This Old House

Ever have one of those months where everything breaks?  It starts with things in the house then spreads to things on your body and you spend the whole month making appointments, scheduling babysitters, then rescheduling appointments and babysitters as more urgent things break, and finally alternately showing up for and missing appointments all month?

Let me back up a bit.  Like 37 years a bit.  When I was born, the doctor and my parents looked at me and came up with a diagnosis:


I was perfect.  Not a scar, not a mark, not a single missing eyelash. 

Unfortunately, there is only one place you can go from perfect:


So no biggie.  Nothing a Flintstone vitamin a day couldn’t fix!  That’s how I spent my childhood: being Flintstone-fixable perfect.  Enter my young adult years—this next picture is an amalgamation of the high school and post college me:


The sprained ankles were from playing basketball all throughout high school and didn’t last too long; the carpal tunnel was from scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins and went away once I moved to college; the astigmatism was mild and I liked that I could wear glasses and look bookish when I wanted to;  the really bad haircut and perm happened when I was a teacher and if you had known me then, you also would have added this to a list of medical problems.  But overall, not too bad.  I stopped taking Flintstone vitamins and started swallowing iron vitamins.

And that brings us to today.


The astigmatism has gotten worse and worse so that now looking bookish is not so much a choice as a need; the carpal tunnel made a friend called radial tunnel that zings me every time I bump my arm into a doorknob or overwork my arms; I have a bunch of little cysts in my wrists that don’t bother me and one good-sized cyst on my hand that does; the big long “h” word came with my fourth pregnancy and requires a medical procedure to fix; the strained muscle in my calf has persisted for two years despite physical therapy; I am still anemic and at some point it was discovered I have a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden.

Perfect?  Hardly.  So this is the year I am going to fix Me.  I will squeeze in visits to the orthopedic hand surgeon, the colorectal surgeon, and the sports medicine doctor in between visits to the pediatrician, the speech therapists, the basketball practices and swim lessons and rock climbing classes, the play dates, and the boys’ classrooms this year.  It is time to take charge of ME!

And of course, right after I declared this, my dental bridge chipped in half and the list of things to fix got longer instead of shorter.

But hey, I’ve still got my health.  More or less.

The Big Oh-Two

Leo is two.  Or eight, depending on who you ask.  Here he is being two:


And here he is being eight:


Or maybe I have the pictures in mixed-up order.  At any rate, Leo is still in that stage where he has to do whatever his brothers are doing.  Yesterday, for example, he came to the table to see Vincenzo wearing an eagle hat and eating popcorn.  He disappeared for a minute then came back and…


It’s his popcorn-eating hat, duh.

Leo at two is possibly the laughingest little boy ever, and if that’s not already a word then it should be.  You can make him laugh about anything—his uncle entertained him for 15 minutes at a restaurant by moving a fork to and from him.  It was that simple, and Leo just  laughed and laughed.  Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night, laughs, and goes back to sleep.

Leo is either incredibly sarcastic or incredibly obedient.  At a public restroom last week he dried his hand on a paper towel then tossed it in the toilet.  I told him that we don’t put paper towels in the toilet, and before I could stop him he had reached into the toilet, fished out the paper towel, and was heading for the garbage can.  He wants to be good; he is just a little Amelia Bedlia about it.

Leo refuses to hold anyone’s hand but my own and won’t make exceptions even for a game of ring-around-the-rosie.  We have to play “line around the rosie.” 

He is an angel to his mama, a bully to Rocco, an apprentice to Vincenzo.

He’ll drop anything for a ride in the car and it doesn’t matter to where.

When I read books to Leo he reads them back to me at the same time. 

He loves to jump off the couch and he gets mad at us if we try to soften his landing with a couch cushion. 

He knows he can make us laugh by wearing various objects as hats, or by singing songs like, “Lo-di-lo-di-luuuuuuu-di-lo” and he does so frequently, looking at us with a glint in his eye and mischief on his face until we laugh with him.

Leo is bursting with joy and light, with gentleness and spunk, with intelligence and silliness.  He is topped off with a good dose of untamed spirit—a wildness that starts in his dancing feet and spreads all the way up to his wild hair.   My wish for Leo is that his wild spirit is never all the way tamed.  That his freedom and happiness remain uncurbed, no matter how tall and responsible and sophisticated he grows.

The night before his birthday I laid Leo in his bed, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Goodnight Baby,” like I do every night.  Then I added, “Goodbye Baby.”  And when I woke up he next morning, there was a hungry, cranky two-year-old boy standing there who needed a hug from his Mama, just the same as he needed the day before.

