Oh look, our kids carved pumpkins!




Right.  Except that seconds after these photos were taken, Rocco declared his arm was tired, Leo said he didn’t want to get his hands messy, and Vincenzo couldn’t get the pulp out of the tiny hole he carved.  So as happens every year, the kids tricked us into carving their pumpkins.

Kevin and I scooped and cut, scraped and carved, and no one stood around taking our pictures because they had all left, so we have no proof.

We had the same very loud conversation we had every year about how we carved our own pumpkins when we were their age, and kids these days are getting soft and have no knife skills, and the Internet has RUINED pumpkin carving with its fire-breathing dragons and Jesus faces and pumpkins freaking eating smaller pumpkins.  We had three choices as kids: triangle, square, or circle. 

Our kids just kept watching the football game as if they couldn’t hear us.

When we finished, the kids came back to get their pictures with the pumpkins we carved for them.


Okay, so I exaggerated.  I do have one kid who carves his own pumpkin.  And even though it looks like Vincenzo just turned a pumpkin on its side and called it good, there is a tiny triangle or two carved out of it.

He clearly does not have the knife skills of his mother. 

He should totally have me do it next year.

Pizzas.  A ton of pizzas to feed a ton of people that I’m not sure are all going to fit in the house


Oh sheesh, I haven’t blogged in a week?!  Remember when I used to blog 3 to 5 times a week?  What time warp was I living in then, and can someone tell me how to get back to it?  I seriously think time is outright broken lately, and I hope someone fixes it soon.  And I’m not talking about daylight savings time here.  That is a MISNOMER.

Take Saturday, for example.  The day held two soccer games, two end-of-season parties, one kid birthday party, one workout for me, plus Kevin’s 40th birthday party.  Somehow, it all fit. 

But then today all we had was one soccer game and I ended up sitting it out because it was too much for the day’s schedule.  I just couldn’t fit it in.

See what I mean?  What is happening?!

Anyway, there are other reasons I haven’t blogged much lately, and so I present to you:


1.  Time.  Bro.  Ken.

2. I started instagramming as a way to “get out there” as an author.  I now spend hours shopping for, setting up, and applying different filters to spreads for my picture books, like these:


3.Cleaning up the colossal messes from making the spreads, such as rainbow frosting ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE.

4. Starting a website (shh, don’t tell this blog—it’s the jealous type).  Coming soon!

5. Writing.  I spend a couple hours of my day writing picture books and chipping away at that novel, so now instead of putting all my words out here for everyone to have, they stay safely inside a folder inside a folder inside a folder inside a folder somewhere inside another folder on my computer.

6. Submitting.  I am coming out of my cave to put one picture book out there (The Rhinocorn, if you must know) because it’s making this cave too damn bright and the rainbows are giving me headaches.

7. Reading.  I have finally decided to make time for it after 13 years of wondering if I would ever have time for it, and it is guh-lorious.  But it takes time, so much time, to do so much reading.  And yet, there is still not enough time for reading.  (See item #1.)

8. The soccer schedule has us by the BALLZ.

9. The dog ate it.  Maybe not applicable, but you can’t go wrong with a classic.

And that, my friends, is why you do not have a proper blog post to read today.  Thankyouforyourtime.

Who else is being driven crazy by the fact that I ended on 9?  For all you people I give you…

Leftovers, including:
Turducken (thanks, MIL!)
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry sauce
Hummingbird cake

Pumpkin Farm!

Pumpkin farm day smells like a basket of green apples, tastes like kettle corn and feels like sitting in front of a warm fire.  Well, some years it feels like sitting in a cold shower with all your clothes on but this year, at least, it had the cozy warm fire feel.


This is what it looks like when you have a mouth full of Kettle Corn but also have a compelling reason to say “quack quack.”


We flung dozens of beautiful green apples into a field.  It felt a little criminal, literally throwing away buckets of food, but who were we to question the system?


Sigh. I wish I were Cal-sized.  But I guess that would make things weird between me and Megan.


