Picture perfect family

Vincenzo came home from preschool with a portfolio of his best work from the year.  Here is a portrait of our family he drew.  Kevin wants to point out that Vincenzo managed to draw all of the four fingers on his left hand.  I’d like to point out how good Vincenzo looks in a pair of skinny jeans.


The teacher translated Vincenzo’s description of this picture at the bottom: “The red line is my baby and my mom is taking the picture.”

So who goes to therapy for this one?  Me?  Baby Rocco? Vincenzo?  Either way, Kevin gets off scott-free (minus one finger and all his hair, of course).

Miso-marinated salmon
Kevin’s mac ‘n cheese
Lemon tart

When you’re sliding into first and you feel something burst…

I took the kids up to Whidbey Island for the weekend to give Kevin a weekend off.  And by “off,” I mean to install hardwood floors in the master bedroom.


He really deserves another day off, don’t you think?

I was debating about whether to go to the island at all because Rocco had had diarrhea for four straight days, but you know.  Hardwood floors.  He managed to hold it in on the two hour drive, but as soon as we got to the cabin his bowels let loose.  They let loose three times, as a matter of fact, and then they let loose again.  He stopped being the cranky, ornery baby I had dealt with all week and became a lethargic, floppy baby who let me hold him.

I decided to call a doctor.

The problem here is that our cabin is about 800 meters from cell phone range, and of course there’s a lot of waiting involved with doctors and all, so I spent an hour pacing back and forth and talking on the phone a half mile from the cabin.  Then another hour waiting for the call back.

They wanted him to go to the ER to have his electrolytes tested.  We spent two hours in the little room trying to coax Rocco into drinking a few teaspoons of water and stop him from pressing the nurse-call “BUT-UN!  BUT-UN!  BUT-UN!”  Only Grammy and I seemed to understand the importance of those few teaspoons because the alternative for Rocco was an IV.  Rocco only seemed concerned with touching every possible surface in the ER room and then rubbing his eyes.

The low point came when he pooped.  It was the same runny, mustardy, foul stuff he’d been spurting out for days.  I was allowed only a momentary self-righteous moment of, “See?  My baby’s really, really sick!” before  I was instructed to scoop some of that poop into a little cup. 

This poo sample was set on the metal tray along with a few other items.  We pointed them all out to Rocco, like in the Sesame Street when they sing, “One of these kids is doing his own thing…”:

apple juice, Otter Pop, water bottle, poop

In the end they decided he was fine and we could go home.  He woke up the next morning hungry and thirsty for the first time in days, and he was back to his chatty, busy, opinionated, do-it-myself self.  My aunt who doesn’t see him much said, “Ohhhh, this is what Rocco is normally like.”  She felt we were making an awfully big fuss the day before for what seemed like a normal baby to her.

“Normal” Rocco does a lot of things.  Cuddling is not one of them. 

Taking kids out; leaving sore, battered husband at home

Thoughtless Thursdayish: noodleheads

The other day at lunch I looked over at Vincenzo and he was doing this:


Then Rocco looked over at Vincenzo, laughed, and did this:


But Rocco’s brain is never far from cars/trucks/trains, so it wasn’t long before he made this “chugga chugga”


Noodles.  Vincenzo calls this particular shape noodles “Rick and Tony.”  (The rest of us call them “rigatoni.”)


Alinea Part II

Continuing my post on Alinea from yesterday…(it makes sense this is a multi-part post, as the 20-course meal was served continually over a three-hour period)…

Even though it was by far the stuffiest food I had ever eaten, the servers and chefs didn’t make us feel like the undeserving diners we truly were. They were welcoming and friendly.  They pretended not to notice as Kevin texted his Dad/JP pictures of single-bite courses under the table, like this piece of fish and banana breaded in coconut, panko, and pineapple salt, skewered with a Madagascar vanilla bean:


(Dad texted back that we should ask if they have a doggie bag for leftovers; we told him they’re called “Standard Poodle Bags” at Alinea.)

