The Rocco Bloggo

…and now he’s eleven. Eleven loud, wild, and crazy years with this kid. This kid! Not a day goes by that Kevin or I don’t say, “I just want to strangle you!” But we laugh when we say it and Rocco laughs too, as if to say, “I know, I would if I were you, too.”


He’s just so very…Rocco, and he has been since the first time we told him not to touch the wine glasses and he became obsessed with touching the wine glasses.

There are words. So many, many words. Rocco is a yammerer. Like, a neighbor stops by to borrow our folding table and Rocco starts talking about when we got the table, how it folds up, how this one time Mom couldn’t figure out how to do it but then he saw a red button thing and showed her how to do it, and did you know it has more than one height setting and he can show you how to change heights if you want. Do you want him to? Because he can.

I made up that example, but I promise you, if you come over to borrow our table that’s exactly how it will go down. Rocco has the incredible talent to go from sentence to sentence without taking a breath, leaving you no opportunity to say, “She’s good, Rocco. She doesn’t need to know the table’s origin story.”

But if you did tell him that, he would smile and laugh at himself. He does that a lot. He doesn’t mind being a punchline. In fact, he kind of likes it. When Vincenzo decides to exert his Older Brotherness and tackles Rocco to the floor, Rocco rolls over like a puppy and laughs and laughs while Vincenzo pins his arm behind his back and hurls insults at him. (Granted, V is a gentle soul. His insults are very mild.)


His table manners leave much to be desired, Rocco being a huge proponent of the “food jammer,” a.k.a. his finger. The kid can eat an entire dinner, including seconds, in about five bites. He sticks a golf ball-sized piece of steak in his mouth. We see him shove the tail of it in, then he chews and chews while we lecture him about table manners and slice off bites of our own meat to show him an appropriate size while he chews some more and smiles. He swallows, then promises with solemn eyes that he will take smaller bites in the future.

But he never does. He takes big bites of steak, just like he takes big bites out of life.

Rocco’s brain gets hungrier and hungrier the more it consumes. For his birthday, he got Lego technic kits, a model engine, a build-your-own Arcade game, and assembly-required lamps. He was at the kitchen counter at 6AM the next day working on a Lego technic car, which was somehow already half done.


It’s quite amazing, considering how terrible he is at following directions. He gets frustrated so you sit down next to him and start reading the directions aloud and five words into it, he says, “Oh, I get it…” and starts doing something that also isn’t right, like putting the screws in backwards or attaching the screen upside-down.


Things we say to him often:
1. Slow down.
2. Read the directions.
3. Stop interrupting!
4. I wasn’t finished.
5. Read all the directions.
6. Let’s stop and think about this.
7. Did you even hear a word I said?
8. What did you do with the directions?
10. I love you anyway.*

He can irritate every member of the family in 15 seconds flat. He doesn’t usually. But sometimes he does. He’s much better at talking than listening. Reason and logic bounce off him like rubber bullets, leaving us to throw our hands up in the air and say, “Good luck with that.”

He built this sword out of perler beads. “It only took me four hours, Mom!”


(Banana for scale and also to the right is a single perler bead, also for scale.)

We joked that he should make a shield to go with it.

“Only six hours, Mom!”


Rocco is happy, strong, resilient, curious, persistent, stubborn, good-natured, inquisitive, talkative, energetic, inventive, creative, and confident. Oh, to have an ounce of that confidence!


He is always trying to reach something just above his head, and don’t try to tell him he can’t because when you turn around, he already has.

Man, I love this kid. He completely wears me out.*


And I hope he always does.

Salad nicoise
Sourdough toast
Fresh fruit

*Borrowed from Olivia, by Ian Falconer, which is a book about a free-spirited piglet…and also about Rocco.


No big stories this week, just a few random funnies.

