Wow, I am sorry guys—I just don’t have much to blog about!  I’ve been writing so much, it just seems hard to think of more words to put here. 

Well, there is one thing that is big on my mind but it’s actually incredibly sad, and I don’t usually put incredibly sad stuff on my blog.  It’s too big to ignore, though, so I am going to write about it anyway.  Proceed with caution.

The sad news is that one of Rocco’s classmates died over Thanksgiving weekend—a perfectly healthy seeming second-grade girl.  I don’t want to say much about it to protect the family’s privacy, but it hit us all hard, students, teachers, and parents alike.  It was the third tragic funeral I’ve attended in the past six months: a child’s teacher, a friend’s husband, and a little girl.  And it’s all made me think about how much all of us have lost, and how the holidays, as lovely as they are, can also bring that loss front and center again, like the angel atop a Christmas tree.  So I will share with you the letter I wrote this family who is grieving the loss of their little girl this Christmas and always.  I share this here for all of those who have loved and lost.

I want you to know how much we are all hurting along with you. I wish that by sharing your grief we could somehow lessen your own grief, but nothing can lessen the heartache of parents who have lost a child. Nine years ago, my husband and I said goodbye to our stillborn baby boy, and laying him to rest tore the hearts right out of our bodies. But through our whole ordeal, there was also so much beauty and love and yes, even laughter. Baby Angelo has been gone for nine years, and yet we still see the beautiful ripples he made when he touched down on Earth, reaching out and still doing good in this world. Your daughter’s light and joy will carry on, making the world a brighter place, even though she is gone. She will continue to spread beauty farther than you’ll probably even know. You will always know how deeply you are loved by friends and family and how many people are there to put you back on your feet when you fall down. You will always feel your daughter living inside your heart, doing her beautiful work from there. You will always be looking for signs that her light is still shining. And you will always find them.

So here I am, sending a big hug to all of you who have someone you are missing this Christmas season.

Seared halibut with beurre blanc
Asparagus with hollaindaise sauce
Fresh bread
Candyshop pizza



I’m not too late to blog about it, am I?  After a whirlwind week of family, museums, and plane trips, I feel like I’m taking that first huge breath after having been brought back to life.  So here it is, the big T-Day ‘017, in three parts: beginning, during, and after.  I do my best attempt to recreate some moments you probably had to be there to really get, so my apologies if you read this post and just think, “???”


We headed back to Kevin’s home town of Chicago for it, or Chi-town, as he calls it.  “Chih-town?” I ask.  “No, Shy-town,” he pronounces.  I say, then shouldn’t it be “Shih-town?”  To which the kids gasp, “Mom!”

We had Thanksgiving at my husband’s sister’s mother’s house, or my MIL’s sister’s house, or my sons’ father’s mother’s nieces’ parents’ house–whichever is easier for you to understand.  The minute we got there, Kevin’s cousin Ginny hooked me and Kevin up to Kleenex boxes for a game of “shake your tail feathers” where we were supposed to jump around to get the feathers out.  No pictures, but I drew a representation:


(Representation may not be accurate to how events actually played out.)

Ginny started worrying about the size of the Kleenex box hole being too small, to which I announced loudly in front of everyone and Kevin’s mother, “Kevin’s always telling me that size doesn’t matter."  After gyrating and jumping for a few minutes with nary a feather falling out, we decided we would instead grab the feathers out of each other’s boxes, which made Kevin ask, “Can I tie mine in front?”

Like I said, you probably had to be there.  But it’s a good thing the kids were in the basement for all of this.


We had some amazing chefs working in the kitchen while all this was going on. 


Wait, what does her apron say?


Oh well, Kevin’s mom can make anything taste good.  And as you can see, Thanksgiving dinner was doggone delicious.


I kid, I kid.  Wonderful people food was made as well and eaten by humans who all went back for seconds.


My favorite part of dinner was this conversation I had with Zoey, age 8ish:

Zoey: Today the fire fighters visited my school.
Me: Your school caught on fire today so the firefighters came to your school?!
Zoey: No, no, no! They came inside the classroom.
Me: Oh no! Your classroom caught on fire?
Zoey: No! They came for us, for the kids!
Me: Oh no!  The kids caught on fire at school and the fire fighters came to put you out?
Zoey: No, no! Nothing caught on fire! The firefighters came to talk to us!
Zoey: Oh…the firefighters came to talk to you and to use their big ladder to get the cat out of the tree.
Zoey: Nooooo!

At which point Kevin hijacked the conversation and then it really went off the rails, but Kevin’s not the star of this blog so we’ll just forget about that.


After dinner, we all went downstairs to view the Ashley Whippet Frisbee Dog Museum, which happens to be in the family’s basement, and if you think that means it isn’t a full-blown museum, then you have another think coming.  There was nothing basement-y about this museum at all!  Hundreds of Frisbees, signed things, trophies, medals, memorabilia, even ashes of Frisbee dogs of the past, plus doors that looked incredibly official.


And princesses!  Did I mention the princesses?


After we had gotten our fill of turkey an Frisbees, we spent the rest of the evening mercilessly beating the 88-year-old “GG” (Great Grandma) in round after round of a fast card game called “spit.”  She laughed as hard as the rest of us at herself.

And all that was just one of three wild and crazy days in Chi-town.  We’ll see if I get around to posting the other two, but I’ve been a-writin’ books lately and don’t have much time left over for blog writing!