Here, of course, is the sea urchin suspended in mint gel with an edible, teeny tiny fascinator on top, all of it resting above a green garlic soup that tasted just the way butter smells when you put it in a hot pan and let it bubble for a minute:


Next up: a cool, creamy rabbit parfait.  I’ve never used the words “cool,” “creamy,” and “rabbit” all go together like that, but the dish was delicious.  (Then again, when you start your meal with an oyster-flavored leaf, pretty much anything tastes amazing afterwards.)


Underneath the rabbit parfait was a course of rabbit rillette made with all the ingredients on the top layer, only prepared differently. 


And underneath that dish was this rabbit consomme kept warm with a hot stone that, unlike everything else that evening, was not actually a trick. It was a real stone and we were advised not to eat it.


And underneath that dish was an entire set of Bugs Bunny nesting dolls that said, “That wascally wabbit!” when you bit into them.  Picture not available.

I loved the surprise of this ice-cold potato soup served that you dropped a piping hot potato inside of and then drank like a shot so that your mouth was first shocked by the cold, then comforted by the hot:


For someone who is always cold and trying to get warmer it was sensational.

I was kind of afraid to eat this black truffle raviolo after the server warned us to tightly seal our mouths around so that it would explode down our throats rather than out our mouths:


Sweetened lemongrass water served in an open cylinder, sealed on one end with finger lime gel and the other with dragon fruit gel (we were instructed to give the tube a hard suck to get it all in our mouths at once and I felt about as sexy doing that as one feels when starting up a siphon):


These are just a few of the 20 courses we were served. I didn’t even mention yet the tobacco gel or the yuzu snow that tasted like a tangerine lifesaver, but I see you getting all glassy-eyed on me.

We were stuffed by this point. The food had been getting more complex and mind-boggling with each course and any one of those dishes could have been the finisher, but just like at a fireworks show when you think an impressive burst of color might have been the grand finale, then you think the next even bigger burst of color must be the grand finale, and then something happens in the sky, all over the sky, and every person watching knows undoubtedly that that was the grand finale…that’s how the final dessert made itself known.

A chef came out for this course. He covered the table with a silicone mat and, ingredient by ingredient, did this to it:


It would take a whole other blog post to rightfully describe everything here: milk chocolate frozen in liquid nitrogen; blueberry and white chocolate plumes; bursts of cookie crumbs; pickled blueberries; vanilla milks that set into custards while we waited, then sprinkled with sugar and torched; milk chocolate sauce that formed squares instead of circles when the chef dropped them on the mat. It was a dizzying combination of food and art and chemistry and magic and chocolate.

We eated it all.

It felt like going to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, then taking a spoon and devouring the entire painting, from her pudgy fingers to her smirky smile, then licking off whatever frayed pieces still clung to the frame.

Art never tasted so good in my life.  Thank you, Mama B, for treated me to the meal of a lifetime.

Grilled apricot and chicken kebabs
Couscous with carrots and peas
Star Wars sugar cookies

Alinea Part I

Kevin and I went back to Chicago last weekend, sans kids, to celebrate a couple birthdays and attend his cousin’s wedding.  His mom is a foodie and made reservations eight months ago for a restaurant called Alinea, which recently earned Michelin’s three star rating.  That is precisely three stars more than Michelin has given any restaurant I’ve ever eaten at before. 

It was a big enough deal for me to change into my very nicest pair of sweats.  (It is impossible to look pretty when standing next to my SIL.)


We decided by the end of the evening that what we ate couldn’t be called “dinner” and where we ate couldn’t be called a “restaurant.”  It was more like being at a magic show where you could eat all the magic.  Or going to Cirque du Soleil, only instead of acrobats they had food.  Or at least acrobats that you got to eat afterwards.

Anyway, I’ve jumped ahead of myself.

When we first sat down at Alinea the servers brought us water—Kevin chose bubbly and I chose flat, but I decided shortly that his bubbly was much more suited to me and my flat to him, so I switched glasses.  Within seconds two servers had flanked our table and were asking anxiously if there was something wrong with the water and if there was anything at all they could do to remedy the situation, and one of them had started sweating.  I felt like I had just pulled a fire alarm.