1. Leo, yesterday at 8AM:  Mom, want to take shots with me?
(He meant on our basketball hoop.)

2. Vincenzo: I’m right-handed. I just prefer to use my left hand.

3. Leo: Talk to my fist because my face is busy!
Vincenzo: I’m not talking to your fist without my lawyer!

4. Leo, coming inside (and in a shaky voice): Rocco discomplimented my Sneek.

5. Me, scrambling to keep all the apples from tumbling out of the bin at the grocery store: I almost caused an apple-anche!

6. A snippet of a conversation the boys and I had about presidents

Me: I don’t remember who became president when JFK was shot…
Leo: I think that was Barack Obama.
Me, after his brothers stopped laughing: There was a bit more time between those two presidents. JFK was president when your grandparents were little, in the 60s.
Vincenzo: Yeah, because he was president during WWII.

(Vincenzo, I should point out, spent all of springs studying WWII.)

Chef’s salad
Roasted broccoli
Silken tofu chocolate mousse

Oh and Also…

Kevin did get me a little trinket for our anniversary—something to replace the one I lost a couple years ago.


He made it bigger so I wouldn’t lose it this time.


I love it, of course. The only problem is…what’s my motivation not to lose this one?

Breaded fish (the store bought kind! From the frozen foods aisle!)
Wontons (also from the same aisle!)
Edamame (would you believe it…?)
Chocolate fondant (homemade) (I haven’t completely lost it.)

17 Years

Kevin and I celebrated our 17th anniversary on 7-11. Going out to a restaurant these days causes me more stress than it’s worth, so instead we stayed in and told the boys to cook us something fancy.

Who knew Kraft mac ‘n cheese comes in spiral shapes?


They stuck shrimps onto cups for us:


They stuffed figs with Roquefort and wrapped them in prosciutto, even though they didn’t know what figs, Roquefort, or prosciutto were:


And V made this lavender honey tart.


Everything about the tart is a mistake, from the Oops, I forgot to start the creme fraiche yesterday to the next afternoon when I turned the oven on and we got smoked out of the house, as half the honey from the tart had leaked onto the bottom of the oven and no one thought to say anything about it. Despite all that, it tasted incredible and the fact that Vincenzo picked lavender from our garden and dried it in the oven  made up for the fact that we had to settle for store-bought creme fraiche.

I asked the waitstaff to dress up. Leo misinterpreted (it was an honest mistake).


Leo acted as photographer. Not bad!



Fun fact: that’s the dress I wore to our rehearsal dinner!

The boys gave us gifts all day, like this Lego thing that floats so I can eat ice cream on while in the tub:


I call it an ice cream float. For some reason that makes Leo really mad, so don’t tell him I posted it here.

Kevin also had the boys create Willows Lodge, the place of our wedding, in Minecraft. They made me character, dressed me up in a suit of white armor, and let me explore the grounds. It was crazy how accurate they had gotten the place, from the herb garden to the pig sty (yes, there was a pig sty with pigs in it at our wedding). I don’t remember there being quite so many wolves or chickens present, or a swimming pool with a high dive, but otherwise they got it spot-on. My white-armor-clad self went up to the balcony and threw a bouquet to the guests that Rocco spawned when I said, “Nobody came!” then Minecraft Me relaxed in the pool while the boys set off fireworks and tried to light the chickens on fire. It’s probably a good thing they weren’t at our actual wedding.

Having my boys get excited as I explored their re-creation of a place that is so special to me—it got me right in the feels. I can’t even explain.

The next day, we took the boys to Willows Lodge to see it IRL, and it was was my turn to watch them turn in circles, seeing what they got right and what was a little off and saying hi to the actual pigs.

Sometimes I still have to pinch myself that this is where we got married.


We kept bumping into a newlywed couple with their wedding date printed on their shirts: 7-11-20, and there we were, the same as them only with three boys, one of whom is taller than the bride of 17 years ago, and I thought again how time is something I will never really understand. Standing there with my boys and my husband felt like living in two timelines at once.


