Mrs. Mouthy and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Very Bad Birthday Party

I mean, not really.  The kids all loved it after all.  And no adults actually threw themselves off the deck, even if they all thought about it at one point or another

Now, to bring you up to speed on birthday parties: I no longer go overboard on the planning.  For Rocco’s 9th, he wanted old fashioned party games, and I made zero decorations for it.  Zero!  I planned it for a non-meal time to make it easier.  I did not invite the entire city and their Great Aunt Ethels; just a handful of Rocco’s friends.

I was smart about the party, too.  Knowing we’d have a dozen boys in our house I hid all the Nerf swords/battle axes, plus all the ammo to the Nerf guns.  I set up a quiet spaghetti-marshmallow building activity to settle the kids in when they arrived.  I remember feeling proud in thinking of those details. 

Within minutes of arriving, the dozen boys had turned our fort building poles into swords and battle axes, had found the one gun that had a bullet left in it, and had turned the dry spaghetti-marshmallow building activity into an all-you-can-eat dry spaghetti and marshmallow bar.  When they had eaten all they could, they experimented with throwing dry spaghetti and marshmallows around the living room.

Unfortunately, the pictures of this post lie.  The pictures were taken during moments I was not defending myself or my house from marshmallow damage, which I don’t think is covered by insurance.

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From there, the party lost all control and jumped the track.  At one point as we chased after a screaming herd of boys, my sister yelled, “You’re a teacher!  Where did your skills go?”  I looked at her helplessly.  It seemed this group of kids was far beyond, “1, 2, 3, eyes on me!”

It’s not that they didn’t like the things we had planned.  It’s that they liked them too much.

The game of Don’t Eat Steve turned into a game of How Many Skittles Can You Sneak from the Bag when Rachel Isn’t Looking.  When I got smarter about the bag, it turned into a game of Begging and Whining for More Skittles.

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Pin the Tail on the Donkey turned into How Much Can You Harass the Blindfolded Kid Without Him Noticing.  A spin-off version emerged called Let’s All Pretend We’re the Donkey.

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The main event of the party was a scavenger hunt that sent the boys all through the house, finding clues hidden on party blowers or on stuffed animals wearing party hats or on helium balloons that would fly out of toy boxes when opened.  It was like Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episode only if she had invited a pack of rabid dogs to attend.  The prize at the end of the hunt was a water fight.  I had imagined the boys squealing with delight as they soaked each other while I congratulated myself from a safe distance away.  Instead, they all grabbed water guns and balloons and then someone yelled, “GET HER!” and I found myself pelted and sprayed and dumped on by a dozen crazy-eyed third grade boys.  Me!  The one who gave them the water fight. 

There are no pictures to document the abuse I took, and be thankful for that.  It is the stuff nightmares are made of.

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It looks so innocent from this picture.  I assure you, it was NOT.  Oh well.  At least one of the adults was safe and dry on the deck, taking pictures.

Remember the last birthday party I blogged about?  The one at Chuck E. Cheese?  The one I considered the lowest level a party could stoop to?

From now on, all our parties are going to be at Chuck E. Cheese.  I stand in awe at the feet of Chuck E. and utter a thousand apologies and praises.

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Pah.  Third graders.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Black bean burgers with a side of 8 extra pizzas Kevin ordered for the party (I need to stop letting him place the orders)
Day old sushi
Fresh fruits & veggies  
Leftover strawberry, blueberry, raspberry cake

Back again

Well we just can’t stay put this summer.  As if we hadn’t gotten enough outdoorsing yet, we went and spent a weekend at Mount Rainier—the mountain we see just about every day of our lives but which my boys had never been to.  I didn’t want them pointing that out to me at some family dinner 20 years down the road and them realizing that all their life’s failures and disappointments came from never having been to the mountain that was right there all the time.

So.  First things first.  The mountain.

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Checkity check check check that off our list.  Now can we just skip forward to the part where I post the prettiest pictures from the bunch?  Because I might want this next one to be the last image I see before I die.

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Sweet Leo.  He had found a fishing float in the bushes and insisted we tie it to a stick, and even though we told him there was zero percent chance of catching a fish that way, still he sat there like that hour after hour.

The creek he was fishing at came with the house we rented, and I have since decided that all houses should come with their own creeks.

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That’s the key to world peace, am I right?

Now, ever seen a couple of marmots in love?

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(Actually, I think he was just looking for snacks in her teeth, but I didn’t want to ruin the moment by mentioning it.)

I mean, the wildlife was so fairy tale-like, this swan showed up next and, no joke, started singing Disney show tunes while the woodland creatures took up the percussion.

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Okay, okay, you called my bluff.  This swan didn’t just “show up.”  We saw it on a tram tour of NW Trek.  But the part about the Disney show tunes is definitely true.

And the most wildest of all the wildlife we saw on our trip:

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I don’t know why they all look so calm and well-behaved in this picture.  It’s probably not at all because they were promised gigantic ice cream cones if they would just sit still for ten seconds…

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(I used to tell Rocco his eyes were bigger than his stomach, until I watched him eat this entire thing.  Now I can’t say that anymore.)

