Best-ever Boys’ Slumber Party

Vincenzo turned eight last weekend.  EIGHT! 

Anyway, the slumber party!  If you came here expecting to see something simply lovely that you could post on Pinterest, you are going to be sorely disappointed.  It was an UGLY party, it was a NONTHEMATIC party (!!), but it was so incredibly fun.

I know you all don’t believe me so I’m going to show you a picture of the decorations.

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(Unfortunately Kevin took the crepe paper down before I could get a good picture, but you can see it hanging on the chandelier, taped up with blue painter’s tape that I didn’t even try to hide.  But the poor quality of this picture alone is a good warm up for the rest of this post.)

And now for my disclaimer: I can never hold myself back on invitations.

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Maybe that part is Pinterest worthy but I promise that’s it.  We hand-delivered these because of the flashlights but they could be made without the flashlights if you wanted to mail them.

Now for the ugly fun part of the party.  The kids started with a game Vincenzo wanted to do where the party guests passed around one Hershey’s bar and had to cut off a piece using a knife and eat it with a fork.  I totally didn’t get it, but they all liked it!

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Then I gave each guest a pack of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans along with a list of the flavors and each person had to challenge themselves to try as many different flavors as possible, which include earthworm, earwax, booger, dirt, soap, and vomit.

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I wish you could hear the high-pitched screams and giggles that accompanied this picture, but you’ll have to take my word for it.  It cracked me up that one of the kids who won’t even eat melted cheese on crackers would eat the vomit-flavored jelly bean.  Twice!  Pro tip if you plan on doing this at one of your parties: be sure to place plenty of spit bowls around.

Next I herded the kids to the basement for a “Minute to Win It” game that my friend suggested we do where each kid gets a Kleenex box and has to pull all the Kleenex out of it using only one hand.

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It was every kid’s dream: to do something they have always wanted to do but never been allowed to.  And the aftermath was fun too!

Shortly after the Kleenex wars the boys started up the “video games” chant so they played a bit, then ate dinner, then played more video games, then came upstairs for dessert.  Vincenzo wanted everyone to decorate their own cakes, so I had prepped a bunch of Twinkies beds, oval cookies/pirouette sticks for headboards, and marshmallow pillows like this:

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I also premade some Nilla Wafer heads to look like each boy at the party (yes, Ernie was among our guests):

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Then I passed out a bunch of Airheads and other long gummi candies so the boys could make their own blankets (they also had scissors and mini rolling pins from our play-dough set), plus a gummi bear for their dessert self to sleep with, sixlets for the bedpost tops, and two jelly bellies for their feet.  They were a little skeptical about the jelly bellies after the Bertie Bott’s beans, but I assured them they could trust me.  The final result:

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After dessert the boys went back downstairs for a movie an bed.  The kids went to sleep at the surprisingly reasonable hour of 10:30, woke up for more video games at an also surprisingly reasonable hour of 7 then finished up with a pinata and silly string war outside.

Happy birthday to my eight-year-old newborn baby:

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As big and smart and silly and sophisticated as you get, there is a piece of you living in my heart that is still an impossibly tiny, swaddled newborn baby trying your hardest to open your eyes for a few seconds to get a glimpse of your mama. The instant you were born I knew how much you needed me and also realized  that I needed you just as much.  And the one thing I’ve learned in these past eight years, Baby, is that some things never change.

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Ultra Competitive Boys Part II

Yeah, so, as I was saying, my boys can turn anything into a competition. 

For example, if I give each boy a container of blueberries to eat they’ll each have a couple.  But if I put one bowl of blueberries between them both and say, “Make sure to share…” every last blueberry will be gone in seconds.

My zoo vet friend once told me that’s how they get animals to eat when they’re not thriving: two animals, one food bowl.  It makes sense, when you think about it.  On a basal level, your siblings are your biggest rival for resources because your resources come from the same place: Mom and/or Dad.  Your friends aren’t as big a threat because they have different resources (their moms and dads).

I’m going to describe two different real-life competition scenarios from last week and before you read about how they went, I want you to imagine how they went.  No reason; just might be fun for you.

Situation A: Kevin comes home with a Slurpee and pours the boys each a cup with their own straw and puts them at the table.

Situation B: I give each boy a hard-boiled egg for breakfast.

Any guesses?  How are these seemingly harmless, neutral situations going to go wrong?  How could identical Slurpees and identical eggs become a competition?  Am I just messing with you and in actuality the boys quietly drank their individual Slurpees and politely ate their hard-boiled eggs?  Read on.

Situation A: Slurpees

Kevin leaves the boys alone with their Slurpees and I come into the kitchen 60 seconds later to see each boy standing on their chair, reaching their straw up as high as they can, saying, Look how tall my straw is!”  “No, look how tall mine is!”

Betcha thought they were going to go for the amount of Slurpee in their cups, right?  Nah.  At least there is some creativity involved.

