Pinch Me

I have only had a handful of good dreams in my entire life. Most nights I’m tormented by bad dreams and nightmares, and they’re not even good ones. The major themes of my dreams are being lost, being late, being confused, not getting to play in a basketball game, and drowning. I have drowned so many, many times in my dreams, and usually it’s in stupid circumstances, like I’m in the baby pool.

A typical night of dreams might have me sending out an e-mail with the wrong sign-up dates for a school play, resulting in a line of angry parents wanting to talk to me. Then I might go into school for a sub job only to have another sub show up because it’s actually her sub job. As the night progresses, I might send out an e-mail to myself test my ownership of a new domain, and the e-mail might say, “Hey you sexy thang!” And then I might find out I sent it to the whole group. I might try to remedy this by sending out an apology letter to the whole group, only to find out hours later that I sent it to just one person. Then my son might call me from school to say I was supposed to be at a meeting 10 minutes ago. You get the idea. The only good thing is that within minutes of waking up, I forget all of it and go about with my day where I don’t drown even once.

Except that all that stuff I just wrote there, about the messed up dates and the wrong sub job and the test e-mail? That was today. Actual today. Fully awake today. Only, by the grace of God, I did not write “Hey you sexy thang” in the test e-mail, as I often do when I need to e-mail myself something.

It’s 6PM now and while I could use a relaxing soak in the tub to wash off the day, I think it’s best I don’t go anywhere near water.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Quiche
Roasted broccoli
Pan-fried potatoes

College of One

Ah! Time has flown, as it is wont to do, and it’s now the third week of school! I felt blue the first week, angsty the second week, and calm this third week. I’m living a life of leisure but still feeling worn out at the end of each day. I vacillate between worrying that I’ve become lazy and feeling like I’m doing too much.

I spend a couple hours each day working on my stories now, and while it feels like I’m not getting anywhere, this week I’m able to look at the writing objectively instead of through a lens of self-flagellation. That’s something brand new for me! In fact, there are a lot of new things I’m doing lately.

  • I’m teaching myself Italian.
  • I booked a vacation to Arches, Zion, and Bryce Canyon (usually I just come up with the big idea and let Kevin do all the booking).
  • I got suckered into being the producer on Rocco’s plays after 7 years of hiding whenever the outgoing producer looked my way.
  • I’m volunteering at Hopelink with my neighbor—usually stocking the food market, but sometimes going out to farms to do gleaning and pretending that it’s my farm and my barn and my one-lane road lined with giant poplars.
  • I’m making artistic arrangements with the sarcastic amount of cucumbers our two vines put out.
  • I made the switch to digital scrapbooking.
  • I’m scouting out kittens at our local cat shelter!!

And of course there are all the old things, like reading, gardening, subbing, cooking, baking, carpooling, and all the other activities that get lumped into the term “homemaking” and given a bad rap even though they are the very best things in life.

It feels like I’m in a class with a really vague description at a liberal arts colleges that “goes beyond majors and minors,” where all the cafes are vegan and you make up your own grades. That’s fine with me—I’ve always loved being a student. This quarter, I’m going to grade myself in kittens because grading myself by cucumbers would be too easy.

(These are all from different harvests.)

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I’ll let you know when the final grades come in.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Hashbrowns, sausages, & eggs

First Day Pix

I’m doing better today. Cried off and on yesterday morning, then I sat down to  write for the first time in a month and realized how much I had missed it. It’s not all bad having the kids back in school! Instantly after having that thought, I began to feel anxious about writing tomorrow, which is now today. I sat down to write today and loved it. (!!) Currently, I am feeling anxious about writing tomorrow.

I’m beginning to think it’s not writing that’s the problem. You know what they say: No matter where you go, there you are.

But now, in a segment that causes me no anxiety at all, I present to you the Back to School Pix! The first three in the series are called: Leo has a Cracker in his Mouth

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This next one is called Leo Ate the Cracker but You Really Can’t Tell

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Here’s one called We Don’t Know if Leo has a Cracker in his Mouth

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This one is called Now There’s a Bug on Leo’s Hand

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And finally, a picture that has nothing to do with crackers or bugs or snide comments. I call it Untitled.

