Mother’s Day

A little late, I know.  All the adorable breakfasts-in-bed and handmade cards with misspellings have already been posted everywhere but here.  Will you accept late work?  Life’s been busy!

Here is Rocco, not exactly sure how to spell “happy” and thus trying to cover all the bases.

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Leo describes me as being luving, caring, runny, sweet, and zuper.

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He likes that I read to him, as illustrated by this picture:

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(Notice our unique family trait of having legs that connect to our necks.)  Apparently I have him on a leash?  Or maybe the word I’m saying, which he tells me is BLAH, is traveling straight into his ear?

Here we are again, and you can see that by now our bodies have grown in—or at least we have disguised the problem with long, shapeless shirts–but we’re still waiting on those arms.

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I don’t know why the next little thing pictured here made me so happy. 

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Maybe because it showed up in the shower three days after Mother’s Day.  Maybe it’s because he didn’t have enough R’s and O’s and had to improvise.  Maybe it’s because I remember that shower he took, when I kept knocking on the door, saying, “ROCCO, YOU’RE TAKING TOO LONG IN THERE!”

Vincenzo, being in middle school and not having teachers to save his little butt, did not have anything to present me on Mother’s Day.  I told him it was okay; laying guilt trips on at my children is one of my joys on Mother’s Day, and he made that possible.  But at 8:30 that night, my phone rang.  It was Vincenzo, calling from his bedroom to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. 

Kevin’s not big on holidays, so there were no flowers, no breakfast in bed, no gifts to unwrap.  He tells me I’m not his mom, after all.  (Although, I point out, he doesn’t do anything for his own mom either.  I take care of that for him.)

But whatever.  In the end, I got the one thing I really wanted for Mother’s Day: a bunch of misspelled words and a kid literally phoning it in, which together made for a pretty good blog post.

That’s all I really wanted.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Eating on the run tonight—who knows where we’ll land?

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Sale of the Half Century

My parents had a garage sale and I feel bad because the old me would have taken a bunch of picture and put together a hilarious blog post about it.  Instead I took just one picture.  This blog used to be the only creative outlet for all my words, but now that I’m writing so much for my novel and picture books, the blog keeps on drawing the short stick.

Oh, the picture?  Sure.  But it’s only going to make you wish I had taken more.

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I don’t know how my parents survived in their house 50 years without getting murdered by this doll!

Anyway, my parents (ahem*DAD*ahem) had fifty years of stuff built up—50 years of well-intentioned Christmas  gifts, lost garden tools, ropes, chains, doorknobs from every door we ever owned, cassette players, tubing, piping, flashing, VCR players, DVD players, garbage cans used as storage bins, storage bins used as garbage cans, murderous dolls.  There were bikes and trikes and unicycles, a sticky rubber chicken, fishing nets, and windshield wiper fluid.  A mind boggling amount of windshield wiper fluid.

It was 50 years of good deals.  50 years of coupon clipping, bargaining, lining up outside the store the day of the sale.  And I’m sure this wasn’t the first garage sale for many of these items.

Here’s what it was like growing up.   Maybe I’d be  doing a project and realized I needed something but the stores were all closed.  I’d knock on  my dad’s office door.  “Dad?  Is there any chance you have an adjustable channel wall mount floor guide roller?”  I always asked with quavering doubt, because what were the chances?  Dad would jump up from his chair, disappear behind the door, then come back with five unopened packages of adjustable channel wall mount floor guide rollers.  "Which one do you want?”

Yesterday, my parents’ yard was full of people happily clutching their new treasures (what a bargain!),  walking to their cars that would drive the stuff to their own garages.  And it felt good to see those piles of stuff go.  It was like everything there was getting a new life, being brought into the sun. 

But it also felt kind of sad to see it go.  My dad has always done all of this for us, for his family.  He bought every last nail there with the intention to make our house, our yard, our cars, our lives a little bit nicer.  And he did.  When the rest of us were heading up to bed, my dad was in the barn fixing and building and apparently refilling windshield wiper fluid, Elvis Presley crooning about hound dogs through my open window.  It was a lovely way to fall asleep.

There was comfort in being surrounded by all that stuff.  In knowing that my dad was collecting it all and dreaming of a better life.

The thing is, we’re there.  He has that life he always dreamed of.  His five children and eleven grandchildren have that life he always dreamed of.  Yes, there will still be small repairs and tweaks to make, but no overhaul of life.  No need for 20 shovels.  Just one.  Maybe to plant a rosebush by the front door.