Leo, sitting inside the stone house that’s in the background of the picture below.



The boys standing in the same hollowed out tree as we are in below.


Our 17th anniversary was another one of those happy-but-different experiences brought to us by CoVid. It’s already a memory I cherish, even though it’s only 2 days old.


17 years and 2 days old


That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

Butternut squash lasagna
Plain pasta for lame-o’s who don’t like butternut squash lasagna
Hand-cranked strawberry ice cream!!!

Good Ol’ Days Fourth

I have mixed feelings about how The Fourth was this year. We had a great time, but a different time. It’s the whole Can something be just as fun, even though it feels like something is missing? question I keep asking.

This year I didn’t have to get up at 6AM to put our chairs on the parade route, didn’t have to carry half our house from the car to the chairs then back again , didn’t have to stress out that we wouldn’t find a parking spot or that that one stupid food truck would turn its generator on 10 feet away from us and ruin the whole day.

But this year I also didn’t get to bump into someone I knew every time I turned around, didn’t get swept up in a communal wave of patriotism, didn’t tear up at the sound of bagpipers, didn’t watch the sun set while my kids ran back and forth along the lakeshore, didn’t snuggle on a dock with my boys and watch the fireworks rimming the edge of our lake.

We instead had a neighborhood bike parade that no one showed up early for and that had ample parking spaces, should anyone have chosen to drive the four houses down to the starting point.


I didn’t realize how entertaining-deprived I’ve been until I went into Michael’s to get a single bag of candy melts and then had a vision for the neighborhood parade, like how some people see Guadalupe or Jesus Toast. And so I did That One Thing I thought I was done doing.


Not only did I do That One  Thing, I also spent half an hour taking photos of it before the parade.


It felt…goooooood. It felt so good to use hole punches and double-sided tape again!

And then, darn it, I did That One Thing again in the evening. There were other people watching so I couldn’t take as many photos lest they see what I really am.




With fireworks shows canceled, we decided to buy our own for the first time since 1994 for me and since ever for Kevin. We realized the boys didn’t know what real fireworks were, so we prepped by watching YouTube videos, which felt weird. Back in my day, you didn’t know what a firework did until it came shooting straight for your chest. Still, I can’t tell you how good it felt to take them to a fireworks stand (which wasn’t a stand but more of a giant pile, but I don’t know what else to call it) and see that the same fireworks of my childhood were still there: ground bloom flowers, pagodas, whistling Petes, Roman candles. It felt like seeing a group of old friends and then later lighting those friends on fire and grabbing onto each other and laughing as the old friends did unexpected things, like light the woods on fire, which in retrospect shouldn’t have been all that unexpected.


Below: a normally a very tame, mild-mannered, rule-abiding group of citizens moments before illegally setting fire to a bunch of explosives in our backyard.


The bucksaw here—that one’s new since my childhood.


It was disturbing how comfortable my boys became lighting things on fire over the course of a day. They had never lit so much as a birthday candle before.


After a round of smoke bombs and snakes, I took a big breath of ashy, sulfuric air and told the boys this—this is what the 4th of July is supposed to smell like! Isn’t it glorious? They looked at me like I had just farted, which is another way of describing the 4th of July smell.

I’m glad my boys got to experience an old-fashioned backyard 4th of July. But I missed the glossy, city-sponsored, brave-the-crowd celebration we’re used to.  I missed the closeness of the Fourths of the past—the crowd pressing me closer to my family, the closeness of celebrating one thing with one thousand people, the closeness of snuggling with my boys and coming up with names for the different fireworks as they go off.

So we had a” good ol’ days” Fourth of July. But now there are two kinds of good ‘ol days—the ones from my childhood and the ones from just last year. It’s confusing. I’m happy and sad, nostalgic and living-in-the-moment, Guadalupe and Jesus Toast, and I’m confused!

Hot sesame noodles with pork
Sweet & sour cauliflower
Dessert buffet