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Also, when did Rocco start looking like a Nickelodeon boy?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken yakisoba
Fruit salad
Chocolate cupcakes

This Morning

Skinny-legged Leo, on his first day of fifth grade, cheerfully taking his goodbye kiss then running off, arms akimbo, backpack bouncing, bounding toward his year.

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Me standing there, turning away as the tears came.

This is the first day of his last year of elementary school. It’s the beginning of his year, but it is the end of something precious for me.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Twice baked potatoes
Roasted broccoli
Peanut butter cookies

Scare Tactics

After reading my last blog post and seeing what I did to all its little friends, the cucumber plant went and did this, all in one night.

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What am I going to do with so many cucumbers?!

(Ooo, it feels so good to ask that!)

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE
Fair fare!

Vegetable Garden

I have been trying to grow vegetables for years. There were a few years when I had more tomatoes or beans or kale than I knew what to do with, but those were bright spots on a long, farrow journey.

This year started the same: with neat rows of beans and peas, a patch of kale, some leeks that overwintered, two cucumber plants, and four butternut squash. I tucked everything in, sprinkled it with Sluggo and surveyed the hopeful starts. This is going to be My Year, I thought.

The slugs promptly ate the beans.

I planted more beans. I used more Sluggo. They ate that, too. I planted more beans. I used an ungoldly amount of Sluggo. The bean plants greened and grew and plumped. I was right! This really was going to be My Year!

The beans even made it so far as to cover themselves with white flowers before the rabbits ate them down to nothing.

Just about that time, my first crop of peas produced several lovely handfuls. “This is My Year,” I told my family as we divvied up the peas! I planted a second crop. The rabbits, all hopped up on bean power, ate it down to the dirt.

Fortunately, nothing ever wants to eat the kale. At least they didn’t until My Year. I had to plant a first crop, a second crop, and a third crop or, as the slugs called it, breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The good news is that they didn’t eat the leeks! The bad news is that leeks, in fact, do not overwinter well and were inedible.

Even the tomatoes, which back in the day we couldn’t keep up with, just sat there doing nothing this year.

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You are looking at the green tomatoes on this bush thinking, “Well, at least you got something.”  Right. These are the same tomatoes that were already on the plant when I put it in the ground in June. None of the plants grew a single inch. I think they’re infested with nemotodes, so I guess you can’t say we grew nothing.

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But all was not lost.The cucumber plants made it through unscathed! Last week I picked the first one.

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Let’s just roll ‘er over…

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Oh rats! Or perhaps something more sinister?

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But wait—we have fruit trees. Lots of fruit trees!  Pear, fig, and plum, 4 blueberry bushes, and three apple trees. Let’s glean!

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That’s it. That’s all we got.

I’m afraid to turn it over…

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Yep.

The rest of the fruit trees didn’t get anything on them and the birds ate every last blueberry.

But there was still one last hope. Behold: my butternut squash plants.

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I’ve got butternut squash for miles! This is My Butternut Squash Year!

Of course, this presents a new problem of what I’m going to do with buckets of butternut squash…but how fun it will be to brag about my problem to my friends!

Let’s just push the leaves aside and pick a few.

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Why am I even surprised? I don’t know what would make squash turn brown and shrivel on the vine, but it’s starting to feel personal. It’s not the baby’s fault; he’s just there for scale.

All this is to say that last weekend, in a moment of passion, I went and ripped it all out. Not the cucumbers or butternut squash, which I still have hope for, but every last bean and pea and tomato plant there is. I yanked it up by the roots and kicked it all into a pile.

It was not a very big pile.

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I’m done with vegetable gardening. I’m done losing the same battle year after year after year. Wow, it’s actually a relief to say that. The vegetable garden was so much work for such little payoff, and May’s hope was not worth June, July, and August’s frustration. The slugs hold no power over me anymore.

