Hidden Talent

I have no pictures of the boys carving pumpkins this year.  As the sole photographer in the family, it is hard to take pictures of yourself carving pumpkins while your boys languorously drape themselves over various pieces of furniture in the house and watch football as you carve their pumpkins for them.

Actually, that is not true.  I do have pictures of one boy carving pumpkins this year. 

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This is the one boy who sat there and carved pumpkins with me while the other two played with Hot Wheels, watched football, and/or asked if they could have dessert repeatedly while I sweated it out in the kitchen, carving their pumpkins.

I am a traditionalist when it comes to carving pumpkins.  I deal in triangles, circles, and the occasional crescent moon shape.  Here are a few examples of my work, which was a team effort from the boys in the past:

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This year, I asked Leo if he was feeling more triangle or circle about the eyes and he said, “I want a unicorn!”

A unicorn.

I told him I don’t think I can make a unicorn out of circles and triangles, and he said it’s easy, mom!  Just make it like this:

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So I took a deep breath, fired up the Internet, picked up a knife, and Edward Scissorhanded something into his pumpkin.

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Eh?  Not too bad!

Then Rocco came over, having previously ordered triangle eyes and a circle nose, which was good because making that unicorn pumpkin really took a lot out of me.  Rocco took one look at Leo’s pumpkin, reevaluated his opinion of me, and said, “I’ll take a dragon.”

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Holy crap, I had no idea I could do something like that!  I didn’t enjoy it, but I did it!

I patted myself on the back, as the boys had gone back to rolling around on the carpet and thus were not available to do the patting on the back.  Then I had a moment of panic and dread, thinking of all the Halloweens spread out before me, all the pumpkins I’d be asked to carve into spiderwebs and headless horsemen scenes and staged lunar landings, and I just had to sit down for a moment to cry.

Until I looked over and saw what Vincenzo had carved into his pumpkin, all on his own:

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HaHA!  Sucker.  Can’t wait ‘til next year.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Beef and vegetable chowder
French bread
Vegetables
Rootbeer floats, which I originally typo’d as “rootbeef floats,” which sounds like something my husband would ask for

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Hero

This guy here turns 39 on Wednesday.

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Yes, the fourth boy of mine that rarely makes it to the blog has a birthday.  He asked for a piecaken for his birthday because he wants a turducken for his 40th birthday and thought I should practice this year by baking a pie inside a cake for him, which I did.

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We had to celebrate early because today, Tuesday, he is having elective surgery done. 

You know, the kind of elective surgery where they remove a large portion of his bone marrow, fly it to halfway across the world, and give it to an 11-year-old boy who will die if he doesn’t get it.

Can we take a second to talk about heroes here?

This guy here who looks so terrible in hats

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yet so good in balls,

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this squirrel here

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with a violent streak

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this spacesuit wearing

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child hat modeling

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puffy haired husband of mine

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This same guy who is on the PTSA board, who is assistant coach to one son’s soccer team and who is referee for his other son’s team, who is the sole bread winner for the family and who is also my personal foot massager—he has been my hero for a long time.

And now, today, he is volunteering to be someone else’s hero as well.

This, folks, is the face of a hero.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Crockpot rotisserie chicken
Roasted potatoes
Asian broccolini
Lemon marionberry piecaken

Regular Stuff

From the kindergarten classroom this week: I was working with a group and some kids had finished early, so I got out the white boards and asked them to write any words they knew.  I looked over at one kid’s white board to see he had written this:

                     HOT ABS

Oh dear, I guess I’ll have to stop wearing my bikini to class.

We’re just plodding along at lightning speed over here.  I’m still majorly stressed about Vincenzo’s homework, which he is mildly stressed about.  I feel so bad he has almost zero free time, and as soon as he does get some free time I’m going to make him write thank-you cards for his birthday that was three weeks ago.  It’s been on his list every day since then, but he’s never made it that far down the list, poor guy.

Rocco’s troubles with the Redo Kid seem to have faded, and now he is dealing with the Whadja Get kid.  The Whadja Get kid constantly wants to know how far Rocco has made it in Reflex math (the school’s on-line math program), which has resulted in Rocco begging to stay up late to get some more problems in and asking me to wake him up early to do some more.  Poor Rocco—he’s never felt competitive with an individual before, but when it’s in his face so much, how could he not?

