Thunny Fings

Leo’s brain is just exploding this month, filling with facts and number problems and things he has figured out.  He loves to drop knowledge on us throughout the day.  He’s told us about the differences between bats and birds, how to tell if a pumpkin is ripe or rotten, and the answers to math problems such as 1+1+1, willing his sticky little fingers out of his fist for proof.  He quizzes us to see how much we know. 

Leo: Did you know that the middle of a sunflower is dark?
Kevin: Yep.
Leo: And did you know that the petals are yellow?
Kevin: Yep.
Leo: And did you know that the stem is green?
Kevin: Oh, the stem is green??!
Leo: A-ha!

He’ll come sprinting into the bathroom where I am, saying, “Mom, do you know that you can make a little ‘t’ with one straight line and one sideways line?” 

I’ll be driving and he’ll demand I turn around to look back at him.  “Mom, look!  This is how you make an ‘h’ in sign language!” 

We’ll be watching a basketball game and he’ll blurt out, “Did you know that ‘tree’ starts with the letter ‘h?’”

Okay, so not all his facts are accurate.  But the favorite piece of knowledge he dropped on us so far was during pumpkin carving.  He stuck a finger in the air and said, “Mom, did you know this is called your fing ringer?”

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Then he sang a whole song that went, “Where is fing ringer, where is fing ringer, here I am…” while holding his middle finger up for all to see and he couldn’t understand why everyone was laughing so hard.

It was flipping hilarious.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftover pizza

More Octobering

The torrential downpour that started about 30 days ago finally let up for a day so we crawled out of our cave for a trip to the pumpkin farm.

I’m not saying it was easy, coming out of the cave after so long in there.

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But the apples weren’t going to fling themselves at their targets, so we rolled up our sleeves and loaded up the slings.

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Thank goodness for older brothers, or Rocco would have been flung out to pasture along with the apple!

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We walked into the corn maze, Kevin saying, “Do we really have to do it this year?”  It really is a beast of a maze, and even with Kevin’s strategy to always turn right, it took us a full hour to get back out of there. 

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While in there, we found a whimpering, lost little girl who started really crying once we reunited her with her mother.  We saw signs telling not to touch the corn because us the corn would cut us, like we were in the back alley of some crime-ridden city.  We google mapped ourselves to try to find our way out.  We laughed about the woman who once called 911 when she couldn’t find her way out of a corn maze.  We changed our judgment of said woman about 45 later when we were contemplating calling 911 ourselves.  We discussed how many rations we had as a group and how we should best divide them up.  We said about a hundred times, “I think we’ve already been here before…”  We said about two hundred times, “No, Rocco, we shouldn’t try turning left just once!”

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And finally, finally, we made our way not to the exit, but at least back to the entrance.  As the back of the “Enter” sign came into view, I had a sickening feeling that there would be an authoritative looking person standing there, saying, “Sorry guys, you can’t exit here.  This is the entrance only.”

But no, we were all allowed to sheepishly duck our way out though the same mouth we had entered so very long ago.  It was refreshing to see some colors other than the color green after having been in there so long!

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Can you believe we get to live in a world that looks like this?!  Fall, you are spectacular.

Here’s a cute picture of the boys.

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So cute I bet you didn’t even notice the dog butt hovering over them all.

And now I will turn off the commentary and just throw a bunch of gloriously Octoberish pictures your way.

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Halloween, I miss you already and you haven’t even happened yet!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Japchae with beef
Edamame

Sugar High

October is my favorite.  I’ve written it before, so I won’t bother to regurgitate my ode to autumn here, but I have been in crafting, baking, and decorating heaven for the past few weeks.  Last week’s Octobery event: decorating Halloween cookies.

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Vincenzo went for the cast of Harry Potter—Hermione, Nearly Headless Nick, Polyjuice Potion, Mrs. Norris, and a random pumpkin that I tried to convince him to put glasses on and call “Harry Potter.”

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Leo and Rocco’s cookies had a different look to them.

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You can’t really appreciate the amount of sugar and sprinkles on each of these bad boys until you see one from the side.

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I think they were entering their cookies in the “height and weight” divisions rather than the “skill” division.

Overall, though, I think we covered all the bases of Halloween: sugary, sweet, scary, clever, ugly, cute, disgusting, ridiculous, and above all, fun.

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Just looking at that picture makes you want to give yourself a shot of insulin though, right?!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Oaxaca tacos
Cumin black beans
Roasted red pepper and tomato soup
Sugar cookies

Nothin’ Much Doin’ Today

Actually, that’s a lie.  That’s the opposite of what is true.  We are so busy, sometimes I think there are two of me to have gotten everything done that I’ve done in the day, but I really could have used four.

What I really mean is there are not any rants I want to go on or rashes to complain about or long, drawn-out stories ending in some kind of punch line to blog about.  I did manage to dreg up a blog post for you anyway, though—just a few things that have made me smile lately  Maybe they’ll do the same for you.  Smile  (Look, they did for that emoticon!)