Situation B: Hard-boiled eggs

Vincenzo, pounding his egg on table: Rocco, look how cracked my egg is.
Rocco pounding his: Look how cracked mine is.
V: That’s not very cracked!  Mine is more cracked.
R: No, mine is.
V: Mine is WAAAYYY more cracked than that!
R: NO!  MINE IS! MINE MINE MINE MINE MINE IS!

So I stopped the Slurpee straw competition and pointed out there was no good way that could end.  At no point would one of them say, “You know, you’re right.  Your straw is much taller than mine, and I respect you for that.”  For the hard-boiled eggs I skipped the logic and just yelled, “YOU ARE NOT GOING TO HAVE A FIGHT OVER WHOSE EGG IS MORE CRACKED.  I CANNOT BELIEVE I AM SAYING THIS RIGHT NOW.”

In conclusion, sibling rivalry does not make for good breakfast conversations but does make for good though completely unhelpful blog posts.  Or at least mildly interesting ones.

What?  You think you can do better?  Think your kids are more competitive than mine? 

No way.  My kids are WAY more competitive than yours. 

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:

Minestrone soup
Homemade bread
Chocolate chip cookies

Ultra-competitive Boys

There is one thing that Vincenzo and Rocco love doing together, and that is playing.  There is also one thing they are really really bad at doing together, and that is playing.

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I’ve been paying attention to how they play this week so I that can help them do it better and I’ve noticed a pattern.  I will try to describe in terms of playing house since that’s what I grew up doing, even though their game would be more appropriately called “blowing sh** up.”

So basically Vincenzo describes a beautiful house on a hill with lots of frilly curtains (i.e. guns), then says he’s the dad and he’s bringing home a bouquet of flowers for Pretend Mom  (i.e. he is shooting all the bad guys dead).

Rocco says he’s also the dad and he also bought a bouquet of flowers for Pretend Mom.  (I’ll let you fill in the bang bang substitutions from here on out.)  Vincenzo Dad says fine, then, he bought two bouquets of flowers and Rocco Dad says that he, coincidentally, also bought two bouquets of flowers.  Vincenzo Dad says he went to the store and bought all the bouquets of flowers they sell and Rocco says he went to all the stores in the WORLD and bought all the flowers EVERYONE sold for Pretend Mom, and Vincenzo Dad says that’s against the rules.  Rocco Dad counters that it’s not.  Vincenzo says it’s not only against the rules but also now the wife doesn’t like the flowers Rocco Dad brought home. Rocco Dad screams, “NO NO NO NOOOOOOO!”, making real Mom very irritated.

But then Vincenzo Dad says, “Hey Rocco, want to play a new game?”  Real Mom takes a calming breath and feels happy that Vincenzo Son is learning how to diffuse an argumentative situation with his brother. 

Rocco says enthusiastically, “Yeah!” 

Vincenzo says, “Okay, in this game you are dead, I shot you.  Bang bang!”

To which Rocco replies, “WAAAHHHH!  NOOOO!  WAAHHH!  MOOOOOMMMM!” 

To sum up: Vincenzo sets the scene and makes a some rules that Rocco either breaks or ignores, prompting more complicated and confining rules that lead to more obstinate and angry rebelling.

Sometimes there is a twist ending, like Vincenzo will tell Rocco it’s okay to break the rules but he should be warned that Vincenzo will then hit him with the sword, which Rocco agrees to and instantly regrets. 

Actually, the ending turns out the same after all.  “WAAAHH, NOOO, WAAHHH, MOOOMMMM!”

Since that’s the only way I know how to end things now I think I’ll just awkwardly cut my blog here and say to be continued…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Homemade mac ‘n cheese
Grilled chicken breast
Orange, fennel, and pepita salad
Plum cake

Stupid-Crazy School Year Schedule

Loyal readers, I must tell you the reason that I have not been blogging much lately.  It is because I have lost something very special to me.  It is a loss that has reverberated very strongly throughout my life, my husband’s life, and my children’s life.  And that thing I’ve lost is my sanity.

Seriously.  I lost it somewhere between the first day of school and now, and it is not anywhere—not in my kids’ backpacks, not in my 52 jars of jam, not in the bananas, not in the week-old sandwich that has been stinking up the car, and certainly not anywhere on my person.

The schedule I’m keeping now that school is in session feels like one of those mathematical puzzles you have to do on your SAT’s where the oldest boy has martial arts two days of the week, the middle boy has swimming one day and soccer on the following day; one child needs to be picked up from the bus stop at 4:00 every day except Wednesdays; the other needs to be picked up at sometimes 12 and sometimes 1 on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; the youngest child needs to nap for 40% of every day; on the second day with martial arts there is also a before-school appointment; and there is one floating doctor or dentist appointment every week.  Now use this information to work out a family schedule and don’t forget to include the periodic table.