He won’t always be a baby, but he will always, always be my baby.

Bits of tid

1. A conversation:

Rocco: Why are we reading books in your bed, Mom?
Me: Because it’s bigger than your bed.  My bed has to fit both me and Daddy.
Rocco: Yeah, and you’re really wide.

2. A stranger:  Where did your baby get his blond hair?
Me: His mom was a playboy bunny.*

3. Me to Vincenzo: Did you leave an empty raspberry container in the fridge?
V: Yes, and I also left one on the table.
Me: Maybe next time you could put them in the recycling bin?
V: Well I wouldn’t have to if you were doing your job!

*Okay, I haven’t really said this yet, but I keep daring myself to!

Ball birthday party

When you are the mother of three boys sometimes you have to go with the obvious choice for a birthday party theme and just make it about balls.  It’s something we have lot of in our house, and it also happens to be Leo’s favorite thing to play with.  Fortunately, he prefers the plastic ones, so his party was kept at a G-rated level.

And now…the details:

ball party collage

I kept decorations pretty simple because, like I mentioned earlier, I am the mother of three boys.  I covered the tables and counters in white paper to make the orange and blue colors pop, and I sewed yards and yards of paper circle garlands.


I love them so much I think I will keep them for New Year’s decorations!

For an activity guests got to decorate their own party hats–I made a template for them to trace then set out punches, fluffy balls, ribbons, tissue paper—anything I could find in our craft drawers.


Of course, not everyone wanted to make a party hat, per se…


The cake was so fun to make—I dropped a bunch of uncoated cake balls into the batter so it was polka dotted on the inside, then decorated the outside with Sixlets, gumballs and a mini ball garland.


Here Leo is licking the piece he chose especially for McStreamy to have.


The spread: Swedish meatballs, cheese balls, melon balls, parmesan cheese balls, cherry tomato/mozzarella balls…you get the picture.


For favors I ordered some clear cupcake boxes, made a bunch of blue and orange cake balls, then decorated with ribbon and a tag.


For entertainment we borrowed McStreamy’s homemade “bubble ball,” which is, in their words, a “white trash bouncy house.”  (Of course, they’re going to have to come up with a new moniker now that it’s been to our house.)  It’s basically some heavy-duty plastic taped to a fan, filled with 400 plastic balls, and it was, quite literally, a big hit.


So that was the party version of Leo’s big day.  If I find a longer moment this week I will give you the gooey version of how Little Leo is no longer a sweet, sleepy baby but a silly, chatty, jumpy, wiggly, independent, bona fide boy.


See what I mean?

My Valentine

Kevin sent me a link to this today:


I was touched.  It’s the closest thing to a gift he’s ever gotten me for Valentine’s Day!  I replied:

Thank you, Darling.  If you were Alex, I would totally ma


ke dinner for you.  We would also make lo


ads of dishes to wash.

Totally Baked

Holy vanilla beans, Batman, it’s been an insane week.  I love to bake but sometimes it gets a little out of hand.  Here’s what I’ve pounded out the past two days:


I bake for the birthdays of struggling teens at a nearby high school, and one of their birthdays happened to fall on the same day I am prepping for Leo’s second birthday party, and then Kevin mentioned he needs a batch of cookies for work.  On the table you are looking at:

4 dozen Butterfinger cupcakes
2 dozen chocolate chip cookies
3 dozen French icebox cookies
4 dozen uncoated orange/teal cake balls for Leo’s cake
4 batches of finished cake balls for favors

Of course, all this happened on the same week that my Kitchenaid mixer died, all the downstairs lights stopped working, and my washing machine broke.

I will be okay if I don’t see another bag of candy melts or a repairman for a few months now.

Butterfly Baby Shower

My Vegas sister is having a baby, which means we got to have a baby shower last weekend!  The baby’s nursery is orange and yellow with a butterfly theme, so we went to town.  I love the bright colors!


And the party:

shelby shower collage2

The little stars in a dish are sugars for coffee that my MIL made using candy molds.  It was fun to stand near the coffee set-up and watch people eat the stars, thinking they were mints.

For the cupcakes we made butterflies out of orange and brown candy melts then “frostinged” them atop chocolate cupcakes:


The favors: jelly bellies in jars decorated with ribbon and a butterfly on top.


As for the mother-to-be…


Isn’t she lovely?