1. Leo at breakfast, asking, “Can I please have an everybody bagel?” 

2. Watching the presidential debates and Rocco asking, “Is Donald Trump a girl or a boy?”  (We ended up calling him the girl with the orange face the rest of the night.)  Then Trump mentioned warheads and Leo got all excited. “I love those!”  “What??” we all asked.  He explained, “I had the sour ones and I loved them!”

3.  The grocery list Leo brought home from school last week

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I thought it was so cute, I let him and his brothers have their own cart at the grocery store and they filled it with everything from Leo’s list.  The next day, Leo brought home a new list:

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Nice try there, buddy.  I like how he threw  “sausage” and “eggs” on there just to make the list seem legit.

4.  Volunteering in Rocco’s classroom on a day students were collectively coming up with math problems for the number 23.  Can you tell which one was Rocco’s?

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He’s kind of a numbers guy.

5.  This scrapbook page:

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6.  Leo on a windy morning, running down the sidewalk and squealing, “Cartwheeling leaf!  Cartwheeling leaf!”  Me and Vincenzo behind him, saying how fun it must be for everything in the world to still be so new to you.

7.  This latte I got in an artsy coffee shop:

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8.  This ridiculous hat that Vincenzo somehow rocks every time he wears it:

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If computer gaming doesn’t work out for him, maybe he could be a Russian model.

9.  Real life jack-o-lanterns

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10.  And finally, these two pictures, in tandem.

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Some days—most days, actually–I really, really love my job.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Butternut squash ravioli with fried sage and browned butter sauce
Cheese tortellini with marinara and parmesan
Orange glazed carrots with cilantro
Fresh vegetables
Mini chai cupcakes

I Don’t Like It

That’s the first thing I hear as soon as I set dinner down on the table.  We say prayers.  Message repeats: I don’t like it.

I sit there making polite conversation about the children’s days while trying not to notice that Leo has not taken a single bite of his dinner.  I am a firm believer that if you make a big deal about your kid’s poor eating habits it pushes him farther into his corner.  I encourage him to try his dinner but I don’t overdo it.  I sit there at one end of the table, nonchalantly discussing the squirrel I saw on the deck today while my son sits at his end, nonchalantly starving himself to death. 

We have told the boys again and again how to deal with food they don’t like: quietly eat around it without stating aloud that they don’t like it.  It must be opposite day for Leo every day, though, because, newsflash, HE DOESN’T LIKE IT.

I usually prep dinner when the kids are at school, and it’s such a glorious time of day.  I chop, peel, saute and marinate, I fill the house with smells and think how lovely it will be to pull all this food out of the oven, magically transformed into caramelized squash or golden chicken, dripping with juices.  Then we sit down to eat a couple hours later and one or more of the boys is repulsed by what I’ve made, sometimes to the point of tears.  We sit there at the table spread with beautiful food and I say to Kevin, “Making dinner is my happy time of day.  Eating dinner is my sad time of day.”

I decided to chart the dinners I’ve made the past couple weeks and what the boys thought of them.  Maybe I’m exaggerating, I thought.  Maybe it’s not that bad, I thought.

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Okay, seriously, Leo.  Work with me here!  Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes?

Of course, then we go out to dinner and he eats his weight in calamari, tentacles and all.  I give up.

I’m not looking for advice or anything.  Honestly, I’m pretty sure I’m doing things the right way.  I keep cooking food that exposes my boys to a ton of flavors, textures, colors, and styles.  I don’t get into “food fights” with my boys over how many bites to eat.  I don’t make them sit at the table until their plate is clean.  I don’t hold up dessert like some golden ring they can grab by eating x number of bites.  In fact, I rarely serve dessert to the boys at all lately just to avoid the whole issue.  I never use the “p” word around Leo (you know, the one that rhymes with “icky,” coincidentally). 

I guess all I need is a good helping of sympathy.  Maybe for someone to tell me I’m not the world’s worst cook or that Leo will come around some day.  Maybe for someone to say their kids are much pickier than mine, even.  Maybe for someone to say, “It’s not you, it’s him.”

Because I’m telling you, it’s totally him.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Florentine Frittata
Caramelized squash
Roasted green beans

(I’m  not even going to bother to chart the frittata.  Even my most adventurous son won’t touch that one!)

Vincenzo, Age 11

Vincenzo, Age 11, is a bit of a blank slate.  He can’t tell you what he wants to eat for dinner; he can’t decide between watching a movie or playing a board game; he doesn’t know whether to go with the shiny gold Converse or the black snakeskin Vans.  It’s actually painful for him if you force him to just pick something already!  He really just doesn’t have many opinions.

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(Gold Converse.  Lord knows how he ever came to a decision.)

