Rainy day fun: fall edition

I’m a fall lover, so once it hits I kind of wake up.  Here’s a bit of the fun we’ve been having, for those of you looking for ways to spend an afternoon or two:

1.  Pinecones:

The boys found a fresh cedar cone and an old pine cone so we put them on the kitchen table to see what would happen over the next couple weeks.  (Sorry for the various angles—I wasn’t all that scientific in my camera location.)


Pretty cool.  But then we had company over so the cones got banished to the outside and look what happened:


I didn’t know they’d do that…did you?  Now we’re running some experiments on the pine cones to see if it’s the cold outside that closed them up or the wetness.

2. Carrots:

We pulled up all the carrots in the garden and sorted them different ways and counted them and weighed them and then ate a bunch of them.


Then we read this book:


…and we followed the recipe in the back of the book to make our own carrot soup.


(Spoiler alert: much more fun to make than to actually eat–even with about 50 homemade croutons.)

3.  Leaves:

We made salt dough fall leaves


and crayon-on-hot-plate fall leaves…


and leaf rubbings…


and sponge-painted fall leaves.


Hope you have fun trying some of these projects on your own!  If not you’re going to start feeling awfully guilty…

Roasted pumpkin enchiladas with tomatillo sauce
Carrot soup with sourdough croutons
Caramel corn


As promised, here is the post about plane travel with Rocco.  If any of you have ever spent four-plus hours on a plane with a three foot tall, belligerent drunk, then you can skip this post because you know exactly how it goes.

We ordered Rocco a Happy Meal at the airport but he mistook the Magic 8 Ball toy for something else so yes, that was my child at the airport brandishing this…


and yelling, “BOMB!  BOMB!  BOMB!”

They let us on the plane anyway.

The plane ride began with a barrage of questions even before the plane started moving.  “Why are we on a plane, Mom?  Why is there a car outside?  Why is there another car outside?  Why is the floor tilted up?  Why is it still tilted up?  Why am I sitting down, Mom?  Why are you sitting down?  Why is that window there?  Why do we want to see outside?  Why is it pretty out there?  Why are you putting your head phones on?  Mom, why are your head phones on?  Mom?  Mom?  MOM???  WHY ARE YOUR HEADPH—Mom, why are you shushing me, Mom?” 

So that was fun.

I decided to let Rocco have his first piece of gum this trip, to help with take-off and landing.  I took a piece from the pack and set it on my lap while I explained how gum works (i.e. chew, don’t swallow).  Then I returned to listening attentively to the safety video.  After a couple minutes, Rocco took the gum off my lap.  “I just want to hold it,” he explained.  Okay, I told him, but we’re waiting until the plane starts moving to chew it.

I looked over a minute later and he had cracked the wrapper open.  “I just want to peek at it,” he explained.  Okay, I told him again, but we’re waiting until the plane starts moving to chew it.

One minute later and he had removed the wrapper.  “I just want to see it better,”  he explained.  Okay, I told him, but we’re waiting until the plane moves to chew it.

A minute later I looked over at him and the piece of gum was clearly in his mouth, with one little white corner sticking out.  “ROOOCCO!” I said.  He looked up at me innocently and asked, “Ih duh pane moobing, Mom?”

Another minute later and I looked over to see him eating Bugles.  I told him he needed to spit out his gum in order to eat, but he explained proudly that he already ate his gum. 

And then the plane started moving.

If those plane windows opened, I swears I would have jumped out and just walked home at that point. 

But they didn’t, so I was the one sitting next to Rocco an hour later when he began using his seatbelt as a storage device for Gummy Bears.  We got them all put away, except a green one we couldn’t find.  To curb the trauma over the lost green Gummy Bear we gave him some Sixlets, which he dumped into his shirt and rolled up, singing, “Special deliiiiivery!”  Then he unrolled his shirt and all the Sixlets went a-rolling too.  We recovered most of those and decided to put his candy away for awhile.  He remained undaunted because he still had a hand to insert into his mouth–the same hand that was in his mouth for 90% of the weekend.


His hand now smells like my headgear smelled in junior high (the one I was too lazy to ever rinse clean).

But somehow we made it to our destination and as they say, all’s well that ends well.  Especially when it rear ends well.


Yup.  The missing green gummy bear. 

Still not as gross as Rocco’s hand.