We assured them everything was fine for us but maybe they should bring this up at their next therapy session.  Then we were served this course:


A single leaf that tasted just like an oyster even though none of the ingredients were derived from oysters.  It turns our there is a very good reason we swallow oysters whole.  I almost made a comment to Kevin about how I could probably make a leaf taste like poop, but that wouldn’t make me want to eat it, but then I remembered the overly anxious servers and I held my thought.

Just as we finished our leaves, Kevin’s dad and Wendy’s husband texted us a picture of their heads next to two gigantic mountains of mashed potatoes (they had gone to J. Alexanders, which I understand to be kind of a Red robin for grown men, instead of Alinea for reasons too complicated to explain).


They told us to enjoy our leaf.

Somewhere during the next course–and there were twenty courses, by the way–I sneezed into my napkin and within seconds a new, clean napkin magically appeared while my old one was whisked away.  The servers didn’t miss a single move we made that whole evening.  As we watched the chefs and sous chefs working in the kitchen later, it was how I imagined a crew of Navy Seals or brain surgeons would prepare food–nary a smile nor a sideways glance.  The hostess told me with a smile that they were all fearing for their lives.

to be continued…

Breakfast for dinner!!  (French toast, bacon, cheesy eggs)

Looking to adopt

My sister, Michelle, and her husband, Bill, are trying to adopt a child. 


(They’re so cute you’d like to adopt them, wouldn’t you?!)

One thing I’ve learned from watching them start the adoption process is that it’s all about getting the word out that they are awaiting a baby and hopefully, enough people talk to enough people and someone knows someone who knows someone that is seeking a loving, adventurous, generous couple that wants nothing more than to raise a family.

My sister is the oldest of four girls* and growing up she always naturally helped take care of the brood.  When she’s around my kids she instinctively slips into that mother role again, changing diapers or wiping mouths or reading books to them like they were her own children.  Bill is a fifth-grade teacher who is that teacher everyone wants to get—he’s funny yet in-charge and spends his lunch breaks playing with kids rather than taking a break for himself.  He leads a trip for students to Washington, D.C. every other year.  Michelle and Bill are both stellar people who do so much for other people.

So.  If you know anyone who wants to give a baby up for adoption, please send them to Michelle and Bill’s website: www.awaitingadoption.wordpress.com

Too busy to think about it!

*My brother is the oldest of all of us but he was too busy gleeking at us on command and whipping us with wet towels to do any nurturing. 

Thoughtsome Thursday

Rocco’s latest obsession: other people’s shoes.  He walks around the house wearing various shoes on his feet and the look of a coworker who’s too busy to talk to you on his face.  Then he notices you noticing him and he does something ridiculous.  (As if he wasn’t being ridiculous enough already.)




Oh, and wanna see what’s going on at the zoo this week?


Kinda wish you had said “no,” don’t you?

MIL’s cooking!

Oh, shoot.

Okay, people, help me out with this one.  Two things to know about me:

1.  I don’t like guns. 
2. I have boys. 

Vincenzo started shooting things around age three, despite him never having seen or heard of a gun anywhere I know of, and there were very few minutes during his first three years I didn’t know where he was or what he was doing.  I’m pretty sure guns were invented by the first three-year-old boy ever to set foot on planet Earth. 

For awhile there we were able to pretend he was shooting us with whipped cream or confetti or bubbles.  We didn’t want to make shooting completely taboo because we know how shiny and tempting things that are taboo can be.  So he’d shoot us and we’d thank him for the whipped cream and ask if he could shoot us with chocolate syrup and maybe a maraschino cherry next.

Then one day Vincenzo shot me and as I pretended to ski down the whipped cream mountain he had just shot out, he looked me straight on and said, “No, Mom.  That wasn’t whipped cream.  It was a bullet.”

We still tried, and we still felt kind of okay because at least we didn’t use the word “gun” in our house.  “Shooters” are much more cute and cuddly, don’t you agree?  Vincenzo would go so far as to correct me if, for example, I pointed out some workers using a staple gun.  “No, Mom, we call them ‘staple shooters.’”