He had a hard time deciding who to invite to his party because he is friends with everyone.  Everyone!  He’s always had this ability to walk into a room and instantly love and be loved by everyone in it.

That probably makes you think he’s the life of the party.  He’s not, though.  He’s not loud and out there; he’s quiet and funny in the same dorky way his mom was when she was his age.  He’s the one boy in this family I am always telling, “Speak up!  I can’t hear you!”  As long as he doesn’t have a book in his hand, he is as happy spending a party building block towers for a baby to knock down as he is charging around the house and yard shooting kid with Nerf guns.  He always finds what he has in common with the person sitting next to him and just goes from there.

Of course, if he has a book in his hand he will sit down on the couch and the whole party will happen and confetti will be thrown and air horns will be sounded and all the guests will eventually leave, and then he will look up from his book and say, “Weren’t we going to have a party today?”

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He reads a 500-page book cover to cover, then flips back to page one and starts over again.  In the car, he has read to the point that he got car sick and we had to pull over for him to throw up.  He got back in the car, we started driving, then looked back to see him nose-deep in his book again.

When he gets home from school Vincenzo heads straight outside to work on building a fairy house.  I have no idea how he got the idea to build fairy houses or what fuels him on, but after so many hours and days of work, it’s gotten pretty impressive.

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Okay, so it might not look like much to us but whatever is in Vincenzo’s head is bigger than anything you or I could ever imagine.

We got him a little upgrade for his birthday.

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He plays sports but is not aggressive or fanatic about them.  He just plays for the fun of it.  This is a concept that is very hard for his mom to understand, but she is slowly starting to see how life is actually a bit more enjoyable if you aren’t constantly comparing yourself to Olympic athletes.  He doesn’t compare himself to anyone, really; he just lives in the moment and is very happy with whatever particular moment he is in.

Vincenzo and his best friend spend hours just sitting next to each other discussing the concepts infinity, black holes and worm holes, dark matter, time travel, and the possibility of white holes.  Then they go to soccer practice and run around with the cones on their heads. 

Vincenzo will never be too cool for the kiddie rides.

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Last year I asked him why he wanted to play basketball again and he said because he loves the end-of-the-year party at Dairy Queen.  He played a whole season of basketball just to have one extra hour with his friends.

He likes to help in the kitchen.  The other day he made Dutch babies, and they turned out beautifully despite the fact that he tried to attach the Cuisenart top to the blender bottom, he measured salt by sprinkling it from the shaker into the teaspoon, and he cracked an egg right onto the counter.  He laughed along with us when we laughed at him.

He has been in swim lessons forever and can just this year swim a lap across the pool.  His inability to swim doesn’t stop him from jumping in, though.

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But never without his Chastity Goggles.

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(Wish I had a better picture, but even from far away it’s clear those goggles are doing him no favors.)

When he was a toddler, he never wanted to be tucked in the normal way.  He had us build him a nest that he would sleep inside, like a baby bird.  Now that he’s older he has become responsible for a herd of stuffed animals that take up most of the bed, so Vincenzo sleeps at the foot of the bed like a tired parent.

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He loses things a lot—a minimum of one jacket and one sweatshirt per year.  I’ll wave good-bye to the boys on the bus, then look down to see his backpack on the ground beside me.  Back at home Leo will put his jacket away and ask, “Why is there a lunch in the closet?”  He gets off the bus in the afternoon and I say, “Where’s your sweatshirt?”

There’s always just one answer:

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But it doesn’t bother him.  He is still the calm, sweet, no worries, just smile-and-nod, lovable guy he’s been from the day he was born.

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He’s just so very much himself, and I love him with all the love a mother can have for her son.  Infinity doesn’t even come close.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Tuna melts
Tomato and roasted red pepper soup
Buttered green beans
Applesauce
Candy corn brownies

All the Way Funny

I didn’t plan on my posts to progress this way, but it just sort of happened.  Leo took a bath today and it appears he added a new toy to our collection of bath toys.

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The first thing he said was, “MOM, I POOPED IN THE TUB!”  The second thing he said was, “Don’t tell Kevin.  Okay?”

The first thing I did, of course, was tell “Kevin,” who said Leo started calling him “Kevin” yesterday so he started calling him “Kevin” back.  So I guess it was Kevin who pooped in the tub. 

And I’m sorry, Leo, but this was too good to keep to myself so now it is on the Internet and I have, essentially, told ALL the Kevins.

Also, when you got out of the tub and put your shirt on, I told you it was backwards but you insisted it was on the right way.

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“See?” you said.  “The big 3 is in front!”

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Indeed it is, my friend.  Indeed it is. 

But don’t feel too badly about this—I have a picture of your brother wearing this same shirt seven years ago, and while he got the shirt on correctly, you’ll notice his jeans are on backwards.

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And he turned out okay, right?

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Whatever my lovely friend, Mrs. D, cooks up!