Surprise II

Vincenzo’s birthday surprise weekend was a blur of messy, spontaneous, random, jam-packed hilarity.  We were three adults and five boys sharing two bedrooms and one bathroom.  At one point during the weekend I began offering Milk Duds to any boy who would go in and smell-test the bathroom before I went into use it.  It was always smelly, which only encouraged all the others to go in and take a whiff as well, then come coughing out to retrieve their Milk Dud.  I usually avoid any kind of gender stereotypes, but I have just one word to use here: Boys!

We spent all day Friday at the zoo, from open to close, which I’ve always wanted to do with the kids but they’ve been too little or too tired or too whiny.  This time, though, they were still running, skipping, and singing all the way to the exit sign at 6PM.

Favorite zoo pics:

This one of a sleeping flamingo:


…this toothy grin:


…and this panda:


But my favorite pic(k) goes to this group:


Sunday was another all-day thing, this time at Legoland.  I made it through the whole day without hearing the “Everything is Awesome” song once…and yet it was still stuck in my head all day.  Go figure.


Despite the “bigness” of our weekend, my favorite moments were all the in-between ones, though.  The raucous car-rides where everyone was talking all at once, then somehow we’d all start in on a song together and by the end of the car ride there were as many versions of the songs as there were people in the car.

Realizing the hotel didn’t have a pool but it did have a small fountain, and telling each other we were going to go take a dip in the fountain. 

How we said the was sponsored by the numbers 7 and 11, as each morning we’d walk over to the 7-11 across the street to get some breakfast for our crew.


How that always ended up being the healthiest meal of the day.

How the boys sat on these bikes that weren’t really bikes outside the hotel and pretended to pedal furiously for a few minutes each time we left the hotel.


The restaurant we stopped at after a crazy day at the zoo that was even louder and crazier than the zoo had been, with the boys shooting balloon arrows from their balloon bows the balloon man had made them while they waited for their dinner. 


Once the balloon man left, the boys found other ways to entertain themselves:


(They clearly did not require any encouragement to stick things up their nostrils all weekend.)

How we ordered milkshakes for the boys and Leo became convinced it was his birthday, too, since he got a milkshake. 

How Vincenzo’s milkshake was delivered with a free birthday sundae, and how blissed out he looked going between one and the other with his spoon.


As much fun as we had with our dear friends in one of the nation’s happiest places, it was not hard to say goodbye and come home.  Three days of airport and theme park food, of non-stop noise and stimulation, of two-minute showers and missed naps, and we were ready to come home.  Ready to leave our friends?  Never.  Ready to come home?  Yes.

And so I will sign off for the night, leaving you with the quote of the weekend, which came from Rocco at Legoland. “That roller coaster went so fast my p**** almost fell off!”



Surprise, Vincenzo!

It’s Vincenzo’s tenth birthday today.  Ten!  I have been a mom for an entire decade now.  Ten seemed like a pretty big number to me so we decided to go big on his present, which was a total surprise to him and his brothers and which he got last Thursday—well, technically, he received his present from Thursday to Sunday, as I’ll explain.

Last Thursday morning Vincenzo woke up and went to the breakfast table, only instead of breakfast he found a new sports bag (his birthday present from us) with happy early birthday messages on it and a note saying he was not going to school today; look inside the bag for a clue.  The clue:


He guessed that we were taking him to the Museum of Flight.  Ha!  Amateur guess.  Since the paper airplane was packaged in a Tupperware, we may have ran with that idea and also hinted that there was a possibility he was going to a Tupperware party at the Museum of Flight.  He smiled politely, afraid of hurting our feelings with a look of disappointment in case we were serious.

After breakfast Vincenzo got his second clue:


I am not joking when I tell you that his second guess was that we were going to the library, since this was a library book.  He had also looked further into the sports bag by now and seen three pairs of underwear packed, so it would have been four days and three nights at a library.  While that was a rather shabby guess, it’s actually not a bad idea for this book lover of mine…I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year.

The third clue he got in the car, en route to wherever it was we were going.


He had refined his earlier answers and pretty much knew we were going to take a plane by now, so he said, “Are we going to Legoland in California?”  We kept being mysterious about it and reminded him that library starts with “L,” too.  I think he was onto us by then, though.