But eventually the lipstick wore off that chicken, too, and now they are simply guns and they shoot bullets and apparently all  of Vincenzo’s friends have them.  Nerf guns, squirt guns, GIJoe guns, laser guns, cowboy guns, teeny tiny Playmobile guns.

And Vincenzo has started asking.

So far my best strategy is to pretend that he asked for “gum” instead and offer him a piece of Trident.

I’m just not ready yet, and I might not ever be.  But it feels kind of hypocritical to provide Vincenzo with light sabers, swords, boxing gloves, maces and battle axes, but not allow guns—especially when the drills from his tool set stand in for guns as needed, and when those aren’t around there’s always his finger-and-thumb gun.

For his part, Vincenzo is not nearly as into shooting things as a lot of his friends are.  I know he would follow any rules we set and he wouldn’t get carried away with it.  He likes a good fight, but he’s not your typical shoot’-‘em-up-bang-bang little boy.  The last epic battle he had with Kevin involved drawing pictures of bananas and coconuts (two things Kevin hates) and taping them all over the house.  If we did buy Vincenzo a toy gun we would use the opportunity to talk about gun safety in general (as if we can’t talk about gun safety otherwise) and we would have clear house rules about how to use them.

But still!  Guns!  I don’t like them.  They kill.

So let’s say I hold off until Vincenzo’s a little older and can understand about how guns have this dark side and might not be all grins and giggles.  Let’s say Vincenzo is eight years old or so.  He still really wants a gun and by now seriously all of his friends have them, even the Quaker ones, and so let’s say we get him one.  And he is happy.

And then we realize that his younger brother, Rocco, will be playing with toy guns at age four. 

Which makes it feel pointless to hold off at all, and like we could have saved ourselves a bunch of whining and grief if we had gotten Vincenzo a toy gun earlier.

So tell me.  What would you do?  Guns now, later, or never?

Mole-marinated steak
Baked potatoes
Garlicky asparagus


Kevin woke up with the kids this morning and when I got up an hour later, I saw the remains of what he had fed Rocco for breakfast.  It appears the baby was fed:

1 handful of Strawberry Special K
1/4 cup of Corn Bran
1 serving of chips
1 scoop of raisins
1/2 of a chocolate chip cookie
1 sliced banana
1 pickle
1 wedge of cheese
1/2 a piece toast w/butter

All I could think was: Now he wasn’t hungry anymore, and he wasn’t a little caterpillar anymore.  He was a big, fat caterpillar.  He built a small house, called a cocoon around himself.  He stayed inside for more than two weeks, and when he came out he was…

Not a beautiful butterfly.  Nope; he was a beautiful linebacker with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and the biggest poopy diaper the world had ever birthed.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE (husband cooked tonight!):
White-wine braised halibut with charbroiled crust
Roasted potatoes
Red pepper and tomato soup

Who named them “sleep-overs” anyway?

So we broke into the world of sleep-overs last weekend when we had the two neighbor girls come for an overnight.  There was a lot of giggling and eating of entire bags of chips, a lot of movies and X-Box, and a lot of Kevin being taken down by little school girls and ridden like a broken horse all over the house.  It was enough to almost make me call PETA.

Naturally, there was not much sleeping.  The kids went to bed at around 9 but the party was still going strong at 10:30.  Rocco kept waking up, screaming.  Kevin was snoring the out-to-the-world snore of a broken horse.   And I was laying in bed wondering what  in my life went so wrong as to land me in this exact moment, when out of nowhere I felt this nagging, primordial instinct…this basal survival skill…this faint whisper from my childhood reaching out to me across the years…

I opened the door to the kids’ room. 

“Hey guys,” I said, acting purely on instinct now.  “Have you ever had a sleeping contest before?”

I didn’t hear another peep out of them the rest of the night.

Not until 6AM, that is, when they woke up ready for their prizes.  We’ve still got a few kinks to work out in this whole survival-of-the-fittest thing.