Seriously again!  This morning, for example, the boys got up at 7 and there was a half hour of craziness getting them fed, dressed, brushed, hugged, clothed, shod, and backpacked before we left for speech therapy at 7:40.  During that half hour I also realized I have physical therapy today and was scrambling to get a babysitter and rework the schedule to include it.  After speech therapy we rushed Vincenzo to school, then Rocco to school, me remembering to write notes for both of them to let the schools know about the change in pick-up plans.  Then I dropped Leo off at his grandparents’ house, came home, paid a bill, did dishes, got ready for physical therapy, set up a fruit fly trap, and left.  It was 10AM.

It is just a matter of time before I get a call from the boys’ school saying to come pick my child up because I sent him to school not wearing any pants.

I actually remember—often at the last minute—about 80% of the things I’m supposed to do every week.  The problem is there are about 152 things to do every week so mistakes are made, and the mistakes hit me hard.  I am not a forgiving person when it comes to myself.  I come home to voice messages from the carpet people saying, “We’re in front of the house…looks like you’re not here…”  Or I panic at 9AM because I have a PT appointment I forgot about in 30 minutes so I text my MIL, who drops everything and comes over, and just as she pulls up I realize the appointment is actually tomorrow. 

It is very unsettling to be me, to not know what messages I will come home to, what things I have forgotten that are on the schedule, what things I am forgetting to schedule for next week.  I have many systems to help but right now they are all failing.  This has made me VERY cranky.

I feel like I am living in an unstable country run by a volatile, unpredictable, wild-eyed dictator who also just happens to be Me.  I am thankful that the country is also full of people like my husband, my in-laws, my parents, my friends, and a bunch of other people who are much more forgiving of myself than I am.

Because if it wasn’t full of these people there would just be me and I would have to stage a coup against myself, and then I would forget it was on the schedule and not show up for it, and I would be stuck under my own rule for an indefinite amount of time.

We don’t want that now, do we?

Two down…one at home

This is what Rocco decided to wear on his first day of preschool:

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Yup, he went dressed for anything.  Or more accurately: dressed for everything.

I had a gigantic to-do list of all the projects I want to do once two of my boys were in school but now that it’s here, all I can think about doing is taking a nap.  I am so utterly worn out.  Plus, my to-do list includes scheduling a mammogram and an appointment with a colorectal surgeon, so I think I’ll just stick with the napping thing.

Anyway, happy first day, Taco Man!

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I don’t like the first day of school!

I hate the first day of school for my kids.  I can’t be the only one, can I?  I know I am supposed to be high-fiving the other moms at the bus stop, skipping all the way back home, throwing open the doors and yelling, “FREEDOM!”

But all I feel today is sad.

It seemed Vincenzo was so grown up when he started preschool.  I had never left him with anyone other than family members before, and there I was leaving him at a school with a bunch of strangers for two whole hours twice a week.  Then came kindergarten, in a public school, and he rode the bus, and that felt waaayy too grown up.  Of course, that didn’t compare to how grown up he seemed when he started first grade—all day for the first time, and no more lunches at home or 12:00 play dates.  This was the big leagues. 

Now he’s in second grade and it feels like he’s in the squishy middle of elementary school and he’s going to slip right out on the other side in a matter of minutes and be heading off to college. 

How many times can I watch my baby grow an entire year over night?

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And even though I still have little ones at home—one little enough to still be called a baby—today I can’t stop thinking about the day I will send that baby off on the bus with his brothers, and then I will go home to…nothing.  I know it’s silly to be worrying about that today, but I have this habit of trying to get all the worry out of my system early so then I can just be cool when the big catastrophe hits.  My therapist has assured me that none of the pre-worrying I do will save me an ounce in the future so I might as well just turn that worry switch off and enjoy the moment.  I keep forgetting to ask her where the switch is.

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(Rocco would make a great therapist, no?)

When I stop to think about it, though, when I really stop to think about it, I realize that this growing up thing is a good thing. I had a baby once who never grew up once. His name was Angelo.  Watching a baby grow up, as hard as it is, is not nearly so hard as having a baby who never will.

So here’s what I told myself as I sat in a quiet house this afternoon: if I don’t put Vincenzo on the bus, he won’t go to school. If he doesn’t go to school, he will go through the rest of his life with a first grade education. If he goes through life with a first grade education, he will most likely not get a good job or a wife, he will continue to think that $800 is a lot of money to pay for a house, and he will never realize that nobody thinks it’s cute when he talks in a baby voice.  If Vincenzo does not get on that bus he will not spend a year playing superheroes at recess, learning double digit math, finding his role in a community, learning to work with people he might not like, bonding with his friends, being pushed academically and socially and emotionally, and earning the sense of accomplishment that comes with the last bus ride each year in June.

If he does not get on that bus he will not learn just how marvelous, mysterious, limitless, wondrous, and sometimes frustrating that world is. 

All he needs to do to discover it is to hop on that bus.

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