Tortured Artist

Ah!  I still have a blog??!  Why is nobody writing it for me?

I’m still adjusting to life as a tortured artist.  I spend a lot of hours in front of the computer, sometimes typing, sometimes not, sometimes banging my head against the keys then looking up hopefully to see if anything good showed up on the screen.

My picture books are the bright spots in my week.  This month I’ve added to the Mr. Chuck series–the wiry-haired substitute teacher whose good intentions always get bungled.  I’ve written about the unlucky leprechaun who gets stuck in all the traps.  I wrote a story about a boy who buys a hot air balloon with a penny, and another about rock with big dreams of running a marathon.

My novel is a different story.  I regutted it only to find that the remodel job is actually a new construction job.  My writing coach is wonderful, but the things she asks me to do are hard.  For me, writing has always been like breathing, so hearing the advice is like someone telling me that I’ve been breathing wrong my whole life.  I’m a very strong breather, and my breathing is beautiful, and I shouldn’t stop breathing, but turns out I was supposed to be using gills.

It’s sink or swim, and I’m still walking around the edge of the pool, afraid of doing either.

Anyway.  I think I’m happy this way, and  I know I’d be devastated if I stopped.  So I guess I’ll just keep going, circling and circling that pool until I’m brave enough or hot enough or stupid enough to get back in.

Chicken cordon bleu
Fresh fruits & vegetables
Mint chocolate mud pie


Remembering the Quickie

Do you remember when I had little kids and I used to start every blog post with a quickie?  Back in the days when my blog wrote itself while I was sleeping?  I miss those days!

Leo tried to help me out this week.  He had a major meltdown when we were leaving for swim lessons because he couldn’t put on his SHOOOOOES.  He was sitting right next to two pairs of his shoes.  I told him to JUST PUT THEM ON ALREADY!  But he didn’t have any SOOOOOCCCKKKS.  I stepped over him on my way to the car, telling him to figure it out and ten minutes later he joined me in the car, somehow having worked through his insurmountable problems.

Well thank goodness, I thought.  Leo is finally figuring things out for himself.  And here he is, walking from the car to swim lessons.


You know, wearing his invisible shoes.

Then he proceeded to get changed for swimming.


Right outside the changing room.

Right in front of all these people.


I texted this all to Kevin, telling him that Leo has gotten better at being Vincenzo than even Vincenzo is.

Anyone who has read this blog since the days of the quickie knows what a bold statement that is.

Crepes!  Filled with any combination of the following: ham, swiss, Nutella, feta,  chicken, strawberries, whipped cream, roasted squash, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter

That One Time I Left for a Weekend

I left the boys last weekend to attend a KidLit conference in Bellingham.  The weekend was bliss—a good, long car ride with a great friend, meeting about 50 new friends, hearing well-published authors say that they have no idea what they’re going to write tomorrow, hugging my favorite college prof, and best of all: a hotel room all to myself.  A bed the size of Jupiter.  I didn’t even care when the  heater woke up and performed an exorcism on itself at 2AM.  It just meant  I got bonus wee-hours reading time in a bed so big I had to mapquest my way out of it.

It was even easier to get away for a couple days knowing I had left my boys well taken care of at home.  The only thing on the list for Kevin was “FEED KIDS FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.”  I left the crisper brimming with vegetables, the fruit bowl stocked, and I prepped a batch of shrimp scampi to toss with some fresh pasta.  I even left the boys’ favorite pancake recipe open on the counter.

I don’t know what I thought would happen.  I guess I saw myself coming home around dinnertime on Sunday to the boys sitting around the dinner table, eating shrimp scampi, drinking wine, and quoting Shakespeare to each other.

Instead, the only signs anyone had eaten at all was a caveman sized box of Honeycomb on the counter that looked like it had been chewed open.  I peered inside.  Empty but for a handful of cereal dust that they were maybe saving for dessert.  I took stock of the kitchen.  There was the fruit bowl, still overflowing with fruit.  There was the crisper, not a single fingerprint upon it.  There was container of shrimp scampi sitting next to the box of fresh pasta, though I guess by then it was not-so fresh pasta.