Leo has fully embraced life as a kindergartener and can often be seen locked in frontwards or backwards hugs with the other kids in his class.  He’s learning to read now, so if you ask him if he wants water or milk with breakfast, he’ll answer, “Mm-mm—I want M!”  He thinks he might have broken the sound barrier when he ran down the hallway last week.  Mostly importantly, he still begins every day thinking he’s a cat and wanting to be pet on my lap.  Mew!

So everything and nothing have changed.  I’ve been trying to do a little writing, so some days I think I am brilliant but most days I think I am a dolt.  I feel like an animal that needs to chew its writing arm off in order to save its whole self, and today seems like a good day for gnawing.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Plum pork loin
Roasted potatoes
Green beans with dill

Kids, like Wow

Here’s the latest from the kindergarten room.  This time it was me as reader, and I had brought in a bunch of owl books.  I had just read about how owls throw up bones and fur a couple times a day, and this discussion happened:

Me: Does anyone know what the thing that owls throw up is called?  What’s the name for it?
Kid in the blue sweatshirt: A tummy ache!

Of course, the next two answers were “poop” and “It’s my birthday on Friday,” so Tummy Ache was looking pretty good!

Over in the second grade , things have gotten a little comical, too.  Rocco loves to play kickball at recess, but there’s this one kid who calls a redo every time he gets out. He kicks up a pop fly, Rocco’s team catches it, he calls, “REDO!”  Rocco’s team grudgingly complies.

As you can imagine, Rocco is none too pleased about this.  I *might* have suggested Rocco tell his team to take a stand and not pitch it to the Redo Kid, and they did.  The Redo Kid kicked it out of bounds, he called for a redo, and the pitcher said, “No.”  This had never happened before.  There was a bit of a kerfuffle and some angry words were exchanged, but eventually the Redo Kid had to go to the back of the line.  All was well.

Until the next day.

The next day, Rocco said one of the friends on his team was having a really bad kickball day.  Every time Rocco passed him the ball, he was studying his nails or looking at the birds, and he missed every pass Rocco sent him.  After the game, he came up to Rocco and confessed that—are you ready for this?  The Redo Kid had asked him to be a double agent on the other team.

All this leaves me both giggling and shaking my head.  I was wishing I could petition Mo Willems to write a book called “DON’T LET THE PIGEON HAVE A REDO,” but as Mo can’t take requests, I had to write the darn thing myself.  Maybe someday I’ll even try to get it published.

While the Redo Kid might be a terrible kickball player, I think he’s going to have a brilliant future working for Bernie Madoff some day.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Date night! 

(Not as in we’re eating a lot of dates, but as in we’re going on a date!  Food TBD.)

Weal Life

So there was this dad reading to the kids at kindergarten the other day, and he was about to read a poem about collections.  I loved what happened during the discussion.

Dad: Does anyone here have any collections at home?
Leo: I do!
Dad: What do you collect?
Leo: Money!
Dad: Money!  Wow.  I think we all wish we had a collection of that, am I right?  Who else collects something?
Girl: I do.  I collect wocks.
Dad, a little confused: Oh…so you collect walks?
Girl: No, wocks.
Dad:  Oh, excuse me.  You collect locks.  That’s really neat!
Whole class:  No, WOCKS!  WWWWWOCKS!
Dad: ??

Rocks.  She collects rocks.  I just love how the entire class of kindergarteners tried to help, but their collective voice has a speech impediment.

I think if I ever go back to teaching, I’m going to have to go for kindergarten.  The comedy level is off the charts there.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers, from chicken curry to honey plum ribs.

I Know I’m Supposed to Miss Them But…

Okay, so today I have made three batches of browned butter Rice Krisipie treats, one pear basil tart, one loaf of crusty bread, one recipe of chocolate chip candy corn cookies, one batch of peanut butter caramel apples, a bowl of blue cheese coleslaw, and I’ve prepped everything for plum honey ribs, prosciutto and fontina mac ‘n cheese, and parmesan yellow squash.  Oh, plus there was that round of pancakes and eggs for breakfast, but technically Vincenzo made those.  My house smells like fall and pajama parties, Mom’s house and Halloween, and I’M HAVING ALL THE SMELLS TO MYSELF!!  It feels kind of illegal.

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Can you almost smell it?

It’s not that I’m doing all this just to  fill my time; quite the opposite, actually.  As lovely as it was to go through three pounds of butter in one afternoon, I really wanted to be scrapbooking and gardening, taking a long walk, maybe putting one eyeball on the beast of a thing I’ve started writing.

