Christmas Countdown

We pulled down the Christmas decorations and I gave Leo the nativity set to put up. 

He clearly has not seen many nativity scenes in his short life. 

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It’s such a first-grade interpretation of the wise men.  “Okay, line up single file, guys.  Everyone will get a turn.  Baby Jesus isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  Hey! No cutting, Balthasar!”

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Also, I love Joseph’s stance here.  He is so much the dad who hears the baby crying and comes to help but hasn’t the foggiest idea what to do, so he stands there leaning slightly forward as if just the gesture of being someone who wants to help is helpful in and of itself.  Am I right?!

As for the rest of our Christmasing, here’s what it looks like to date.

This is the part where Kevin starts talking about how they have perfectly nice pre-cut trees just ten yards away from here.

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Inspector Leo.  He’s more the upper-management type.

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But sometimes the only way to get a job done is to do it yourself.

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Guess I forgot to tell them to say cheese.

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Leo, rediscovering his favorite Christmas ornament: a golden unicorn with a fake diamond.  Of course.

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Here we are decorating the tree:

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Oops, wrong picture (that was last year).  Here we are decorating the tree:

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Yup, so that’s where we’re at.  Counting the days until Christmas while also wishing it doesn’t come too fast so we can enjoy these brightly-lit, dream-filled, family-packed days.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers & some new stuff:
Cheeseburger soup
Chicken and sweet potato curry
Rice
Baked potatoes
Green beans and broccoli with butter
Brownie royales

Guyliner & Stuff

Vincenzo performed in his fourth play this weekend, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.*  He played a Vulgarian child, a Morris dancer and the passenger side wheel of Chitty.  Yes, a wheel.  It was the defining role of his entire acting career.  You know, because he’s so tired all the time.  (Ba-dum-dum)

There were many, many jokes made about his role—most of them by Vincenzo.  Like at dinner tonight:

Me: Vincenzo, if you could have any role you wanted in the play, what would it be?
Vincenzo: I don’t know.
Kevin: Driver’s side wheel?
Vincenzo: No, no—I’m not ready for that level of responsibility yet.

Or how any time I’d tell someone Vincenzo was a wheel in a play, Kevin would add proudly, “Not just any wheel; he’s a front wheel.”

Instead of telling him to break a leg, we told him to “get a flat.”

Pre-stage prep included multiple applications of guyliner.

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It’s a moment I never didn’t think to imagine when I held my baby boy in my arms and envisioned our whole lives together.  It was nice.  We talked about, you know, girl stuff.  Like he’d say, “Humans are weird.  We draw on our faces and then pretend we’re other people on a big wooden platform.”  And, “Wait—if they don’t test this on animals, who do they test it on?”  It was such lovely time together and he looked so good with raccoon eyes (I asked if he wanted cat eyes but he said no thanks) that I told him when he goes through his emo phase, I’ll put on his eyeliner every morning for him.  We decided it was more likely he’d probably go through an emu stage than an emo one, though.

As for the play, it was hilarious on every level.  I mean, it’s not every day you get to see your thirteen-year-old son sitting around, dressed like this:

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Or prancing around, dressed like this:

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Or holding a cardboard wheel, like this:

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I always like to get V a bouquet or present that matches his role.  I didn’t think I’d be able to do it this year but then my eyes fell upon…

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The card went something like this:

You did a wheelie good job tonight.  We’re so proud of your drive.  I hope you’re not too tired to go to the cast party, but you’ll probably be fine—you’ve been on such a roll this week!

So Vincenzo, if you are reading this some day, I want you to know that, all puns aside, we really and Truly are proud of you.  (I couldn’t help myself.   Truly is another Chitty joke.)

(“Chitty joke” was not intended to be a joke in and of itself, but it looks like it is now.)

Seriously, though, we are so proud.  (Darn it, Seriously is also a Chitty joke.  It’s impossible to avoid these!)

Okay, we are proud of you, you look a-MAZ-ing in guyliner, and we love going to your plays.  It is so fun to see you come out of your cave and transform yourself into a different person on stage.  It’s something that surprises us, seeing shy, quiet you dancing a crazy jig with a bunch of girls twice your height or creeping around whispering chitty chitty chitty chitty, doing your best to channel your inner wheel while also conveying the message that yes, this is slightly ridiculous.  Thanks for all the laughs you bring us and to everyone else in the audience.  No matter what part you have in the play, you’re always the lead in our eyes.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Miso salmon
Brown rice
Something green

*Do NOT under any circumstances start reminiscing about fond memories of this movie and go out and rent it.  The movie is painfully outdated, makes NO SENSE, and is three brutal hours long.

Still Truckin’

Gol-darnit, I still have nothing hilarious yet profound to blog about.  All my words and pictures are going other places, and I don’t want my blog to be a repeat of all that.  I don’t want to be that person who tells you the same story over and over again while you politely don’t mention it.  I’ll try to keep at least 50% of this stuff new for you.