That picture came from my mom’s collection.  I was going to steal a couple more for my blog, but mostly she had just taken a bunch of pictures of everyone’s weiners.

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Oh, what I wouldn’t give to see my mom’s face when she read that last line and then saw that it was true.

More on Rainier later.  Or maybe not.  It’s summer and I can’t be accountable for anything that shows up on this blog during summer.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Rocco’s birthday menu–
Steelhead trout with lemon
Gnocchi with browned butter sauce
Bread with olive oil & balsamic vinegar
Crudites
Watermelon
Pizelles
Chocolate cake with 7-minute frosting 

Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda

Rocco has been at camp this week, which has made things very quiet at home.  I have broken up zero fights between the boys, which is nice, but the excitement levels around here are hovering around nil.  I always thought the family revolved around me, but turns out it really revolves around Rocco.

Anyway, here’s the letter I wrote him today at camp.  It will catch you up to speed on summer hap’s.

Hey Rocco!  How’s your day going?  Have you reclaimed your status as the gaga ball Jesus yet?

Our day is pretty normal so far.  We took donuts to great grandpa, who asked if the kids are out of school yet (12 times), asked if they’re building any new homes in the area (15 times) and tried to give you $5 twice (we only took it once though).  Poor Grandpa!  He’s forgetful, but at least he seems happy.  Our game of Go Fish got a little out of control this week.  Grandpa thought he was playing poker so he and Vincenzo were trying to get a good poker hand while the rest of us played Go Fish and eventually just resorted to stealing cards from each other’s piles.  Surprisingly, Leo did not have a meltdown.

Except then at home, we were watching the World Cup and all the players were faking injuries and rolling on the ground, and I realized something.  Leo can do that!  I asked him to roll around on the carpet, pretending he had a hurt leg.  He did it instantly.  It was incredible!  It was convincing!  We started laughing, and then he got really mad and rolled around more furiously and gave us the stink face and said his leg really did hurt and it wasn’t funny.  So there you have it: a brilliant soccer star in the making.

Right now Dad and Aunt Jeanette are trying to fix the wobbly toilet.  They could really use your help!  They keep watching YouTube videos, then going back to the toilet and hammering things.  Then they come out again and say things like, “Turns out the pipe is cracked and we’re sure it’s been cracked a very long time and definitely did not get cracked in the last five minutes.”  Very suspicious.  I’m a little nervous because the last video they watched involved lighting the thing on fire.  I’m going to go make sure our fire extinguisher is still working!

Love you and think of you always,

Mom

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Picnic @ park—sammiches, chips, fruit/veggies, chocolate chippers

Yellowstone: the Inappropriate Version

Actually, this post isn’t about Yellowstone.  It’s about the Grand Tetons which, my younger sister informed us, loosely translates to “Big Tits.”

It was an accurate name for the mountains, if not very imaginative.

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We stood there in awe of the mountains while Kevin explained an app he was thinking about designing where the Grand Tetons are sitting there all mountainous and  majestic and then you touch them and they go “all jubbly.”

We were not worthy of this view.

That night when we went to the ranger talk and Ranger Garett held up a pair of moose antlers and said, “This is a particularly big rack,” can you blame our entire row for busting out laughing?

And can you blame us again when, at the end of the talk, Ranger Garrett wanted to show us the beaver he kept in a cage?

And yet again, when we rode across Jenny Lake and waved to all the people riding the Beaver Dick Leigh boat?

When someone goes and names a mountain range after a big set of “jubblies,” that’s just the way things go.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Grilled cheese sandwiches
Tomato soup
Green beans

Yellowstone: the Pretty Version

Hey, does anyone think it’s weird that I’ve posted three entries about Yellowstone and zero pictures of Old Faithful?  I mean, maybe we didn’t even go to Yellowstone.  Maybe I just walked around the yard and took some pictures of my family and am just MESSING with you all.  Right?

So here.  Proof that we went and stood in front of some things at Yellowstone National Park & the Grand Tetons.

Standing in front of the other-wordly Mammoth Falls:

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Standing in front of an amazing waterfall at Artist’s Point:

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Standing in front of the majestic Grand Tetons:

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Standing in front of the stunning Fountain Paint Pot:

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We didn’t always stand in front of the park’s magnificent features.

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Sometimes we sat.

Okay, okay, sometimes we stood back and gawked and took pictures without any of us in them at all.  Here are a few of my faves, with minimal captions.

Artist Paint Pot (or maybe some other spring; I can’t remember anymore), sans selfie:

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Mammoth park was happy to see us:

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Fun fact: The original Star Trek used Mammoth Park as the setting for Spock’s home planet of Vulcan!

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The Grand Prismatic, which Kevin kept calling the Grand Spasmatic, in honor of our youngest son:

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Artist’s Point:

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And…it’s a boy!

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If you look closely enough at this pic, you’ll see a mother moose and her baby at the side of the river. For once, I’m not being sarcastic—they’re really there!