Here I am in a game of human foose ball.  Take a good look at #29 there because you won’t be seeing him again.  Shortly after this picture, I kicked a ball straight into his stomach, and when he ran crying to his mommy, he clogged his head on one of the foose ball poles and was down for the count.  GIRLS RULE BOYS DROOL.


Why am I always taking pictures of my boys feet?  Even when Vincenzo makes very questionable sock choices, I still love the feet pictures!

The rule was: if you can carry it, you can have it.




Of course Rocco found the loophole.


Three guesses on which of these kids is going to love haunted houses some day:


Megan and I agree that Pumpkin Farm Day officially starts the holidays season for us.  This is it!  The holidays are upon us!  Feel the cheer!  Spread the joy! Put the carols on the spinet! Layer it on thickly because no matter what I said about summer, this is the best time of year.






I could live in this day forever.

Breakfast for dinner!
Fried eggs
Fresh fruit

Halloween Cookie Awards

We decorated cookies this week, because there’s nothing the days before Halloween need like sugar cookies covered in powdered sugar frosting topped with sprinkled sugar.


Here they are, our assortment of ghosts, pumpkins, cauldrons, and bats.


My neighbor has convinced me that everything looks better when it’s sorted by color.  Even this sad, sloppy looking lot of cookies.


It’s true, isn’t it?

Anyway, a few of these cookies stand out from the rest, so I thought they deserved some kind of awards.  And now, here you are: the Halloween Cookie Awards ‘18.

Most sarcastic, 3rd grade division


Most sarcastic, 7th grade division


(I didn’t even make green frosting, so I’m not sure how how this happened.)

Best “Beat the System” Cookie


(During some past year, the boys realized they could eat two cookies in one if they sandwiched them together.)

Best “What Even Is This?” Cookie:


Most Expensive Cookie


(Seriously, this is like $1.99 worth of sprinkles)

Thank you for tuning in for this year’s awards.  And now you will not wonder why absolutely every surface in my kitchen and living room are sprinkle-covered and sticky.

Potato gnocchi with anchovy sauce
Pumpkin Pie

Longing for Today

After the post I wrote about feeling lost when my boys went back to school, my dear friend, Andrea, wrote me an e-mail that changed how I think about life.  She wrote that her youngest left for college this fall and even though I’m having a tough time with my kids back in school, she wants me to know: I am still in the sweet spot.  She said how she doesn’t have any to-do lists on the fridge, no crazy soccer schedules to work around, no parent meetings or sleepovers or dioramas to help with.  And she missed her to-do lists.


I think about her e-mail all the time as I get yanked around by fall’s crazy schedule, with its hours of silence at home followed by its hours of madness, of high-fiving my husband on the way out the door, of standing in the pouring rain eating soggy sandwiches for dinner.  Again.  I remember that this is the sweet spot. 


When the boys come home and plaster the quiet, clean house with papers to sign, art projects to exclaim over, dirty lunchboxes to clean, and party invitations to not lose, I remember–this is the sweet spot.

When I have to wake everyone up to take them to speech appointments and choir practice, dentist and orthodontist appointments, when I have to pack them breakfast for the car, I remember—this is the sweet spot.

When I am so spent it takes a real effort to muster up enough energy to say “goodnight” to my husband before falling into bed, I remember—this is the sweet spot.

Because the thing is, those soccer games, the birthday parties, the parent meetings and doctor’s appointments—they’re not the things getting in the way of life.  They are life.


I stand with the moms on the soccer sidelines and joke about throwing together a halftime show—how much could we embarrass our kids today?  The boys and I show up at speech therapy ten minutes early and Leo snuggles next to me and asks me to read him a book.  The receptionist asks me how my books are coming along;  I ask to see pictures of her newest grandson.  We pick up a carload of kids to take to practice and they laugh and tease each other and I learn more about my kid’s life from that car ride than I did from asking how his day was all week.

I had been aching for those simpler, sweet times when we’d have friends over for dinner or put the baby stroller and walk along the lake on a Saturday afternoon.  For those times we had the luxury to ask, “What do we want to do today?”  But now I realize that some day I will ache for this time of life—the one that’s happening right now. This crazy, missed-appointment, show-up-late, triple-booked time of life when friends and family are built into our days because our schedules all crisscross and overlap in the most beautiful, complicated, messy way. 