So it was a happy day and a sad day and a day to look at all my dad collected and all he gave away and to know that it was all done for us.  I am so blessed to be my father’s daughter.

Now, Dad, would you mind stopping by when you get the chance?  I think I’m running low on windshield wiper fluid…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
There’s no time to cook anymore!  Do pita pizzas count as cooking?!

Angelo’s Tenth Birthday

It was Angelo’s birthday yesterday.  When I told the boys it was coming up, Rocco said, “YES!  I love those days!”  It made my heart sing.  He also asked if he could bring cupcakes into his classroom to celebrate, but I honestly don’t think that’s the reason he was so excited.

We always spend Angelo’s birthday eating at Kidd Valley and throwing flower petals into the lake where his ashes rest.  Some years it is raining sideways and we toss the petals then high tail it off the dock.  Some years, like this one, we toss the petals and watch the flowers floating there and I think about Angelo’s ashes and wonder how far they floated, wonder where they are now. 

Afterwards, we paused a moment to take a family photo.

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Then we went to the beach and the boys dug out a giant castle (they are into building inverted sand castles, which go down into the sand instead of rising up).  Their castle had all the usuals: stairs, pantries, a sink, secret rooms, a throne, and Rocco also added a funeral room for Baby Angelo.  I love how he cares for the memory of this brother that he never knew—he, like me, seems to know that it’s up to us to keep Angelo alive.

The evening was golden.  We all got milkshakes that we drank long after the straws started making rude noises.  We made up burger related jokes, like “Why is the fast food restaurant rated R?”  (Because the chicken strips!)  We dug in the sand, eek’d at the cold water, played lava monster, made futile attempts to get all the sand off our feet before putting our shoes back on.  Kevin and I found a quiet moment to remember what it was like, that day we found out our baby was not going to be with us long.

Angelo does not show up in that family photo we took.  And yet, that family photo exists because of him.  That’s how it’s always been with Angelo: he is always here, silently handing us treasure after treasure.  Sometimes I feel him living quietly inside me, like a diamond pendant that’s slipped below my shirt.  Sometimes, like yesterday, I feel him living everywhere outside of me, turning the world into one where flowers drift by on top of a sun-dappled lake.  Always, I am thankful to have been the home for such a beautiful soul.

I love you, Sweet Baby.  Happy tenth birthday.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Soccer field dinner–
Mason jars with pesto, bowtie pasta, peas, and tuna

Keeping up with Rocco

First, a confession: I misjudged the girth of our salsa red minivan the other day. 

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I like to think of them as racing stripes. 

Now for our regular programming.

The boys all got geosphere kits in their Easter baskets this year.  Rocco ripped his open immediately and built it with Kevin’s help. 

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It really is a thing of beauty, and it lights up in about 10 different colors.

As soon as they finished, Rocco started offering to help Leo with his.  Leo resisted a couple times, then caved and let Rocco build it.  It was all misshapen and at first Rocco started to apologize, then instead changed tacks and started selling Leo on it, explaining how much cooler it was than the one dad built, and how the holes let the light out so much better. 

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Then Rocco started working on Vincenzo.  V took one look at Leo’s gimpy geosphere and said no.  Rocco kept asking, but V wouldn’t budge.  Can you blame him?

Over the weekend, we went to the grand opening of the Maker’s Space (technology gear) at the library.  It was wild—there was Lego machine that could solve a Rubik’s cube.  A 3-D printer that was making toys.  Little switches and wires that hooked up to real flowers, then you could touch the flowers to play music.  Robot cubes that followed colored lines you drew.  A computer where you could make a stop-action space odyssey.  A bona fide astronaut (Dottie) there to talk with you! 

How did the boys do?  Vincenzo spent most of his time rereading a Percy Jackson book on his phone, Leo spent a good hour staring at the 3-D printer, and Rocco dove head-first into every piece of science he could get his hands on.  He played songs on the flowers, he made a space odyssey, he programmed robots, he listened to Dottie, he built a car out of random parts and ran experiments on it.

After a few hours, V, Leo, and I were running out of steam but Rocco had a wild, hyper-energized look in his eyes.  (Below is a re-creation.  It’s nothing like the real high-on-science look he gets.)

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I have to admit, I was a little scared, looking into those eyes.