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I’m kind of a flora geek and took more pictures of flowers than I did of my own kids on this trip.  I’ll try to post just one of my flora pix.

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Well, maybe just one more.

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Oops, my hand must have slipped, because here’s another.

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Marmot!!

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On our way to the Tetons.  The only thing missing from this picture is a random kid standing on the side of the road saying, “Zoom zoom.”

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Hidden Falls on Jenny Lake hike:

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A kid who got in the way of some flower I was taking a picture of:

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And because we are getting toward the end of the post and I see you are nervous I’m going to forget to put in that picture of Old Faithful…

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What?  It’s true!

Okay, okay.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
IDK!  Maybe curry & pad thai?  Hot dogs on the fire pit?  Maybe we’ll go out?  Maybe we’ll order in?

Yellowstone: Funny Pix Version

After a day of marmots, moose, bears, wolves, bison, and pronghorns, I saw Vincenzo standing at the window of our cabin, looking out.

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Me: See a cool animal?
V: No.  But I can almost get wi-fi if I hold my phone up to the window here.

Rocco is the kind of person who cannot help himself from opening every drawer and cabinet in a new place.  He was super excited to find one of the drawers in the cabin contained a book.

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Nothing like a little light reading before bedtime.

Here is Leo at a ranger presentation, sticking his hand in an otter pelt and making it dance around.

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It got us all wondering: in some alternate universe, is an otter pup sticking his hand into a human skin and making it dance around?

Kevin’s parents wanted to know how the kids were enjoying the trip.  Kevin sent them this photo and text:

Here’s a picture of Rocco playing outside.  He eats a lot more raw meat than we remember, but he seems happy!

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At the Grizzly Bear & Wildlife Center we read about wolf #13—a calm and passive seeming male who researchers thought was lower ranking until he mated with wolf #14, a dominant female.  Kevin turned to me and said, “I think I’m a number 13.” 

The #13 kept following him around all week.

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14 always was my lucky number. 

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Looks like it’s Number Thirteen’s lucky number, too. 

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Corn & risotto stuffed poblanos
Grilled chicken
Lemon garlic beans

Yellowstone: City Boy Version

Anyone who has met my husband knows that he is allergic to the world, so planning a trip to Yellowstone was akin to planning a slow and painful death for him.  In fact, I originally planned the trip without him.  I figured it would save him a lot of whining and complaining and making comments about how much more comfortable it is sleeping on the ground than in a bed.  But then I heard him telling our friends that he couldn’t believe his family was planning a vacation and not inviting him. 

The next day, Kevin received an E-vite to his family vacation.  He never accepted, but he did show up.

Inviting Kevin along changed things.  We could no longer road trip because he would spend the whole ride pointing out all the airplanes passing us and trying to find a flight attendant button in the minivan so he could get an extra pillow.

We could no longer camp because of the whole “this ground is so comfortable” line of comments.

We were going to have to leave the showering bucket at home because Kevin would tell everyone at any party afterwards how his wife once showered in a bucket.  True story.

So we booked a house in the woods outside Yellowstone for four nights and a cabin for two nights in the Tetons.  Kevin’s skin would get all rashy every time we said the word “cabin” in planning for the trip but it cleared up when we told him there was a flat-screen TV in every room and the best wi-fi on the face of the earth.  A little lie never hurt anyone, right?

Then, suddenly, the kids were out of school and we were flying above all those road-tripping cars and a couple hours later we were watching the elk mow the lawn at Mammoth Falls. 

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Kevin was doing really well, minus the comments about “potato wi-fi” and also the constant reporting of how many bars he had on his cell phone. 

“Zero.  I have zero bars.” 

I handed him couple of Lara bars.  “There.  Now you have two.  Did I mention there are also X-boxes in all the rooms at the Tetons?”

Poor guy.  He didn’t know any better.

After four nights at Yellowstone and innumerable comments about the potato wi-fi, we were on our way to the Tetons.  Kevin was doing fine, except for the giant welts where he got mosquito bites because his skin can’t be cool about it and just get a little bump like the rest of us.  We were playing those murder mystery games.  You know the ones—There’s a man who is dead on a stump and it’s wet all around him.  What happened? 

I was feeling pretty good about things.  “There are actually two X-boxes in every room,” I said, just to give Kevin an extra boost.  But I think he was onto me because the next murder mystery he threw out there went like this: There is a man dead in a cabin at the Grand Tetons and he’s holding a cell phone in his hands.

It only took us five questions to guess it.

Does he have any bars?

Are there any potatoes in the room?

Does his face look like this?  Surprised smile 

Is he happier now that he’s dead? 

Does he have a good life insurance policy?  (This question being from me, of course.)

I’m not sure how to end this post.  Do I write a eulogy for the man who died in the cabin?  An ode to potato wi-fi?  Should I tell you to look under your seat for a free X-box?

Or do I just post a picture of some random guy pretending to be excited about his family vacation?

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Computer nerds.  You can’t take them anywhere.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Salad with chicken, raspberries, candied pecans, and blue cheese
Fresh fruit & vegetables
Ricotta gnocchi