Defining Moments

Rocco’s defining moment of October:

He has to do a half hour of a math program and a half hour of a reading program. He figured out how to save himself a half hour the other day.


That’s math on the left, reading on the right.

Vincenzo’s defining moment:

Leo’s defining moment:

Leo: College is my worst nightmare.
Me: Why’s that?
Because I’ll have to be away from Mom. And if you send me cookies and videos, it won’t be the same.
Me: Well, I wouldn’t worry about it yet. When the time comes, we’ll go over all the different choices you have.
Leo: If you’re even alive then…

My defining moment:

I drafted a new picture book called How to Tell if Your Shirt’s on Backwards. It begins: “If there’s a giant number on your chest, probably your shirt’s on backwards.” (The book is based on real-life experiences, and I hope it gets published so I can buy it and read it to my kids.)

Kevin’s defining moment:

(He says he cannot be defined by moments.)

Chicken chimichangas
Refried beans
Bailey’s cheesecake


I went to return books at the library and found this sign:


Kevin said, “Someone’s definitely pooped in the book return.”

Found on the inside of a different port-a-potty:


(Huzzah to all you Hitchhiker fans who know who this is!)

Just outside the port-a-potty was a lake:


with a sign:

dog sign

Vincenzo: I guess they don’t allow dogs to walk on water here.

Leo has gotten into my resistance bands lately. I found him like this:


Me: Leo, are you in a band?

It’s not as bad as the Dad jokes Kevin’s been throwing around lately, like when he asked what he should feed the kids for breakfast and I said. “Anything you can toast.” When I came into the kitchen later, Leo was eating a bowl of pasta. I raised my eyebrows at Kevin.  He held up the bowl pasta. “A toast to you, pasta, for you are  soft and chewy and delicious.” Just to drive the point home, he then challenged the bowl of pasta to a footrace, and when Kevin won, he yelled to the bowl of pasta, “You got toasted!”

Guys, I think quarantine is winning.

Butternut squash gnocchi with fried sage
Teriyaki pork loin
Buttered green beans
Caramel apples

(Re)introducing: Vincenzo

So this guy here…


…is fifteen now.

Fifteen years since this:

And that.

This September, Vincenzo’s English teacher asked us to write a letter that told about our children’s hope, fears, dreams, desires, and passions. Here’s my first attempt:

Dear Mrs. English Teacher,



Vincenzo’s Mom

If she had asked us to tell about our children’s ability to relax, to sleep in, to spend all day in their rooms, to have as few opinions as possible, to subsist for days eating only saltines and chocolate chips, and to resist anyone’s attempts to put some fire in their shorts…well then I’d have something to write about.

But I did manage to write a letter after all, and so, here it is—now with photos and captions!

Dear Mrs. English Teacher,

Introducing my son, Vincenzo Steven Beto—a simple boy with a complicated name. A boy who loves his family and mint chocolate chip ice cream and who hates spiders. A boy who can eat his weight in pasta but cannot open a can of pizza sauce to save his life. (It’s not entirely his fault; he’s a lefty.)

Vincenzo is quiet and shy, kind and generous. He hangs out with a few equally sweet (but not as quiet) friends, which we call The Squad. He asks for little, and honestly just wants to be left alone with his phone and a down comforter. I keep opening the blinds in his room; he keeps closing them. We call him The Cavie.


We also call him the Absent-Minded Professor. He’s bright and thoughtful and will explain the inner workings of a computer while you wait for the right moment to tell him he’s wearing his fifth-grade brother’s pants. As is the way with absent-minded professors, Vincenzo has had a hard time with executive functioning skills in the past. In middle school, he forgot to do a lot of assignments, or lost them, or forgot to turn them in, or didn’t put his name on them. As a laid-back kid, this didn’t bother him too much. As a Type A Mom, this bothered me quite a bit, but this letter is not about me so I will spare you the detail.

Vincenzo has a great sense of humor, and like him, it’s quiet. Still, it’s witty and sharp and packs a good punch, so make sure to listen.


(This is what “outside time” looked like this summer.)

His younger brothers experience a different kind of punch from him, as once a day he wanders out of his room to put them in choke-holds and distribute heart-punches, making them squeal and laugh. Then he returns to his room to try to meet his goal of watching all of YouTube.


He’s a magnet for younger kids. The King of the Cousins. Even though he’s a 15-year-old boy, he’s not too old to spend a day helping them dig on the beach, build forts, or play dungeons and dragons with them.


Vincenzo is a fly-under-the-radar kid who doesn’t call attention to himself and who doesn’t mind when the joke is on him. He’s easy to be around. He doesn’t have many dreams or plans for the future, no visions of grandeur. He’s happy being who he is, in whatever moment he’s in, especially if that moment involves his phone and his bedroom. It’s hard to buy gifts for him because there’s nothing he wants that he doesn’t already have. We don’t really even have to buy clothes for him, as it has been established that he is fine wearing his fifth- grade brother’s pants.


(He’s also outgrown this couch, yet he keeps sitting on it.)

Thank you asking for the letter—for finding a way to get to know your students in a time it’s hard to get to know anyone. We hope Vincenzo’s writing brings his personality to life so you can get to know him in his own words.



Vincenzo’s Mom


Carrot ginger soup
Sourdough bread
Parmesan broccoli
Ice cream sundaes