Beef yakisoba
Stir-fried vegetables with tofu
Gingerbread cookies

FU too

Sorry if today’s post is disjointed or doesn’t make sense at all.  I’ve actually been writing a lot lately—not blog stuff, but picture books and novels.  Not good picture books and novels, but certainly word-filled books and novels.  Thus, I’ve kind of used up all my words this week.   I dragged this blog up from my drafts folder just so I had something to give you all.

Situation A:

I texted Vincenzo the other day that he left his lunch in the fridge at home.  He texted back not to worry because he was having a big bowl of FU for lunch.  A big bowl of F.U.?  I thought that was a pretty metal response for a quiet, skinny middle schooler, and I could feel my respect for him bump up a notch.

But then when he got home from school I had him describe his lunch to me, and his description looked like this:


Not very metal after all.

Situation B:

I was talking to Vincenzo and his friend about A Modest Proposal (you know, that essay about how we can solve both overpopulation and starvation by eating children) and they got the point of it quite quickly.

Alex, imagining the future: Mmm, something smells delicious.
Me: It’s Vincenzo!
Alex:  Are you sure he’s safe to eat?
Me: It’s okay, I washed his hands before dinner.
Alex: Oh look, Vincenzo’s already at the table.  Or—er—on the table!
Me:  Yes, and this is his little sister, Breakfast, his brother, Thanksgiving Dinner, and “Light Snack,” the baby!

It was frightening how easily that conversation came to all of us.

Situation C:

Me: Thanks for cleaning the griddle!
Kevin: No prob.  I always follow through.
Me: Yes.  Three days after I ask, you always follow through.
K, leaning in: Don’t I get a kiss?
Me: Yep.   
K: I’m still waiting…
Me: Yep.  Just three days left until you get that kiss…

Scalloped potatoes
Turkey kielbasa
Lemon garlic green beans

(Anti) Bullying Day

So I got my first ever call home from the principal a couple weeks ago.  It was on anti-bullying day, when all the kids had worn orange in support of non bully types, and that day the principal called and said something like this:

“…still figuring out details…got kicked in the privates…making calls to other parents…a little confused…have a great day!” 

Leo’s teacher called with a different message about the incident that had only a little bit of overlap and made the whole thing seem like  a gigantic, real-life game of operator where on one end someone says, “Leo got kicked in the beans,” and on the other end it comes out as, “I like your new jeans.”

It’s actually kind of a sweet and sad story that I pulled out of the boys that afternoon.  Apparently there’s this group of kindergarten boys that had been chasing Rocco at recesses for a week, even though he told them he didn’t want to play chase.  He had tried ignoring them, walking away, and telling a playground teacher, but the boys still chased him and then would tackle him and rough him up a bit.  In a kindergarten kind of way. 

So on anti-bullying day, like all the other days, that gang of kindergarteners  chased Rocco and tackled him and was crawling all over him.  But then, out of the dust and smoke, a hero rose and came to Rocco’s rescue.  It was his little brother, Leo. 

“Get off my brudder!” he told the gang.  “He doesn’t like that!”  The boys ignored him, so Leo tried pulling one of them off and that’s when he got kicked.  Right in the orange shorts.

I know I should be feeling Mama Bear about this whole thing and I am a little, but mostly I am just touched by the whole brother-sticking-up-for-brother thing, especially because it was little Leo standing up for his bigger brother.  It gets me right in the feels, you know?  My boys have a love-hate-hate relationship at home and I’ve always assumed that if one of them saw the other getting it, they might just casually walk off in the other direction, or even join in.  I am so moved by Leo’s act of bravery on his brother’s behalf.

So that’s where we’re at.  Phone calls were made and the chasing stopped, though I’m told that yesterday it started up again.  This time, Rocco is prepared though—he and his friends have a plan that involves flanking, distraction, and a very fast sprint to the playground teachers.

I know it’s been a bit rough for Rocco, but I also look at everything that’s happening at recess and think how he is learning some of his biggest lessons in school out there.  Lessons about loyalty, bravery, self-advocacy, and brotherhood.  And if all this chasing doesn’t settle down soon, he’s going to get to see a Mama Bear in action.

I will be swift and merciful and I will make sure to wear the least bright pair of shorts I have.

Roasted butternut squash


Requisite Halloween costume photo:


Bonus individual shots:

Some kind of a…raccoon, I want to say?  From Guardians of the Galaxy?


Spiro the Skylander:


And a “wiking,” i.e. a viking with a speech impediment.


I shouldn’t love Halloween as much as I do, with all its sugary craziness, but I do.  I love how Rocco’s mission in trick-or-treating was to collect all his aunt’s favorites, since she was standing back on the curb.  I love that when Rocco fell down and spilled all his candy, as he does every year, all the sixth graders got down on their hands and knees to pick it up for him.  I love that Vincenzo held little Cal’s hand for most of the time, even if it meant he missed a few houses.  I love that Leo, my sugar addict, wanted to quit early and just head home.  I love that afterwards, everyone set up their candy shops in the house and each boy felt they were getting the best deal in the trading.  There were some very strange economics happening there.

Christmas is fun and all, but if I had to pick I think I might choose Halloween.




Chicken stir-fry
Brown rice

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. 


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:


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:


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


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.”


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:


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

Beef and vegetable chowder
French bread
Rootbeer floats, which I originally typo’d as “rootbeef floats,” which sounds like something my husband would ask for


This guy here turns 39 on Wednesday.


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.


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


yet so good in balls,


this squirrel here

image001 (1)

with a violent streak


this spacesuit wearing


child hat modeling


puffy haired husband of mine

kevin hs

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.


Crockpot rotisserie chicken
Roasted potatoes
Asian broccolini
Lemon marionberry piecaken