The fourth clue was on my phone, and he got to see it standing in line at the airport: a video of two of his best friends (brothers), saying, “We’ll see you soon, Vincenzo!”

Now, Vincenzo is not a freak-out kind of kid, so he did not freak out, but he did grin very widely standing in line there, and to me that grin sounded like him screaming to the whole airport, “I’M GOING TO LEGOLAND WITH MY BEST FRIEND, NOAH, EVERYBODY!”  It was a very electrified moment, in a calm, cool, and collected way. 

I’ll write more about our San Diego adventure tomorrow.  I’ve got to stretch this entry out over two posts to make up for not blogging last week.  In the meantime, try not to let the anticipation kill you.

Coffee encrusted beef tenderloin
Hasselhoff Potatoes
Something green my MIL is bringing
Super moist apple cake (also from MIL)

More Lies!

Okay, I am going to fess up here: our house remodel is not finished.  Seriously, I can’t believe you people are falling for this stuff!

Some things are going according to plan—in fact, almost all things are going according to plan.  There was this one thing that was definitely not in the plans, though, and it took all of last weekend to clean up.  Wanna see what it looked like?


That, for those of you lucky enough to not know, is a shower full of raw sewage and also broken glass, and during the night the raw sewage climbed over the lip of the shower, turned the corner out of the bathroom, and spread itself over every inch of our garage.

You know, the garage where we were storing all the stuff we moved out of the house for the remodel.

The broken glass came from a window the contractors accidentally broke last month, but since the glass all landed conveniently in the shower we decided to just leave it there until there was a reason to move it.

We didn’t know at the time that the reason would come in the form of a bunch of poop, sewage water, urine, and who knows what else.  You have to admit, though, that you that that was a very good reason to clean up the broken glass.  I can’t really think of a better reason, unless it you somehow threw a bunch of newborn babies into the mix.

It did give me some comfort once the plumber found the problem (a rusted backflow prevention valve) and to know that the problem was there already and was 100% guaranteed to wreak havoc at some point in the future, so why not now?  Carpe diem, you brave little sewer pipe!

Otherwise, though, the remodel is going surprisingly well.  We are just past the point where every decision we make adds another $5,000 and one week to our remodel.  (Tankless water?  Sure!  Venting in the attic?  Why not!  Heat pump?  Definitely!  Retractable roof?  Like, DUH!)

When we stop by the house there are usually two to three crews working and literally whistling while they work.  I happily bake batch after batch of cookies for them and they happily eat them up.  Every time we come to an inspection point we pass with flying colors.  We like our GC so much we are thinking of proposing when this is all done (though he has all our money, so he might have to buy his own ring).

I still can’t wait for this whole thing to be done, though, so we can move back home and spread out and put tack marks in our pristine walls and spill our first cup of milk on our new rugs and start scuffing up our brand new hardwood floors, and…

I think I need to lay down for a bit.

Leftovers, including…
Cornbread taco bake
Baked potato
Chicken tetrazzini
Hot dogs
Chocolate chip zucchini bread


Oh hi!  You’ve been wondering how our house remodel is going?  We started it a month ago, and I know it’s crazy but we finished two months early!  It’s done!  Come on in and have a look!


We wanted our entryway to have a breezy feel, so we just left the transom open, without glass.  The air is nice, no?

You can stick your shoes in the new shoe cubby over here…kind of rustic, kind of Restoration Hardware, you know.


Come!  Come! Warm yourselves by the new gas fireplace!  It has an industrial feel to it—we really wanted to show off the beautiful pipe work.


Take a second to admire the ceiling work—we were inspired by the stamped tin ceilings, kind of a Victorian feel.  Gosh, I hope we didn’t mix too many different styles together in one house.


Now, we did something kind of different in the kitchen and installed a gorgeous set of invisible cabinets, and we splurged and got the matching invisible appliances to go with them.  Some would say it’s over the top, but we’re quite happy with it all.  Careful—don’t bump yourself on the invisible island!


Please, sit down!  The insulation is really quite comfortable and a much more green solution than buying a new couch.  Reduce, reuse, recycle!  The bathroom is just beyond the very modern black tarp door, if you need it.