Sigh.  I raised an eyebrow at Kevin and said, “What about the to-do list?”

He shrugged and told me I probably shouldn’t leave them alone together again.

And I’d consider it.  I really would.  But I keep thinking of that hotel room, sitting there completely empty but for the possessed heater and the bed so big it has a gravitational pull.*  I miss that room and I know, somehow, that that room misses me.

In the words of another author, the king bed is calling, and I must go.

But not until I reset the boys’ digestive tracts.


Filet mignon
Hasselhoff potatoes
Salad (my usual)

*Yes, I know everything has a gravitational pull.  But it really mucks up the writing to say, “…and the bed so big it has a bigger gravitational pull than most other objects on planet Earth

Leo @ 6

I really can’t stand it, but what’s a Mama to do?  Blog about it, I guess, and hope that 7 doesn’t come as quickly as 6 did.


The boy likes to win.  And maybe he’s taken to heart his dad’s claim that the family motto is “Cheat to win” because somehow, asking for a trophy for your birthday feels like cheating.


Until you see what the trophy is for, and then it just makes sense.


Because this is how he starts every day


And this is how he ends it.


This is the boy who says he wants to be a parent when he grows up.  He’s not particular about which parent—either a mom or a dad will do; he just needs to be taking care of things that are littler than himself.

Because when you are the youngest of three, it’s not always easy to find things littler than yourself.


He is my champion snuggler, my kitty cat who mews when he wants to be pet, the boy who spends an hour rolling around on a rug just for fun.


He doesn’t like weekends because he misses school.  Never mind that he has spent the weekend going to birthday parties, playing video games, baking cookies, eating donuts, winning epic battles against his dad, and, of course, rolling around on the rug.

He hates being told he’s wrong, hates losing and being surprised, hates being tickled, and hates most of the food I cook.

He thinks he is the smartest, the fastest, the strongest, the funniest human in the world.  He watches an Olympic ice skater land 4 quadruple jumps and says  “I can do that.  That’s easy!”  Then he dances around the living room for ten minutes with a serious look on his face and asks if he got any reds.  (He never gets any reds.  He’s just that good.)

His favorite color is gold. But pink is way up there too.


(I couldn’t let him do it.  But I did write a picture book in which he ends up with this jacket.)

He has hatched so many Hatchimals that we think he might be turning into one himself.


Why yes, that’s a fitted sheet he’s wearing to dinner.  Why do you ask?

He is so excited to be six.  He’s not looking back for a second.


But that doesn’t mean I can’t.



Is this even the same kid?!

Pita pizzas
Lemon garlic broccoli
Fresh fruit
Sugar cookies

Birthday Party #26

Leo turned 6 on Saturday. 

I made it through 12 years of parenting and 25 birthday parties for my kids without a single party at Chuck E. Cheese.  Until this year.  Birthday party #26.


It’s the equivalent of the Olympic speed skater coming around the last bend in first place, then crashing, sprawling, sliding, careening and landing two inches short of the finish line. 

I almost made it guys.

But hey, at least I got a new set of glasses from the deal!


Also, yes, I know it’s technically called Chuck E. Cheese’s but that’s just stupid so I’m just calling it Chuck E .Cheese.  I have earned that right after spending the first sunny day we’ve had in two months deep in the belly of a gray brick building with the world’s creepiest band.

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The entire point of the party boiled down to the 30 seconds Leo got to spend in the ticket tornado booth.  Here he is, shoving tickets into the most logical place he could find:


At the end of 30 seconds, as you can imagine he had a giant load in his pants.  We all helped him empty his pants right there in the middle of Chuck E. Cheese.  Leo does not know it yet, but it was the lowest moment of his life to date.

When it was time to tip our server we took out a bunch of $1 bills and tried to get her to go into the booth herself, but she wouldn’t do it.  I guess our party package didn’t allow for that.

The only two things I made for the party (a sad nod to the glorious birthday parties of yesteryear):



Well, technically I guess I made three things, as I take full responsibility for this creation as well:


There is absolutely no filter or photoshopping on this photo.  He just looks like that now.