We took a trip to Chicago over the weekend for a memorial for Great Aunt Em, who died at a ripe old age last year, so it was a happy celebration of life.  As always with my husband and his family, we laughed our way through the entire vacation.  Here are a few highlights:

1. Me, emerging from bathroom: Kevin, I think my hemorrhoids are finally getting smaller!
Kevin: Are you sure your butt’s not just getting bigger?

2. The memorial was held at a golf course. As soon as we got inside the club Leo was hungry so I sat down and fed him some banana, but apparently I sat in a seat that someone else had planned on sitting on so I was asked to move. Then Leo needed to nap so I went outside to walk him, but got lectured by a guy in a golf cart and told to walk somewhere else. Then Leo fell asleep so I sat outside the club next to the stroller, reading a book, but was escorted to a spot behind the club to read my book. Here’s how that all looked in texting form:

Kevin: Speeches just finished, kids eating. How bnthe walk?
Me: the walk bnthe good. leo sleeping. so far today I sat in wrong seat, walked on wrong path and sat on wrong lawn. u better watch who I get into bed w/2nite
Kevin: they don’t allow women here, maybe put on a burkha or something. Dad says if you were a guy, you could lay out naked.
Me: OK. I’m going to attempt some genital self-mutilation now…

3. Kevin had a conversation with his cousin at the memorial that went something like this:

Cousin: We want to have five kids. First a boy then the girl, then the other boys.
Kevin: Did you remember to fill out the baby gender paperwork when you got married?
Cousin (laughing): No.
Kevin: Oh no! Then you’re just going to have a bunch of random children!

4. On the flight home Kevin spent some time standing at the back of the plane rocking Leo and chatting with a lady and her big, burly, flannel-clad husband:

Big Burly Guy: So are you a fire fighter?
Kevin:  Me?  No.  I work for Microsoft.
Big Burly: Wow!  I just assumed you did something physical because of your size.
Kevin: How about you?  I take it you’re a lumberjack?
Big Burly: Me?  No.  I’m a hairdresser.

More on our trip tomorrow.  Rocco on the plane deserves a post all in its own.

Rain Farm

So we hit up a pumpkin farm last weekend.  Let’s see if you can figure out how it went from this series of pictures, shown in the order taken:








Kevin was trying to communicate through this facial expression that he was unhappy because we were:

a.  at a farm
b.  in the rain
c.  with my camera

Yes, after 62 days of no rain in Seattle, we chose this particular weekend to hit the pumpkin farm.

We went with a friend who grew up on a farm and thought it was hilarious that we paid money to look at tomato plants and bales of hay.  As we stood in the rain looking at some wet ducks behind a fence he said, “You know what we did on the farm when it rained?  We went inside and watched football.”  Kevin tried to convince me we should go home and do the same, for a more authentic farm experience.

I don’t mind the rain at all—I grew up here, so if I go on a field trip and don’t get wet, it doesn’t count.  When you cut me, I actually bleed rain.  So at least one of us had a good time.


Make that two.

The boys together

I’ve been putting off writing this post because it’s not nearly so sweet as writing about the boys by themselves.  But it is real, and I don’t want anyone to go around thinking the reason I didn’t answer your phone call is because all the boys and I were in the middle of a big hug fest.  We weren’t.

It is comical how Rocco tries to do everything Vincenzo does—especially the little things. If Vincenzo sleeps in, Rocco pretends to sleep in.   If Vincenzo finishes a glass of milk at dinner and asks for more, *glug glug glug* suddenly Rocco is out of milk and needs more.  When people as Vincenzo how his day (or how anything) was, Vincenzo always answers, “Awesome.”  Guess who else is always “awesome” these days?  Yup, Rocco. 


The cool thing is Vincenzo doesn’t get bothered by this copying.  He also never calls Rocco annoying or tries to exclude him when he has friends over, as is common at his age.  Whenever Vincenzo sees a special car or train he tells Rocco about it.  At restaurants he draws train tracks on the kids’ menus for Rocco to drive his silverware on.  He often asks Rocco if he can help him brush his teeth or put on his jacket or cut up his pancake. 

His sweetness is often met with a cranky, hurtful, “NO!” 


Which brings us to the dark side of all this sharing/togetherness.  When Vincenzo goes outside to ride the tricycle, Rocco shoves past him and claims the tricycle for his own.  When Vincenzo heads for the bathroom, Rocco sprints into the bathroom and sits on the toilet first.  They fight over who has more of the Snuggie, who gets to sit on which side of the grocery cart, who gets to hold which identical plastic sword.