The wind seems softer lately. The sun seems brighter. I smile more now, especially when I imagine what I’ll do with vegetable garden next year. Something like this:

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Yes, I will plant a garden chockful of black-eyed susans, lupine, coneflowers, foxglove, and all other manner of flowers that are poisonous to wildlife.

Next year is going to be My Year.

*A special thanks to my younger sister for leaving a bag of babies on my front porch. This was not the actual reason I asked for her babies, but what a fun detour it has been!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Salmon burgers
Pan-fried potatoes
Blackberry fool

MrsMouthy Delights II

August is as pleasantly calm as July was wonderfully busy. I’ve had time to catch up on all my favorite hobbies lately, which means I’ve had time to sit on my deck and write. I’m taking a break from writing stories but I can’t ever take a break from writing, so here are some entries from my Journal of Delights. The first one is so fresh, it’s still a bit warm. Enjoy!

8.22.22

Just beyond my deck, a crow brings a hard nut to a branch of the maple tree and works it open with her beak. Another flies up beside her and they greet each other with a brushing of beaks. A hummingbird lands a few branches away and sings its squeaky-wheel song at them before flying off to check the crooked cherry tree for a bite to eat. A little sparrow keeps visiting the deck, sprinting and flying in short bursts, letting out soft chirps, like she’s talking to herself. More birds call to each other from the ravine, their trills and whistles like cobwebs strung between the trees. The sun is dappled on my legs and hot on my belly. A single crow remains on the maple branch, beak pointed to the blue sky, feeling the same way about this day, about this moment, as I.

8.8.22

Today I opened my door to see my sister standing there holding a tub of giant rainbow-colored balloons she filled with water and froze overnight. The balloons were grazed with a delicate layer of frost. I picked one up. A shiny drop of water let loose and rolled down its side—the promise of a riotous afternoon for our preteen children. It was the gift of a day from our kids’ younger years, when balloons and rainbows were a part of daily life.

5.3.22

Today’s delight came from hugging an 80-year-old on her birthday. I gave her a hug full of life and joy and was surprised to feel it given back to me doubly. Was I expecting less? A hug faded or wrinkled with age? I shouldn’t have. I gave her the gift of a book. The Book of Delights, as a matter of fact. “Oh,” she said, the title having done the work of a whole book, and we both teared up and hugged again. It is a rare occurrence when the joy of giving a gift perfectly matches the joy of receiving it. And what a delight that is.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chinese BBQ pork
Scallion pancakes
Wontons

Another Whidbey Weekend

I’m all about the photo dumps this summer. When I go on vacation, it seems my words go on vacation, too.

Last weekend’s getaway was to Whidbey Island. Vincenzo forgot to ask for work off, despite the 17 verbal and written reminders I gave him. Fortunately, replacements are easy to find.

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His brothers don’t even need him to build driftwood forts on the beach anymore. Here are Rocco and Leo D starting one of their own:

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And here it is all finished:

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No matter how many times I go to Whidbey (and I’ve been going since I was a baby), it always feels new in some way, whether it’s the people we’re with or the time of year or the detours we take or the things the tide washes up. This time we stopped at Fort Casey on the way up. I took a lot of pictures of the fort and the boys, but the sky kept stealing the show.

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The sky even makes this picture I took to remember where I parked in Coupeville look good!

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Fort Casey was such a hit, we stopped at Fort Ebey the next day. The next two are both search-and-find pictures. Can you spot all three boys?

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Leo thought this would make a good picture.

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I woke up on Sunday to see two young bucks play fighting outside my window. I think that makes me officially a Disney princess.

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We forgot to bring snacks to the beach, so we had to improvise.

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I found this cool rock and seaweed creature on the beach and asked McStreamy to add eyeballs.

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She went for the extra credit.

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Other than all that, the boys ran their hearts out in wide open fields, collected rocks on the beach, turned to prunes in the pool, ate triple scoop cones at an arts-and-crafts fair, climbed giant rocks, played board games, and watched a parasailer jump off a cliff and possibly fall to his death.

(He’s okay, right?)

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And there you have it: another amazing, unforgettable, magical weekend of the same-old, same-old.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Picking up something-or-other

Look Who Turned 13!