So we left him there and headed home.

(It’s okay—Kevin was working a booth there.  We didn’t totally give our second grader over to the robots.)

A few hours later, Kevin brought Rocco home.  And the first thing out of his mouth was, “Hey V, want me to build your geosphere?”

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It’s official: Rocco has worn us all down to little pencil nubs.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Mashed potatoes and creamed eggs

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Scrambled eggs and smoothies

(V is getting braces today (!!) so we’re on a no-chew diet this week.)

One Week of Sun

We’re back from our sunny week in CA.  These trips are always so hard to blog about—like I can now say “Charlie” in a high, whinnying voice and the whole family cracks up, but I can write “Charlie” here and it’s not funny at all.  I can make a comment about Dale’s legendary height or the second-floor Starbucks and my family loses it, but I put it here and…crickets.  I guess I’ll just show some photos then?

It was 80 degrees in Las Gatos so we couldn’t wait to get in the pool—except that it was full of these dorky looking kids.

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Oh right, those are ours.  I’ll never understand how my sons continue to achieve this level of uncool.

We had Easter brunch at our friends’ parents’ house, and it looked like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine.  It was surreal!

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The boys picked baskets of oranges from the orchard on the property.  Coming from one of the grayest, rainiest springs in Seattle, it felt like they were plucking the very sun out of the sky, and yet the sun shone even brighter as the day went on.

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Vincenzo ate lemons straight from the tree.  My teeth wept for his.

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Oh dear, but it is going to take all week to blog about the trip at this pace.  I’m going to speed things up. 

This week we…

went hunting

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visited the Redwoods

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Got a little tic’d

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made fun of Kevin’s mosquito bite

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churched

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saw jellies

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lost teeth

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dug deep

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dug deeper

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hugged friends

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hugged other friends

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gawked

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won a duck

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rub-a-dubbed

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surrey’d

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wife swapped

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and DNF’d

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It was a refreshing week away from the intensity of life and school and writing—a week to just be instead of do. 

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Port braised lamb shank
Lemon chicken
Rice
Spanakopita
Fresh veggies
Red eggs
Dolmas
Walnut layer cake
Baklava

Spring Breaking

Woo-hoo!  On vacation!  It has been so nice to step back from writing and just live and love life for a week.  I’ve gained a lot of perspective about what I want life to look like as a writer when I get back; hopefully I’m able to stick to it and not drive myself into the ground again.

In the meantime, I remembered I also like to take pretty pictures!  Here are a few of my boys from Easter morning at our hotel in Los Gatos

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(I didn’t tell them to be serious; they were just sick of me taking pictures by this last shot.)

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Rice bowls

Working for MrsMouthy

Yikes, another week already? 

So I’m still figuring out how to be as a writer.  It’s funny how I have no boss, no deadlines, no office, no coworkers, and definitely no paycheck—yet I feel like I am working.  It’s all-consuming, even though for all my writing and editing, meeting and critiquing, researching and querying, I feel like I don’t have anything to show for it at the end of the day.  I mean, there’s a word count and sometimes there is a new picture book to read my boys, but nothing that feels real.  And even though I have no actual schedule–I’m still technically a SAHM—I groan when I realize I need to buy the boys flip-flops before we leave for vacation.  But when?  I don’t have any time in my schedule!  It’s ridiculous, because I have no schedule.  No one is expecting anything out of me. 

Oh, except Myself.  I have never worked for a more ruthless, no-nonsense,  no-fun boss before.  In fact, Myself is making judgy glances at the screen right now, wondering why I’m blogging instead of editing that picture book I wrote yesterday.  I kind of wish I could change companies, but looks like I’m stuck with this one.  For life.

Well, there’s always medication, right?

Anyway, now for a little levity, a la Leo.  Here are some of my faves he’s brought home from kindergarten lately:

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He wrote about a playdate where they got hungry and apparently got into the rum.  “yum rum!”  Well, at least that explains the speech bubbles. 

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Leo’s rosy look into the future: “When I am 100 years old, I will be wrinkly and blond.  I will feel sick.  I will be a teacher.”  He forgot to mention he will also look like the black Orville Redenbacher, but I guess that’s implied.

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And this one’s just sweet, from the 100th day of school. 

Some days, I feel like I could do with 100 love.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Black bean chicken quesadillas with pico de gallo
Rice
Veggies