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But then, if I had done all of those things I probably would have wished I could have had more time to bake and clean and bake some more.  And it would have felt lonely here without all those smells that came to visit.

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I know I said that nothing in life could ever match the joy of having babies, but leaning over a pot and smelling the nutty, rich, golden aroma of browning butter has more similarities to holding a sleeping baby than I ever knew.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Plum honey ribs
Prosciutto & fontina mac ‘n cheese
Crusty bread
Blue cheese coleslaw
Parmesan yellow squash
Peanut butter caramel apples
Pear & basil tart
Chocolate chip candy corn cookies

(Either we’re SUPER hungry tonight or we’re having people over to watch the Bears game.)

(If you’re worried about the Rice Krisipie treats, don’t—they’re for tomorrow’s play practice.)

Twelve.

The big one-two.  Yep, Vincenzo is two hands worth of fingers plus two toes old.

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This year when I looked back at pictures of V in the hospital I didn’t so much notice how little V was but how young Kevin and I looked.

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I used to be able to reach back and pull that time up to sit on my lap, but it’s a bit far away now–more like a fairy tale book, and it’s one of my favorite books to read.  It’s the book about the young and in-love couple who had lived a charmed life, who one day found themselves with a perfect, dimpled, blue-eyed baby boy in their arms, and this baby filled their kingdom with colors that hadn’t even been invented yet.  No one could look at that baby without smiling, so everywhere the baby went he left a wake of smiles behind him.  It was a happy, peaceful time. 

I miss those simple days where we would put Baby Vincenzo in the middle of the floor and watch him instead of watching TV.

Over time, though, we began expecting the baby to do more, like  pick his underwear off the floor and spell the word “friend” and say his "R’s" clearly and to just take a friggin’ shower already!!

Of course, we still sit around and watch him, only it’s often while huddled under an umbrella and bouncing around to keep warm while Vincenzo happily plays soccer in the middle of a downpour.  He runs off the field after the game and says, "That was perfect soccer weather!"

Vincenzo is hard to explain to others.  He is calm and reserved but also ridiculously silly.  He can spend an entire day alone in his room reading books or he could spend it playing laser tag with 20 of his closest friends.  He has a quiet confidence about him and also an unchecked immaturity.  He’s friends with everyone he knows, yet he’s not a quote-unquote popular kid.  He is so dichotomous he even wears non-athletic clothes on the top half his body and athletic clothes on the bottom half.

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He is both this…

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And that.

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But one thing is certain: Vincenzo is happy being who he is in whatever minute of life he’s in.

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This is, of course, his favorite kind of minute to be in.

Or maybe this one.

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Vincenzo sees how much I do for him and his brothers and wants to help.  "I can do that for you, Mom."  He probably can’t, but it’s cute that he thinks he can and wants to help.  Sometimes he actually does help; it’s just that Vincenzo has spent so much time with his head in a book that he still doesn’t know where we keep the peanut butter in the house.  (MIDDLE DRAWER TO THE RIGHT OF THE CORNER CABINET.  SERIOUSLY.)

He’s afraid of spiders.  I mean, he really hates spiders, and because of that the spiders love him more than anyone in our family.  He’ll be sliding his hand along a railing and his hand will bump into a spider the size of a mouse.  He goes to put his shoes on and there is a spider in them, and on closer investigation it’s actually one spider carrying a second, dead spider around.  He goes swimming and finds a brown spider on the bottom of the pool and we tell him it’s probably dead, so he goes down to check it out and the spider starts scrambling away from him.  On the bottom of the pool!  He has so many close encounters with spiders that some people have started calling him Spiderman.

The biggest part of Vincenzo is his heart, and as much as he hates spiders, he never wants them killed.  He wants them put outside, by someone other than himself, of course.

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I love this sweet boy of mine who takes his role as oldest brother seriously, but not too seriously.  I love how he laughs at himself; I love that he is so chill he has to go sit in the freezer to warm up.  While I fret and worry about possible perils he might face each day at middle school, Vincenzo walks calmly out the door and into the gigantic world–one small boy heading out to face humanity with a cheerful smile.  He looks back at me and despite my worries, I can’t stop myself from smiling back at him.

There goes Vincenzo, plowing steadily forward, still leaving behind that beautiful wake of smiles.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Minestrone soup
Fresh bread
Steamed broccoli
Chocolate peanut butter pie