And as for the happy couple…


Aren’t they beautiful? 

Congratulations, you two!  Can’t wait to meet Baby Shelby!

Olympic Junkies

We watch TV about as often as the Olympics come on, but when they are here we watch enough TV to make up for the two years in between.  It has been an eye-opening experience for our boys—here are a few of the conversations that happened in our house last weekend:

1. Rocco, telling me about the Olympics: Mom, there was this guy on the ice and he did this spinny jump and he turned around a few times and landed without his knees not even touching the ground!!!!!
Me: Oh—you were watching figure skating.  I don’t know how they can do all those tricks on the ice when I couldn’t even do them on the ground!
R: Oh I know why!  It’s probably because he was wearing that shiny sparkly shirt!

2.  Vincenzo, watching the countries walk in the opening ceremonies: Is Pittsburgh going to be participating in the Olympics?

3.  Rocco, watching the countries walk in the opening ceremonies: The people from each place have matching skin!

4.  Me: It seems like Taipei should have more Olympic athletes than that.
Kevin: Why?
Me: Because they’re so Type A.

(If blogging doesn’t start paying off soon, I’m going to have to start making popsicle sticks.)

Chicken Pot Pie
No sides.  I can never figure out what to serve with chicken pot pie.

6th (or 8th) anniversary gift

I still need to get Kevin a gift for February (candy, since I accidentally switched 6th and 8th gifts).  In the meantime, this weekend we went to the pottery class I signed us up for.  Kevin had “Unchained Melodies” ready to play on his phone at any moment but wimped out and missed a lot of perfect opportunities.




Other than all the reminders the instructor had to give Kevin to put his shirt back on, it was such a fun date.  It brought back some of the thrill and newness that marked our first couple years together.  And it turns out we’re not too old to learn new tricks:


Just kidding—those were the instructor’s.  Here are ours:


I think we actually invented some new kinds of dishes, like the cupvase and the bowlpot.  If you can’t tell by looking, these gems weigh about a pound each.  And this is only half of our finished ones.

And not only did we have a fun evening together, but as a bonus we also have all of next year’s Christmas shopping done.  Just let us know early if you’re in for tombstone gray or toilet plunger brown, m’kay?

7th anniversary

Kevin was in charge of our seventh anniversary gift, and the gift choices he had to choose from were copper, wool, and desk sets.  He decided to go for two out of three but wouldn’t tell me any more than that; he said it was a Mystery Date. 

I was excited!  The last time he took me on a Mystery Date was eleven years ago, on our fourth date.  Kevin had taken mental notes of every conversation we had had up to that point and incorporated all my biggest wishes and loves into one date—we started at my favorite coffee house where he whipped out a bunch of Australia travel books that we looked through, marking our favorite places with sticky notes.  (When we compared notes, it turns out all we had flagged were up things that made us laugh, like “Chinaman’s Knob” and “Come by Chance.”)  Then we went to a ceramics studio to paint our own dishes since he knew I was artistic.  We finished with dinner at an Australian restaurant (yes, it was Outback) and there was an option fourth part of the date: a movie back at his house.

In the eleven years that have passed since then, we’ve had a lot more conversations and I have let slip a lot more things that I want.  The possibilities were pretty much endless for our seventh anniversary mystery date!

Out date started Mediterranean restaurant that served lamb, which Kevin told me was close enough to wool, and we were joined by our friends the Coopers, whose name, Kevin said, was close enough to copper.

During dinner Kevin told me there was an optional third part of the date (note that there was no second part) and while he and Mr. Cooper-not-Copper exchanged bawdry looks, Mrs. Cooper-not-Copper and I promptly left to get some froyo across the street.

Mystery Dates used to take so much planning and, well, mystery.  Now they consist of Kevin not telling me the name of the restaurant we’re going to.  Sigh.*

But what our date lacked in mystery it made up for in the amount we talked and laughed and in the most comfortable kind of happiness that comes from being together eleven years.  Guide books and sticky notes?  Who needs ‘em.  We know that no matter where we go or what we do, we’ll still be laughing all the way to the finish line.

You still got it, Kevin.

Penne ragu
French bread
Roasted broccoflower
Double chocolate cupcakes

*To the Coopers-not-Coppers: It was really lovely to catch up with you and we had a wonderful time at dinner.  (Your big news is still making us smile!)  If I sound at all disgruntled it is because I am fulfilling my obligation to make fun of anything Kevin does on this blog.  Winking smile