wanted to build and create, to make and do, and he just wasn’t into all the regular baby stuff.  He was more into studying the fan spinning on the ceiling than playing pat-a-cake with me.  I remember him playing with trains before he could walk and getting so frustrated because his little baby body couldn’t make the trains do what his brain had in mind for them. 

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  Baby Rocco had places to go.

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Now Rocco is bigger and finally his body has caught up with that gigantic brain of his, and he is often seen with a screwdriver or a pile of blocks or a shovel in his hands, building the latest thing he dreamt up. 

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Yesterday I went out to lunch with some friends and when I came back, he had built this.

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Rocco already understands how the world works in ways I’ll never be able to.  On his birthday he wanted to go to the Ballard Locks to watch the ships come through.  Afterwards we hit up the visitor’s center, where we tried to make the model of the locks work but it was broken.  A couple other adults tried and came to the same conclusion.  Five minutes later, Rocco came up to me saying, “I fixed it, Mom.”  Because of course he had.

That same persistence and Rocco’s There’s-Got-To-Be-Another-Way mentality works so beautifully for him in engineering situations but it gets him in trouble at other times.  I tell him to put on his swim clothes and get in the car.  He says he’ll just wear these clothes because he doesn’t plan to get wet.  I tell him to was his face before bed and he tells me he’ll just wash the one area that is dirty.  I tell him to brush his teeth because his morning breath is hard to be around and he says, “I’ll just move over here instead.”  I say what I say to him 100 times a day: Follow directions.  But unless you’re a robot waiting to be built, following directions isn’t really his thing.

He’s loved math and numbers for a long time.  There was a period in his life when all he wanted was for me to count to 100 out loud over and over again, so I never wondered whether or not he’d love math.  What’s new this year is how often I find him like this:

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He read the first Harry Potter last year, then skipped to the fifth.  He explained that he wanted to read the fifth because looked like a bigger challenge.  In case you need a visual on that, the fifth book is the one on top:

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In case you didn’t know, Rocco knows all the answers to everything.  Sometimes it might seem he doesn’t know something, like why an owl’s ears are asymmetrical, so you explain it to him and then he says, “I was just going to say that!” 

Okay, so maybe he doesn’t know all the answers, but he definitely thinks he does.  He at least has all the confidence.

Rocco will steal the blanket off your bed and when you ask for it back, he will try to convince you it was his blanket to begin with.  He’ll come out of his bedroom wearing a pink shirt, green shorts, fluorescent yellow socks, and teal shoes and you tell him his clothes don’t look good together.  He’ll launch into a courtroom worthy speech about why they do.

I never knew how much persistence can look like stubbornness until I had Rocco.

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Rocco’s generosity is endless.  If a friend lays eyes on his candy collection he’ll offer them anything he wants.  Then he’ll ask Vincenzo if he wants anything and he’ll dig up a bag of banana Runts and bring them to me because he knows they’re my favorite.  Then Leo will ask if he can have a piece and Rocco says, “No.  Eat your own candy.”

Okay, so maybe his generosity isn’t completely endless; there’s the Leo Clause.  The two are still working some things out, but I have hope.

Before we had kids I always imagined we’d have a kid with my ambition and Kevin’s engineering brain, a kid who could dream big and then make that dream happen.  Rocco is that kid.  I just never imagined how challenging it would sometimes be to raise a kid like this.  Rocco is a kid whose brain is bursting with thoughts and ideas that he feels compelled to act on, he doesn’t take no for an answer, and he will never admit he was wrong; he just was seeing if we knew the answer. 

But also, I also never knew how utterly amazing it would be to raise a kid like this. 

Rocco makes me proud.  He makes me frustrated, amazed, and exasperated.  But mostly, usually, almost all the time he makes me proud and in awe of all that he is and all that he does.

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Oh Baby Rocco, the places you’ll go.

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The places you’ll go.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:  
Harissa marinated top sirloin
Ricotta gnocchi
Roasted wax beans with peanuts and cilantro 
Vanilla cake