The soccer games that get in the way of dinner, the homework that gets in the way of soccer, the times in between, all of these little moments?  They’re not little at all.  They’re huge. 


And I am glad to be here for each and every one of them.

I blogged instead of cooking today.  I guess we’ll just have to eat this blog post for dinner.

*Also, if you are wondering Andrae, I keep seeing pictures of a fabulous Vegas vacation she and her husband are on, so I don’t think we have to worry about her too much.


Vincenzo had a hard time deciding where to have his birthday party.  He had a hard time deciding who to invite.  He had a hard time deciding what cake to have, what kind of pizza he wanted, what presents he wanted.  He’s a kid who is happy with something or with nothing, which is nice in certain situations but completely aggravating when you are his mother and want him to just CHOOSE A FREAKING PLACE/TOPPING/GIFT ALREADY!

In the end, he settled on laser tag, so we went to a sports center with ten of his buddies.  I was thrilled that the center’s party policy was, “No decorations, including table cloths, balloons, or centerpieces.”  The old me would be warding off the new me with a garlic necklace if she read this blog post.

So, to review, Old Me (which is, ironically, also Young Me):

under the sea blog

New me:


(Please note the lack of color coordinated or thematic anything, the generic paper cups, and the clear “I don’t give a fig if anyone’s smiling” air of the photographer.)

My heart sped up a bit when we paid for the boys to play laser tag and the pricetag was $100 for 10 minutes, and we had slated the party for three hours.  I started to do the math on that and it was some scary math. 

But after laser tag, the boys sprinted the bouncy house toys so I shelled out another $100 and prayed for them to last twenty minutes—at least twenty minutes pleeeease.  I must be some kind of superstar pray-er because the boys spent the next two hours jumping their little hearts out.  (Kinda makes me wish I had prayed for a cure to cancer or a new president instead.)  They stopped only long enough for pizza and cake, then went back to the bouncing.


There’s at least a 40% chance they know the kid in the fetal position.


There was also this magical moment.


I love the posse of friends Vincenzo has collected to go through his school years with.  Hopefully his life with!  They are his bouncy-house jumping, DND playing, rec soccer league-ing, cookie-baking, good-grading, family-loving friends who will never be too cool to team up against the five-year-olds in a game of bouncy house basketball.

Vincenzo again asked for donations to Wolf Haven instead of gifts for himself, but we couldn’t give him nothing on his birthday.  So he got this giant box of socks and a pro tip.


I’m wondering if he’ll ever notice this slight modification I had to make to what is definitely not a pair of women’s socks?


Meh.  Probably not.

We got home from Vincenzo’s party and before the rest of us had even walked up the stairs, he was already in his cave, reading a book on his phone.


This is The Cave.  I like to call this picture, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” by Vincenzo.

We peeked in on him a while later, made him repeat, as we often do, “I AM NOT A CAVIE!” then left him alone for the rest of the night.  It’s all he really wanted, after all.

Well, that and box of socks.

Lemon balsamic chicken
Parmesan risotto
Something green
Gingerbread cake

Vincenzo’s Bday

Baby #1 turned 13 last weekend.  It’s been thirteen years since something wriggled out of my body and BLAMO turned me into Mom.  A few friends and I got to swapping labor/delivery stories at a soccer game on Sunday, in between standing up and shouting, “GET IT OUT OF THERE!” and, “GO GO GO!” and it felt very appropriate.

Nothing brings a group of women together like sharing a good labor story, so I will share Vincenzo’s here now, because I didn’t have a blog then and because his birth day is my answer to that question, “If you could relive one day of your life, what would it be?”*  I always feel it is a weird answer because it was the most physically painful day of my life, but there you are.  We can’t always predict these things. 

Now here it is, that day thirteen years ago, on September 29, 2005.

I couldn’t sleep that night because I had a backache, so I was watching The Wedding Singer, starring Adam Sandler.  Who would have known that from then on I would feel a special kinship with an actor I had only felt mediocre about before? But Adam Sandler was there when that first contraction threw me off the couch to the floor where I found myself rocking back and forth on my knees.  That was weird, I thought to myself, perfectly fine a minute later and back on the couch.  But it kept happening, so I crawled down to the bedroom and woke Kevin up.