What?  Leaving so soon?  Okay, but don’t forget to check out the exterior of the house on your way out, dazzling in a layer of primo plywood siding.  It is really a unique way to finish the house, and we are proud to say ours is the only one on the block with such a façade.


Okay, bye now.  Do mind the five-foot drop on the way out!

Thanks for stopping by, and please do come again!

Whatever’s cookin’ at the school BBQ

Fish Tricks

I never knew owning pets would be so fun.  These goldfish have already earned their collective $.32 worth of entertainment value, and more.  Seriously, I can’t wait to see what they do next!

It became apparent within the first hour of owning them that Rocco’s fish, Lightning, is the brains of the duo.  He found the food right away when we sprinkled it in the water and got started right away on eating it.  Vincenzo’s fish, King Bob, who was won at the fair, wasn’t too quick to find food but instead realized he could get a tasty treat by following Lightning around and eating his poop.

Lightning gets very irritated at this, but their aquarium is only so big, so what’s a fish to do?  Kevin pointed out empathetically that King Bob was raised by carnies, so it’s really to be expected.

Because I used to teach seventh grade, or perhaps because I was born this way, I find all the poop stuff hilarious, so I sent this picture to my husband saying, “King Bob is going to feast tonight!”


My husband, who also could have taught seventh grade, replied, “He’ll eat like a king!”

And later, when it was past dinner time and I was waiting for Kevin to pick me up, I texted, “I’m so hungry, I could eat two inches of fish poo!”

At dinner that night we kept talking about Lightning’s colossal string of excrement and Vincenzo said, “Please!  Can we stop talking about all this at dinner?”  Sure, I agreed; this probably isn’t appropriate dinner conversation.  Then a fly landed on the table and Rocco asked, “Mom, what do flies eat?”

And we all know the answer so that one, right?!


Folks, I cannot make this stuff up.

I couldn’t keep the poo humor to myself, so I sent the Lightning poo picture to my sister.

My sister did not teach seventh grade, but she did work at an animal shelter and she expressed immediate concern about Lightning’s health.  She researched it to find out that Lightning is overeating and has become constipated.  She said we might need to take him to the vet.

I didn’t tell her that the vet we have chosen for these fish goes by the name of Dr. Flush, but I did agree to put them on a diet.  I’m not worried about Lightning, who clearly needs to cut back on the carbs, but if Lightning eats less then he is going to poop less, and if he poops less, then what is to become of King Bob?

Hamburgers/hot dogs
Potato salad
Macaroni salad
A touch of salmonella

(It’s our annual block party, which always lasts two hours longer than the FDA would approve of)

I lied.

I did take pictures of the boys on their first day of school.  But you knew that already, right?












My boys do not usually look like this, but they let me dress them up on the first day of school. On all the other days they choose their own clothes, and they look something like this:


You see what kind of miracles I worked on that first day of school?  Somewhere, some deserving soul was just granted its sainthood.

Quiche (ham and cheddar for the weak; ham and Emmenthaler for the strong)
Parmesan Broccoli

Go Fish

We went to the fair yesterday and Vincenzo hit it big at the games.

Yes, he won a sixteen-cent prize that he instantly named King Bob, as if he had been holding onto that name for just the right moment when he would win a sixteen-cent goldfish at a fair.

Of course, by the time we got home from the fair Leo had fallen asleep and he really needed a nap, and by the time I got him in bed we had already used up one of the four hours we had before King Bob needed to get into a bigger bowl, according to the plastic bag it was in. Fortunately, Grandma showed up to take the boys to PetCo to save the day and to save a life. King Bob’s life.

$100.16* later and…

(The extra $.16 was for a second goldfish, Rocco’s, named Lightning Fast.)

We put the fish in the tank together and watched them attempt to eat all the bubbles off the tank walls while pieces of fish food fell unnoticed behind them.

Can you predict what the first comment was and who made it? It was Rocco, at the 15-second mark, with, “My fish is bigger than your fish, Vincenzo.”

And now here it is, the first day of school, and I don’t have any back-to-school pictures of the boys to show you because I spent all morning taking pictures of goldfish. Well then, here are Lightning and King Bob on Vincenzo and Rocco’s first day of school.

Spaghetti & meatballs
French bread
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies

*Thank you again, Grandma, for Vincenzo’s birthday present!