I’m still writing up a storm.  Sometimes it’s stuff I hope will see the light of day and sometimes it’s stuff I hope never will, but either way I am always writing.  (I’m serious.  Even as I write this blog post, I am writing!)

This week’s picture book is The Wild Hare, about a wild hare and tame hare that fall in love, then out of love, then back in love, and all in 265 words.  As much grief as my novel can cause me, writing picture books is like playing in a ball pit.  To be fair to the novel, some days it gives me pure joy, too, and the joy from writing the novel is one that launches itself deep into my heart.  I give it a bad rap because writing a 100,000 word novel is harder, so much harder, than writing a 250 word picture book, but they both fulfill some part of me.  They must, or I would have stopped months ago and started binge watching nature shows on Netflix.

As for the kids, yep, I still have ‘em.  Here is the defining moment of each kid from the past week.

1. Vincenzo: Wearing a ridiculous penguin costume to run/waddle the Turkey Trot and insisting he was a fancy duck, not a penguin.

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(I call this picture Three Turkeys and a Duck.)

2. Leo, winning a gumball machine at the arcade then coming home, making a sign for “Gumballs $.25” and parking himself outside our house to wait for customers.  (We essentially had to pay him to come back inside.)

3. Rocco deciding it was up to him to make me Instagram famous and proceeding to set up various poses of himself with books for me to post to Instagram.  Like this one.

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Yes, folks, this is the picture that is going to break the Internet.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Oaxacan tacos (for flavor-loving people)
Pita pizzas (for those with inferior taste buds)
Cumin black beans
Roasted asparagus
Sliced pear
Cream cheese brownies with chocolate ganache

Goodbye to Great Grandpa

Kevin’s grandpa, the steady and solid Vito Beto, died peacefully at the end of October, age 93.

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He’s a tough person to write about because he was a simple man who spent most of his life doing the same things day in and day out.  He worked one job his whole life, at a wallpaper factory, and the day he was eligible for retirement he just didn’t show up and that was that.  He ate the same sandwich for most of his years there (minced ham).  In World War II they told him not to take his shoes off and he thought they meant for the rest of your life.  (It was so hard to get the man out of his shoes.)

Every Sunday we brought Grandpa donuts.  He’d choose the same one every time–a chocolate long john.  He’d ask the same questions every Sunday.  “How are your parents doing?”  “Any new neighbors?” “The boys out of school yet?”  He’d ask these questions over and over during donut hour and we’d answer them the same way each time.  And each time he’d be pleased with the answer.

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The questions, they made everything feel safe and comfortable.  The rest of the world might be moving and changing too fast, but when you were with Great Grandpa, nothing changed. It felt like nothing needed to.

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But then, every once in a while, you’d say something like, “Vincenzo is in a play,” and Grandpa would light up and say, “I was in a play once.”  What?  This is something new!  “I played a mouse,” he’d add.  We’d want to know more.  We’d ask him questions.  He’d take a bite of his chocolate long john and say, “How are your parents doing?”  We’d squirrel away the little piece of information and add it to the lore of Grandpa.  The stories of his long-ago past didn’t seem to match up with the quiet man sitting with us.

Like how he grew up in extreme poverty during the depression, surviving by collecting bits of coal or old bricks to sell.  Or how  manned an anti-aircraft gun in WWII.  And how he fell in love with a girl before he joined the service, and he’d send her Valentine cards that came in boxes, signed by Vito, a curlicue hanging from the bottom of his V.  Grandpa wrote her love letters from overseas.  “My dear, darling Violet,” they’d begin.  “Do you still want to marry me?”  Of course, she did, and lucky for all whose lives were given or made golden by that marriage.

When Grandma died a few years back, Grandpa did not want to go on.  He wanted to go to sleep and not wake up, but he kept waking up anyway.  It felt unfair.  Grandma was the love and purpose of his life.  In his last weeks, Grandpa sometimes saw her.  He could hear singing, and he said they were singing his name.

Of course, it’s hard to say goodbye.  It’s hard knowing there is someone else in Grandpa’s room at “the club,” as he called the nursing home.  It is hard when Sunday morning comes and goes without our hour sitting in his 100-degree room, answering the same questions over and over again, comforted by the predictability of it all.

But it’s a good thing, because Grandpa is finally where he wanted to be.

After all these years, after all those minced ham sandwiches and Sunday mornings and chocolate long johns, Grandpa was finally ready for a change.

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Together again.  And together is where they are happiest.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Potato gnocchi with chicken sausage and broccolini
Mango lassies

Tricked

Oh look, our kids carved pumpkins!

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Right.  Except that seconds after these photos were taken, Rocco declared his arm was tired, Leo said he didn’t want to get his hands messy, and Vincenzo couldn’t get the pulp out of the tiny hole he carved.  So as happens every year, the kids tricked us into carving their pumpkins.