When they are home together, they spend every minute within three feet of each other, and they are arguing nearly the entire time.  Rocco messes with something of Vincenzo’s; Vincenzo lectures him; Rocco yells at him; Vincenzo takes revenge; Rocco yells louder.  All day long it’s bicker, lecture, fight, yell, pout, stink eye, tattle.

We try to help them.  Yesterday, for example, the boys had spent a half hour on the deck arguing over the baby walker so we decided to casually separate them to give them a break from each other.  They were really yelling at each other when Kevin said, “Hey Vincenzo, want to come in and help me with the computer?” “Sure, Dad!” Vincenzo answered, and then we heard him sweetly ask Rocco, “Want to come in and help me and Daddy on the computer?”

*slamming of hands into foreheads*

So I do the only thing there is left to do. 

I brainwash them.

I slip in messages to the boys throughout the day like, “Rocco loves Vincenzo so much,” and, “Isn’t your brother sweet/funny/caring?”  Any time I see anything that’s even close to an act of kindness between the brothers, I point it out and tell them how lucky they are to have each other.  If I pick strawberries with one of them in the garden, I help him count out half to give to brother.  I help them plan surprises for each other.  I sit on the floor and show them how to play with each other.  And I hope it sinks in.


The other day the two were fighting over who got to sit on which stair to get their shoes on, and this was just minutes after a heartfelt talk I gave them about how they’re going to spend the rest of their lives knowing each other so they need to find ways to work as a team, and I finally just completely LOST it.  I yelled at them, and I did it intentionally because for years now I’ve been patient and gentle and understanding and positive, and it just.isn’t.working.  So I yelled.

Vincenzo started crying.  I knew he would.  Rocco sat there calmly, watching me yell, and when I was done he saw that Vincenzo was crying and so he went to him and comforted his big brother.

All the rottenness I felt for yelling evaporated, and I caught a glimpse of the boys’ future, and I think it just might be okay.

Hopefully it’s not the yelling that caused this.  Hopefully it’s all the love and the positive messages we stuff them with plus their fun, quirky, distinct personalities that will give these two the “I got your back” relationship that some brothers have.


Because there will be times when their favorite toy gets broken or their arm gets broken or their spirit or their heart gets broken, and sometimes Mama won’t be able to fix it.

But maybe a brother can.


What makes unicorns cry

I’m taking a break from taking a break to write about what Kevin did yesterday.  Sometimes I think he exists purely for the sake of my blog.

Kevin didn’t come home from work until 9:30 last night.  I knew he was having a ship party at work but he thought he’d be home by dinner time, and I was too far deep into Cake Boss to be concerned with where he was.

At 9:30 when he came in and I asked what took him so long he said, “Didn’t you get my texts?”  So I fetched my phone and read, and this is a direct quote, “Uhhh…drank an entire bottle of campaign, might be late…”

I don’t know.  Maybe the unicorn on his face should have clued me off?


I wasn’t sure if he had flown home using fairy dust or driven himself, so if you ever wanted to see a picture of a muscular Italian guy in a pink shirt with a unicorn on his face take a breathalyzer test, today is your lucky day.


Any guesses?


And that was just the unicorn!  That’s some strong campaign.

(Just to clear Kevin’s name, we don’t own a breathalyzer test specifically for nights like this.  It was for our more raucous years when we hosted Rock Band parties once a week.)

Rocco Taco

Piggybacking on yesterday’s post, today you get to know Rocco.  Brace yourselves.

Rocco is a nut who always keep us guessing and laughing and also just one hairsbreadth away from strangling him (in a Homer-to-Bart-Simpson way, not a gruesome one). At any given moment, he is walking around the house in beach pail shoes or wearing a Kleenex hat or stuffing his and your pockets with cars and trains. He loves to sit and be read to, like his brother, though playing with trains is his number one.


Rocco is a button and boundary pusher, so if you tell him to stop doing something, he absolutely, positively, without a doubt HAS to do it at least one more time.

Or maybe do it with his foot instead.

Or just get really close to doing whatever it is without technically doing it.


Rocco has reached the stage where many parents say, “I said I’d never spank my kids, but…” When he is happy the whole world is happy, and when he’s mad, it’s hurricane season and the whole world is Florida.

He will ask you to get him a sandwich, and then when you bring him a sandwich he’ll ask, “Why did you bring me a sandwich?”  Then he will ask the it 54 more times until he sees he has broken you.