It’s Rocco! Rocco turned 13! Which means it’s time for his 13th birthday blog post!

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If there were one word to describe Rocco, it would be wordy. If there were a sound, it would be the shhhhhlck of Lego bricks being rifled through. If there were a taste, it would be preceded by the words “five alarm.” If there were a color, it would be the blue of this blasted sweatshirt he won’t take off this summer.

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And then in the winter, he refuses to wear anything but shorts!

But because Rocco loves to prove me wrong…

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In some ways he’s still smooth-brained (can we please get away from answering everything with “yo’ mama?”). In some ways he’s brilliant (he’s already solved global warming in his head. Twice.).

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Rocco comes home from school with his planner filled out, tells us his plan for homework, writes a note to himself to talk to the teacher about a wrong answer he got on a test, makes a schedule for the evening, and plows through it. Afterwards, he studies our calendar, makes a few phone calls, tells me that he’s arranged a five-day sleepover with his best friend, and hands me a grocery list.

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He’s more likely to defend himself than apologize. (“But I thought Leo wanted to be sprayed with the hose.”) If you tell him you don’t feel like making fettucini alfredo for lunch, he’ll make it himself. He refuses to drink boba from any place other than Bobae, where Vincenzo works, even if we’re at a different boba shop and everyone else is ordering something. If I yell, “WHO ATE ALL THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS?” Rocco hops on his bike and rides to the store to buy more, even though we all know Vincenzo ate the chocolate chips.

He’s good at both time management and micromanagement.

He’s not good at holding babies.

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Whenever a Nerf gun breaks, he and Kevin take it apart to fix it. They watch tutorials, order parts, unscrew things, and 3-D print pieces. They solder things in the kitchen. Not once in all the years have they successfully fixed a Nerf gun. But then, they also have not burnt the kitchen down, so that’s something.

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We sometimes have to yell, “NO ROCCO!” just like when he would sprint-crawl to the wine glass rack. He pushes farther and farther still. It’s not that he’s trying to be bad. It’s just that he’s still as intrigued with the world around him as he was then, ready to learn something new, wanting to see what happens if he pushes this button or touches that particular wine glass.

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Rocco is a buoy that always pops back up. He’s the question mark at the end of a sentence. He’s the kid wearing a penguin suit in a rendition of The Tempest. He’s a triple scoop of ice cream when you asked for a sample.

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It’s a good thing we love our ice cream.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Sticky finger ribs
Mac ‘n cheese
Baked beans
Blue cheese coleslaw
Mix ‘n match ice cream sandwiches

Summer Catch-up

Yikes, here we are in August already! Summer feels like a bus that I grabbed onto  as it passed by and am currently flying behind, hanging on with one hand, yelling woo-hoooo and slow doooowwwwn!

The boys’ summer to-do list was very thin compared to other years, yet somehow the adventures found us anyway. Here are some of the early summer highlights. I hope this post isn’t being graded because it’s rife with inconsistent formatting and punctuation.

Here’s Leo jamming in the kitchen:

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One of our many attempts at making boba (we’ve come a long way!)

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We’re working on our new bathroom…

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and also on our new leak.

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Tried out paddle boarding:

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Rocco turned 13! Hopefully I’ll have time to write a proper post about it soon.

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The boys leveled up to double decker forts.

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Captain Rocco drove us around Lake Union on an electric boat.

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Our perfunctory summer trip to Snoqualmie Falls:

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Climbing trees at the Seattle arboretum:

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Did some cat sitting for this gorgeous guy:

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Leo and the neighbors made a lemonade stand. No takers on the $25 haircuts, but they managed to eke $120 out of their customers, most of whom were blood relatives.

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Leo made it through Twilight Camp with nothing more than mere flesh wounds.

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Spent a day tooling around Bainbridge Island

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Kevin and I celebrated 19 years together.

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And we spent a few crazy fun days in Coeur d’Alene with my extended family.

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Whew! I need a moment to catch my breath!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Beef stroganov
Salad with green goddess dressing
Ice cream sandwiches