I blame the ticket tornado.

Breakfast potatoes
Chocolate cake

It’s Definitely February

It’s been a week-ish, so I guess I should blog?  Without the kids around so much, it’s kind of weird to me that this blog is becoming less about them and more about me.  I am not nearly as entertaining.

So I’m still “not writing a book.”  I spend several hours a day “not writing a book,” a couple hours a day reading books, and the rest of my time is spent volunteering or exercising or cooking or scrapbooking.  It’s not a bad way to spend a day, except for the judgy voice in my head that is always finding something to harp on me about regarding my current activity.

But seriously, the boys have to be more entertaining than all that? 

Vincenzo continues to underestimate his workload at school and to my horror is completely comfortable with a B- he got on his report card. 

V: Mom, that’s still a really good grade!
Me: Get behind me Satan!

He joined math Olympiad and the wrestling team which really should be a joint class anyway, right?  I’m just saying kids from each of those classes could probably really stand to take the other one.  V spent an hour taking notes on the Greek Olympics last night and when he came out of his room, he had 4 lines of notes.  2 of them were the addresses he got 2 actual lines of notes from.  Then he cried when I tried to help him take more notes.  So, you know, he’s driving me A LITTLE BIT CRAZY and it’s getting harder to hide it from him.

Rocco is still an intense little kid who has learned that mom gets upset when he constantly asks, “What can I do to earn video game time?” but that Mom looks pleased when he asks, “What can I do to help?”  And then after he helps cook or clean or fix things, I enjoy watching him squirm, trying his hardest not to ask, “How much time did that earn?”  It looks a lot like a pee-pee dance without the crotch grabbing.  “Just go play,” I finally tell him. 

Leo is three days short of being a 6-year-old.  he’s still pretty snuggly, only now he looks like one of those giant dogs trying to sit on its owner’s lap.  He’s long and angular and has a loose tooth that made his mama cry.  He is a constant stream of unintelligible words all having something to do with the latest game of Minecraft he played, but fortunately he has stopped needing me to say “M-hm” every once in awhile; he just talks and talks and assumes I am hanging on every word. 

“Right, Mom?” 
“What?  Oh.  M-hm.”

Aw, look—he does still need me!

Twice baked potatoes

On Quitting

Wow, so I just realized how bad it looks to have my last post front and center on my blog on this, the week I started sending a couple things out to agents.  I can just see a potential agent clicking on my blog handle, thinking, “Oh goody, let’s see what kind of an able, confident, healthy-minded person this lady is,” then pulling up all that blarghity blargh.

So here I am, Potential Agent, showing you hey, I’m okay!

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Because the thing is, when I quit writing, I really quit.  I did.  I gave it up.  But this naughty little part of my brain slunk away and sneak-wrote two more picture books and the beginnings of a novel that is the kind of novel I’ve always wished I could write.  When the rest of me read it, I laughed, I cried, I felt things, and then I remembered that the novel I wrote in the fall once did that for me as well.  It could be that my mom and my husband and my therapist are right when they say, “You are too critical of yourself!”  They point out I am never good enough for Me.

And yesterday, my dear friend read my blog and then she called me up to quote myself to me.  She said that a few weeks ago, I told her that writing is hard.  It is so much harder to write than it is not to write.  But I told her that I was doing it because it is turning me into the person I’ve always wanted to be.

As critical as I might be of myself, I have never doubted that I have the very greatest friends in the world.  Thank you so much, Kristen, for reminding me of who I want to be.

Yes, writing is hard.  And beautiful.  And impossible to quit.  The first thing I did when I quit writing was to start a document called “I Quit,” and that’s where the beginnings of that beautiful little book slipped out.  Oops.

All this quitting has made me realize something: I don’t have to write, but I need to write.

But for the record, I quit.  It has been so much easier to write ever since I quit.  And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go not write a book about a rainbow in a very bad mood.

Things from the frozen foods department, including fish sticks, tater tots, and probably a lot of ice cream. 

Wait—did I quit cooking, too?