But just when I think I can’t take it anymore and I pick up the phone to call the gypsies for a pick-up, Rocco comes running at me full-tilt to give me the strongest, no-holds-barred hug and tells me he loves me, and he doesn’t let go until I know he really means it. 

I live for those hugs.


(Underwear photoshopped in because Rocco’s urge to ride the tricycle hit him during a moment when he was not wearing any clothes at all.)

Rocco is the baby who came a year after Angelo, and because of this he is the one who taught me to hope again and to trust again and to let myself believe that life is not tragic after all. 

It is a comedy.  And it is starring Rocco.

Oaxacan tacos with spicy black bean stew*
Lime cilantro rice
Apple cake with toffee crust

*Super awesome vegetarian recipe from the Café Flora recipe book—you basically fry up some corn tortillas and roll them up with mashed potatoes, smoked cheese, and red peppers, then bake them for awhile.  Sounds weird but it’s amazing!


Not much action here this week, so I’ll take a break from my usual style and blog about my older boys this week—who they are by themselves and who they are together, which is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Or sometimes like Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Jekyll.

First things first—my firstborn:

Vincenzo has become so sophisticated lately, always into a book or building with Legos or making some insight about the people or the world–but he is still the kid who sneaks bites of dinner to his pet sea lion and gets so crazy playing in the tub that the bath water gets in the vent and drenches the basement below.  He soaks up everything he reads and hears.  He’ll bring up stories or facts from NPR broadcasts during dinner, then tell me that at recess he and Gabriel played “babies.”  He holds my hand when I take him places, just the two of us, and at the end of the day tells me that was his favorite moment of the day.

Vincenzo can’t stand two things: unfairness and losing.  And he also frequently wears his underwear and/or pants backwards. 

I expect so much from Vincenzo, but then I notice how round and soft his face is and how thin his little legs are and how pure his skin still is and I can so easily trace him back to the baby I brought home from the hospital.  At these times I know he is still small and I know that I was wrong when I held that baby and whispered to him that I couldn’t possibly love him anymore than I already do.



He is the baby that yanked my life off the nice little path it was on and plopped me onto a path of surprises and beauty and wonder that continually take my breath away. 

A path that is, as Vincenzo would say, AWESOME.

Bean and bacon soup
Salad with apples, gorgonzola, craisins, and candied pecans
Peanut butter cookies

The House Hates Me

Kevin was out of town all week on a business trip.  Some of you may have seen my Facebook Status on Wednesday night:

K is out of town tonight and I’m starting my 3rd Craft Wars episode, eating lemon blueberry trifle straight from the bowl, and reading 3 months worth of mommy blogs. Is this awesome or depressing?

I forgot to mention I was still wearing pants, as it might actually have made the difference between awesome and depressing.  (The verdict was: awesome!)

Anyway, things kind of went downhill from there.  Over the course of the week…

1.  The smoke alarm in the nursery started beeping like it’s low on batteries, so I put in new ones and felt very Amazon about it until BEEP!   BEEP!  No matter how many sets of new batteries I put in it, it continues to tell me it’s low on battery.  I know how it feels.

2.  The garage light went out and I haven’t had time to buy the right bulb and fix it.

3.  The printer got jammed.  I fixed it, printed, and it jammed again.  And again.  And again.  I think it’s in cahoots with the smoke alarm.

4.  The new TV that was standing up on end (in its box) fell over.  I have not opened it up to see how bad the damage is and am thinking of just not saying anything to anyone (except the entire world right here) in hopes that no one notices.

5.  My cell phone battery stopped working—I charge it up all night and it has enough power for one phone call.  I spend the phone call trying to get ahold of Kevin to tell him my phone only has enough battery for this call I am making.

6.  The Zune battery is doing the same thing.  Yes, I own and use a Zune.  It helps me sleep by replacing racing, repetitive, obsessive thoughts with Enya.  (My cell phone is usually lost and/or out of batteries and is a completely unreliable source of music or anything).

7.  All the living room lights all stopped working.  All of them.  It’s not a lightbulb thing; it is something much more complex and sinister than that.

8.  I found my first gray hair

I swear Kevin rigs the house when he leaves just to remind me how incredibly dependent on him I have become and how I would have to be masochistic to ever leave him and then he reminds that I’m old now and it would be impossible to find a strapping young man to take his place.

Seriously, a gray hair?!  I’m not sure how he pulled that one off but he BETTER not do it again.