Leo @ Four

About 20 times a day he closes his eyes and asks if I can see them. I don’t know why this is a thing with him, but it’s very important to him that I cannot see his eyes. I am expected to make a dozen hilariously wrong guesses.  When I tell him mama is just tired of playing that game, he wraps himself up in my sheer curtains.


“Can you see them now?”

He turns everything into a competition. “I got to the table first!” “I got my shoes on first!” “I love you more than you love me!” “My tummy is bigger than yours is!” I usually have to tell him I’m not competing because if I ever win, he goes apeshit crazy. I keep the competition thing in my back pocket, though, for when I really need it. Yesterday, for example, I laid down next to him to get his nap started and Leo bawled, “I’m not tired. I’m not going to nap today.” I closed my eyes and said, “I’m more tired than you are!” He answered, “No, I’m more tired than you are!” and he fell instantly asleep.

His favorite thing to do is battle people. “Will you fight with me?” he asks. We body slam him, we put him in the Tree of Woe, we nail him with the sleeper hold, we sit on him until he squeals. When we let him go he jumps up and yells, “Haha, I win!”


I wrap him up in a towel and set him on my lap when he is finished with his bath. He tells me he’s going to hold me instead of me holding him. I tell him I would squish him like a bug, but when I’m a little old lady he can get me out of the tub and wrap me up and hold me on his lap like I’m holding him now. He says, “But Mom…you’re already old!”

He wants to play soccer inside. He makes his goal the entire north-facing wall of our house. Our goal is the doorknob on the closet at the end of a narrow hallway. He screams and laughs and kicks the ball with his little-but-not-so-little legs and screams some more. He is freaking adorable and he is a terrible cheat.

He wears his pink glitter light-up rubber boots everywhere. I hate it.


He wants to be a mom when he grows up. Not a stay-at-home dad or any kind of a dad; he wants to be a mom because, he says, “I like moms better.” Today, though, he changes his mind. “I want to be a dad when I grow up and I will live with you and I will be in charge of video games then.” He tells me whenever his kids ask if they can play, he’ll say, “Yes!” I tell him I’ll put it in writing and he said, “Yeah. Put it on the ‘dult list.”

He asks me remember that The Titanic hit an ice burger, though because of his speech impediment, it sounds like “ice booger.” I can’t decide which is cuter.

He listens to me read books to him until my voice or eyes give out, whichever comes first.  Rocco reads books to Leo whenever he can, and Leo has heard the books so many times that if Rocco comes to a word he doesn’t know, Leo fills in for him.


(“No, Rocco…that word is ‘Jarvis!’”)

He often signs his name “Ole” instead of Leo, like his life is some kind of bullfighting match. (It is.)

He eats way more cake than anyone should be allowed to eat. I set a healthy, well-rounded meal in front of him each night.  He takes one look at it and says, “I don’t like it,” and after dinner I put his leftovers in the fridge and two days and several attempts later I throw them away. At some point, a piece of cake falls into his hold, I never know quite how, and he licks the platter clean.  I have not given up on his eating habits yet, but I am getting close.


Anytime he gets something special during the day, like a handful of m&m’s, he counts them up and says, “I will share with Brothers!” As soon as Brothers come home, they are offered a few sticky m&m’s from a little brother who is glowing with the joy that comes from sharing something you value so much.

He tells me out of the blue that he wants to donate everything in his piggy bank to people who need things more than him.

Every day at one he announces that he’s not tired. I tell him I know he’s not tired, but we’re just going to rest for a bit anyway. I lay down next to him in his fire truck bed, our foreheads touching and our bodies curved together, making a lopsided heart, and it is my favorite time of the day so I lay there smiling. Ten minutes later Leo is asleep and I am laying there with a smile still on my face, thankful with every breath that even though he has declared himself Big, we can still lay napping together like we did four years ago when he needed sleep as desperately as he needs to whack people with Nerf swords today.

He is my Leo. My Big and Giant Leo. My fighty, cake-filled, generous, silly, wide awake and never tired, wink wink, can’t-see-my-eyes Leo. Sometimes he is my Ole. But mostly, he is and always will be my sweet Baby Leo.


Baked rigatoni with prosciutto
Balsamic chicken
Salad with roasted red peppers, cannellini beans, and feta
Gelato with pizelles


And here we see Kevin sitting on the couch, reading Star Wars books to Leo…


…and seeing how many times he can work the name “Jarvis” into the story without Leo noticing.  Leo starts out laughing and yelling, “No, it’s not Jarvis!” but then he gets so wrapped up in the plot that he doesn’t notice that Daddy is reading a book about  Jarvis Binks, Jarvis Solo, Princess Jarvis, Jarvis the Hutt, and the much a-feared dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun Darth Jarvis.

Kevin almost gets away with it, too, until the last line, when he reads, “May the Jarvis be with you.”


Sometimes, when you want something done right, you just gotta do it yourself.