Kevin and I scooped and cut, scraped and carved, and no one stood around taking our pictures because they had all left, so we have no proof.

We had the same very loud conversation we had every year about how we carved our own pumpkins when we were their age, and kids these days are getting soft and have no knife skills, and the Internet has RUINED pumpkin carving with its fire-breathing dragons and Jesus faces and pumpkins freaking eating smaller pumpkins.  We had three choices as kids: triangle, square, or circle. 

Our kids just kept watching the football game as if they couldn’t hear us.

When we finished, the kids came back to get their pictures with the pumpkins we carved for them.

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Okay, so I exaggerated.  I do have one kid who carves his own pumpkin.  And even though it looks like Vincenzo just turned a pumpkin on its side and called it good, there is a tiny triangle or two carved out of it.

He clearly does not have the knife skills of his mother. 

He should totally have me do it next year.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pizzas.  A ton of pizzas to feed a ton of people that I’m not sure are all going to fit in the house

Excuses

Oh sheesh, I haven’t blogged in a week?!  Remember when I used to blog 3 to 5 times a week?  What time warp was I living in then, and can someone tell me how to get back to it?  I seriously think time is outright broken lately, and I hope someone fixes it soon.  And I’m not talking about daylight savings time here.  That is a MISNOMER.

Take Saturday, for example.  The day held two soccer games, two end-of-season parties, one kid birthday party, one workout for me, plus Kevin’s 40th birthday party.  Somehow, it all fit. 

But then today all we had was one soccer game and I ended up sitting it out because it was too much for the day’s schedule.  I just couldn’t fit it in.

See what I mean?  What is happening?!

Anyway, there are other reasons I haven’t blogged much lately, and so I present to you:

MRS. MOUTHY’S SEMI-COMPLETE LIST OF EXCUSES FOR NOT BLOGGING MUCH LATELY:

1.  Time.  Bro.  Ken.

2. I started instagramming as a way to “get out there” as an author.  I now spend hours shopping for, setting up, and applying different filters to spreads for my picture books, like these:

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3.Cleaning up the colossal messes from making the spreads, such as rainbow frosting ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE.

4. Starting a website (shh, don’t tell this blog—it’s the jealous type).  Coming soon!

5. Writing.  I spend a couple hours of my day writing picture books and chipping away at that novel, so now instead of putting all my words out here for everyone to have, they stay safely inside a folder inside a folder inside a folder inside a folder somewhere inside another folder on my computer.

6. Submitting.  I am coming out of my cave to put one picture book out there (The Rhinocorn, if you must know) because it’s making this cave too damn bright and the rainbows are giving me headaches.

7. Reading.  I have finally decided to make time for it after 13 years of wondering if I would ever have time for it, and it is guh-lorious.  But it takes time, so much time, to do so much reading.  And yet, there is still not enough time for reading.  (See item #1.)

8. The soccer schedule has us by the BALLZ.

9. The dog ate it.  Maybe not applicable, but you can’t go wrong with a classic.

And that, my friends, is why you do not have a proper blog post to read today.  Thankyouforyourtime.

Who else is being driven crazy by the fact that I ended on 9?  For all you people I give you…

10. WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers, including:
Turducken (thanks, MIL!)
Mashed potatoes
Stuffing
Gravy
Cranberry sauce
Hummingbird cake

Pumpkin Farm!

Pumpkin farm day smells like a basket of green apples, tastes like kettle corn and feels like sitting in front of a warm fire.  Well, some years it feels like sitting in a cold shower with all your clothes on but this year, at least, it had the cozy warm fire feel.

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This is what it looks like when you have a mouth full of Kettle Corn but also have a compelling reason to say “quack quack.”

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We flung dozens of beautiful green apples into a field.  It felt a little criminal, literally throwing away buckets of food, but who were we to question the system?

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Sigh. I wish I were Cal-sized.  But I guess that would make things weird between me and Megan.

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Here I am in a game of human foose ball.  Take a good look at #29 there because you won’t be seeing him again.  Shortly after this picture, I kicked a ball straight into his stomach, and when he ran crying to his mommy, he clogged his head on one of the foose ball poles and was down for the count.  GIRLS RULE BOYS DROOL.

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Why am I always taking pictures of my boys feet?  Even when Vincenzo makes very questionable sock choices, I still love the feet pictures!

The rule was: if you can carry it, you can have it.

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Of course Rocco found the loophole.

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Three guesses on which of these kids is going to love haunted houses some day:

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Megan and I agree that Pumpkin Farm Day officially starts the holidays season for us.  This is it!  The holidays are upon us!  Feel the cheer!  Spread the joy! Put the carols on the spinet! Layer it on thickly because no matter what I said about summer, this is the best time of year.

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I could live in this day forever.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Breakfast for dinner!
Pancakes
Fried eggs
Bacon
Fresh fruit