“I think I’m in labor,” I said.  “Will you stay up with me?”

“Sure,” he said, and promptly fell back to sleep.  I went back to my movie but a couple hours later couldn’t bear it anymore, so I woke Kevin up for good this time, grabbed my hospital bag, picked up our cat and gave him a tearful goodbye.  “You won’t be my baby when I get back,” I sobbed.

We made it to the hospital around midnight.  The first part of my labor was just how I imagined it.  I’d have a contraction, pause to breathe, congratulate myself on how I was managing the pain, then make conversation until the next one hit.  The contractions got worse and still worse, as contractions are wont to do, and I remember a string of family and friends coming in and out of the labor room, holding my hands and helping me count to ten.  There were so many people in that room with me, it was like a TV sitcom.

At 7cm, Dr. Wang broke my water and the pain got worse and I lost control of my breathing and couldn’t count to ten anymore, so I looked at Kevin and said, “I need an epidural.”

He said what I had trained him to say.  “You got this, Babe.  You don’t need an epidural.”

That worked exactly twice.  The third time I looked at him and said, “I need an epidural!” and he said,“You got this, Babe,” so I yelled in a demon voice,“I NEED AN EPIDURAL!”

And he was all, “NURSE!  GET MY WIFE AN EPIDURAL!”  Those six little words saved our marriage.

I had been panicking, unable to focus on anything, unable to breathe, but when they told me to lie still for that epidural even an earthquake couldn’t have made me budge.  I did not want to mess with the possibility of being paralyzed the rest of my life, so I laid there, still as a stone, while contractions racked my body and an anesthesiologist stuck a needle into my spine.  The needle wouldn’t thread.  So he tried again at a different spot.  Same problem.  So they brought in a different anesthesiologist, who stuck two more needles into my spine but couldn’t get the medicine to thread.

By then I was at 9.5cm and you’d think I’d say, “Forget it then, let’s just DO this thang!”  But I didn’t.  The pain was still more than I knew could exist, and now they wanted me to PUSH on top of it all.  So I got a fifth shot in my spine—this time a spinal block—and then had a few blissful, pain-free moments of pushing.

I had been looking forward to pushing.  I was strong and in shape, and I figured I’d give a couple pushes and Vincenzo would come out with a few handfuls of confetti and all the doctors would say what an easy delivery this had been.  I was going to be a delivery superstar! But the spinal block wore off quickly, my morale was low, and each contraction felt like someone was stabbing a knife into my back and twisting it around.  At some point I started screaming with each contraction, and that didn’t help the pushing at all, and despite what my sitcom delivery room friends were saying, I didn’t feel I was making any progress.

Then Vincenzo’s heartrate started dropping with each push, so I got a second saddle block and Dr. Wang got out the baby vacuum.  “Three chances,” she told me.  “You get three pushes and then we go to C-section.”

After all that fuss, all the pain, all the needles in my spine, all that counting to ten and all the screaming, it took Dr. Wang’s warning plus two pushes to end up with a warm, slippery, loving baby on my chest. With a whoosh, he was out.  With a whoosh, I was born, too.

Our hearts found each other’s instantly and we loved each other for all we had done.

It was not the prettiest of labors.  I was on magnesium sulfate and oxygen, I had been awake for 30 hours, Vincenzo was not interested in breathing was a bluish.  But it was raw.  It was real.  It was wild.  And it was worth it.

Thirteen years later and we have a lanky, salty teenager lurking about our house.  Sometimes I think I don’t recognize this baby of mine, but then my heart reaches for his and feels the catch and I know for sure: he is still the brand new baby on my chest.

Pesto salmon
Gnocchi with browned butter sauce
Kale salad with dates and parmesan
Red velvet cake

*To Rocco and Leo:  This does not mean I love Vincenzo best.  I love you all best!  Vincenzo’s birth marked the beginning of my favorite stage of life—the one that led me to all of my boys.