Blackberry scones with lemon curd
Fresh fruit

Monster Party

Last week Big Boy Leo (formerly known as Baby Leo) turned four (see: yesterday’s post).  He loves playing “monsters” at recess, which some of you may know as “cops and robbers,” some as “chase,” and some of my older viewers may know as “cowboys and Indians.”  Whatever.  Kids run around screaming for fifteen minutes, that’s the general gist of it.  Monster parties are fun and easy to host—you can do it in three steps:

1.  Buy stock in a googly eye company
2.  Buy all the googly eyes in the craft stores within a ten mile radius of your house
3.  Stick googly eyes on everything in your house

Start with the invitations:


…then move on to vases:


…then cups:


…then pinwheels:


…then fruit:


…then skewers:


…then meatballs:


…then cake pops:


…then marshmallows:


…and finally, add googly eyes to the children.

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Voila!  You are ready for your party!

When the little monsters arrived at Leo’s party, they could go downstairs to color some big monsters…



…or they could come upstairs to have a turn in the “photo booth,” which was really not a booth at all.  Four-year-olds are so naïve, they didn’t even notice, BWAHAHA.









I could have sat there all day taking pictures, but Leo really, really wanted to play “Duck Duck Goose,” which we called “Eyeball Eyeball Monster” because, you know.  Themes.


This game was a little iffy.  Round one went great, and then a kid stood up and said, “I don’t want to play this,” and then another kid started crying and then a third kid tried to subtly scoot out of the game and then someone else started crying.  It was also hard for the kids to remember to say “monster,” so they played “Eyeball Eyeball Goose” and “Eyeball Eyeball Dragon” instead.  Leo didn’t seem to mind any of the crying or the quitting or the creative liberties his friends took; he just ran around and around and around while everyone yelled and laughed because he kept forgetting to sit down.  It was my favorite part of the party because it was all so quintessentially Age Four.

Pin the Eyeball on the Monster was a much less tearful game.  Want to see what it looks like when you don’t cheat at the game?



Haha, sucker.  We were all yelling, “You’re doing great!  You’ve got it!  That’s exactly right!”

Of course, these games took all of four minutes and the rest of the time the ten party guests wanted to be in Leo’s undecorated, non-googly-eyed room.  Any time we opened the door they yelled at us, “CLOSE THE DOOR!  WE NEED PRIVACY!”*

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They were a very intimidating crew so we’d close the door and awkwardly wait outside for further instructions.

Now for the best part of the party…the cake!


This guy was almost too cute to eat.  (I’m don’t know if I’m referring to Leo or the cake.  I want to eat them both up!)




Can we just light the candles already?!

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I think we each wished for the opposite thing.  I don’t want to tell you mine because then it won’t come true, but I’m sure Leo wished to grow bigger and bigger…and fast!

At the end of the party the kids got to take home their own baby monster.


Just like that, the party was over and the process of removing googly eyes from pretty much everything began.  It will likely continue for the next decade or so.

And now, can you believe it?  This little monster is four.

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Polenta with roasted butternut squash, kale saute, brown butter, and fig balsamic
Brownies & ice cream

*Bizarrely, Leo is one of the only unarmed kids in the room.  Rocco was reading to him in the bottom of the firetruck bed.  Rocco had decided to set up a “reading station” and put himself in charge of running it.  He let us know it was very exhausting yet important work.


There’s a lot of stuff going around this winter, right?  My kids keep coming down with this thing.  It’s actually a chronic condition they keep getting, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it or cure it or even delay it a bit, and they seem to always get this particularly aggressive case of it.  Leo got it just last week, and all I could do was sit there and watch it happen.

That terrible thing he got is called his BIRTHDAY. And I know everyone thinks birthdays are great and all, Leo probably more so than anyone in the history of mankind, but birthdays are not great if you are a mother trying to hold onto the last wisps of babyhood you see seeping away from your baby. Who is now FOUR.

Can we just call him 48 months and be cool with it?

You’re telling me no.  Okay, fine.  But you should know that four is my least favorite number right now, and it will be for a year until my new least favorite number (I can’t even write it, it’s so scary) comes and does its thing to my baby Leo.

I don’t like that I don’t have a three-year-old anymore. I don’t like that when he sits on my lap, whole body parts of him are spilling over onto the couch—not just a foot or a forearm but an entire torso or a pair of legs. I don’t like that his hair isn’t super fine and blond anymore, or that he doesn’t make a sweet “slip slip slip” sound when he runs down the hallway because he doesn’t wear a diaper.  I don’t like that he can put on his clothes by himself and doesn’t need me to set him on my lap and give him a long putting-on-clothes, whole-body hug. I don’t like that tries to be silly now instead of just being silly on accident.

But if these things weren’t so, I guess that would be worse.  It’s not fun to change a four-year-old’s diaper, so it’s probably good he doesn’t wear one.  It’s also good that Leo can put his clothes on by himself and that he is growing at a healthy rate and that he takes joy in trying to make others laugh. 

Still, Leo’s fourth birthday is a little too big for me to swallow.  It’s just kind of stuck in my throat, you know?  It won’t go down, and if it comes up it is going to come up as a big sob.  I’m losing my baby.

Wait, I hear someone calling from the bathroom.  It’s Leo!  He’s yelling, “WIPE MY BUM!  WIPE MY BUM, MOM!”

So…I guess I still have that.

But still;


I miss my baby.

Soba noodle salad with tofu
Stir-fried vegetables
Sliced pear

Return to Earth

We are getting some landscaping done so the outside of the house can match the inside of the house, and the guys accidentally cut our fiber optics wire.  I have been empathizing with these two characters from Dr. Seuss all week:


Fortunately we are back on-line today and feeling like we have returned to planet Earth.

Oh, what?  We had to rejoin on Valentine’s Day of all days?  Blargh, why couldn’t it have been President’s Day instead?  I hear roses sell real cheap on President’s Day.

Well, when on Earth, do as the Earthlings do.




(This was my attempt to get Leo to whisper something to Vincenzo.  Clearly my boys have no secrets.)



Leo wants to wish everyone a “Happy Walentine’s Day” and Rocco wants to say, “That’s not how you say it…it’s Valenstimes Day!”  Vincenzo is able to pronounce it correctly only because it contains no R’s.

Anyway, happy Whatever.  (Or as Vincenzo would say, “Happy Whatevah.”)

Sushi (thanks, Kevin and Ryno!)
Miso soup
Peanuts (because they happened to be on the table)
Rice candy

Lost in Translation

Rocco’s class did some writing about trees.  Here’s what Rocco wrote:


It reads: “evergreen tree u lih skreeee sup rio zen es a evergreen”

I see that he was given full credit for his answer, which makes sense…if this worksheet was actually designed to evaluate the students’ ability to speak in tongues.

Also, I learned that what Rocco wants to be when he grows up


Translation: a “Miencraft enventre because I love Miencraft” and a “bleetoligist because Myles.”

I love six-year-olds.  And I look forward to the day I can proudly introduce my grown-up son to my friends as Rocco, the Bleetologist.

Because, you know.  Myles.

Chicken coconut curry
Brown rice
German Chocolate Caramel Brownies

Oh, Kids.

I couldn’t really theme up today’s blog post; it’s really just a bunch of long-winded randoms.  I guess the theme is  Oh, Kids—you know, in the same way everyone loves to say, Oh, Florida.  Let’s get right into it.

This was last week’s church hand-out. 


You might think by the “IDK” that nothing came to mind when Vincenzo thought of Jesus’ baptism.  But turn the paper over and  you’ll see he was flooded with imagery and ideas.


Nukes.  Jesus’ baptism reminds Vincenzo of nukes—truckloads of nukes!

I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume each of these nukes is carefully loaded up with explosive amounts of the holy spirit.

Speaking of baptisms, last night I was sitting with Leo, who was taking a bath.  (See how I did that there?!)  He was sitting in the tub with one foot out, a plastic drumstick in between his toes for whatever reason, when Kevin walked in the bathroom.  Leo just slightly angled his foot to aim the drumstick at Kevin and…”BANG!  BANG!”  He pretend killed his father with a plastic drumstick shot from between two of his toes.

I swear, I could give my boys a page from Ghandi’s diary and the first thing they would do would be to shoot me with it.

Oh, Kids.

Awhile back Vincenzo was studying music flashcards and I told him to divide them into two piles: one pile that he has mastered and one that he is still learning, and to label them as such.  He came to me and proudly showed me his stacks.


I just shook my head at him, flipped the piles around, and walked away.


Oh, Kids.

Awhile later he was playing piano to his friends over Skype: “The next song is by some guy named Beetlehooven.” 

Do you think it’s time to get him a new piano teacher?*

So Rocco has had this thing for a couple years where he doesn’t like trains with faces, like the Thomas the Train sort.  Leo, however, has no problem with trains with faces.  This causes problems sometimes, like when Rocco builds a track and Leo tries running his facey trains on them.  On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, of all days, Rocco excitedly called me downstairs to tell me he had solved the problem: he built Leo his own track to run trains on.  Rocco’s tracks ran all over the basement and under some chairs, and they circled the couch twice.  Leo’s track consisted of six curved pieces that went in a small oval. 

Oh, Kids.  You know how they can be, reinventing segregation and stuff.

And I leave you with this final conversation, which you should definitely picture as a Family Circus comic:

Rocco: Leo, will you pass me the blueberries?
Leo: I can’t!  My arms are too short!

Breakfast torta (leftover)
Raw vegetables
Raw fruit

*I am his piano teacher.
**You try watching Kung Fu Panda III and not have major cravings for dumplings afterwards