Keeping up with Rocco

First, a confession: I misjudged the girth of our salsa red minivan the other day. 


I like to think of them as racing stripes. 

Now for our regular programming.

The boys all got geosphere kits in their Easter baskets this year.  Rocco ripped his open immediately and built it with Kevin’s help. 


It really is a thing of beauty, and it lights up in about 10 different colors.

As soon as they finished, Rocco started offering to help Leo with his.  Leo resisted a couple times, then caved and let Rocco build it.  It was all misshapen and at first Rocco started to apologize, then instead changed tacks and started selling Leo on it, explaining how much cooler it was than the one dad built, and how the holes let the light out so much better. 


Then Rocco started working on Vincenzo.  V took one look at Leo’s gimpy geosphere and said no.  Rocco kept asking, but V wouldn’t budge.  Can you blame him?

Over the weekend, we went to the grand opening of the Maker’s Space (technology gear) at the library.  It was wild—there was Lego machine that could solve a Rubik’s cube.  A 3-D printer that was making toys.  Little switches and wires that hooked up to real flowers, then you could touch the flowers to play music.  Robot cubes that followed colored lines you drew.  A computer where you could make a stop-action space odyssey.  A bona fide astronaut (Dottie) there to talk with you! 

How did the boys do?  Vincenzo spent most of his time rereading a Percy Jackson book on his phone, Leo spent a good hour staring at the 3-D printer, and Rocco dove head-first into every piece of science he could get his hands on.  He played songs on the flowers, he made a space odyssey, he programmed robots, he listened to Dottie, he built a car out of random parts and ran experiments on it.

After a few hours, V, Leo, and I were running out of steam but Rocco had a wild, hyper-energized look in his eyes.  (Below is a re-creation.  It’s nothing like the real high-on-science look he gets.)


I have to admit, I was a little scared, looking into those eyes.

So we left him there and headed home.

(It’s okay—Kevin was working a booth there.  We didn’t totally give our second grader over to the robots.)

A few hours later, Kevin brought Rocco home.  And the first thing out of his mouth was, “Hey V, want me to build your geosphere?”


It’s official: Rocco has worn us all down to little pencil nubs.

Mashed potatoes and creamed eggs


Scrambled eggs and smoothies

(V is getting braces today (!!) so we’re on a no-chew diet this week.)


One Week of Sun

We’re back from our sunny week in CA.  These trips are always so hard to blog about—like I can now say “Charlie” in a high, whinnying voice and the whole family cracks up, but I can write “Charlie” here and it’s not funny at all.  I can make a comment about Dale’s legendary height or the second-floor Starbucks and my family loses it, but I put it here and…crickets.  I guess I’ll just show some photos then?

It was 80 degrees in Las Gatos so we couldn’t wait to get in the pool—except that it was full of these dorky looking kids.


Oh right, those are ours.  I’ll never understand how my sons continue to achieve this level of uncool.

We had Easter brunch at our friends’ parents’ house, and it looked like something out of a Martha Stewart magazine.  It was surreal!


The boys picked baskets of oranges from the orchard on the property.  Coming from one of the grayest, rainiest springs in Seattle, it felt like they were plucking the very sun out of the sky, and yet the sun shone even brighter as the day went on.


Vincenzo ate lemons straight from the tree.  My teeth wept for his.


Oh dear, but it is going to take all week to blog about the trip at this pace.  I’m going to speed things up. 

This week we…

went hunting


visited the Redwoods


Got a little tic’d


made fun of Kevin’s mosquito bite




saw jellies


lost teeth


dug deep


dug deeper


hugged friends


hugged other friends




won a duck






wife swapped


and DNF’d


It was a refreshing week away from the intensity of life and school and writing—a week to just be instead of do. 

Port braised lamb shank
Lemon chicken
Fresh veggies
Red eggs
Walnut layer cake

Spring Breaking

Woo-hoo!  On vacation!  It has been so nice to step back from writing and just live and love life for a week.  I’ve gained a lot of perspective about what I want life to look like as a writer when I get back; hopefully I’m able to stick to it and not drive myself into the ground again.

In the meantime, I remembered I also like to take pretty pictures!  Here are a few of my boys from Easter morning at our hotel in Los Gatos









(I didn’t tell them to be serious; they were just sick of me taking pictures by this last shot.)

Rice bowls

Working for MrsMouthy

Yikes, another week already? 

So I’m still figuring out how to be as a writer.  It’s funny how I have no boss, no deadlines, no office, no coworkers, and definitely no paycheck—yet I feel like I am working.  It’s all-consuming, even though for all my writing and editing, meeting and critiquing, researching and querying, I feel like I don’t have anything to show for it at the end of the day.  I mean, there’s a word count and sometimes there is a new picture book to read my boys, but nothing that feels real.  And even though I have no actual schedule–I’m still technically a SAHM—I groan when I realize I need to buy the boys flip-flops before we leave for vacation.  But when?  I don’t have any time in my schedule!  It’s ridiculous, because I have no schedule.  No one is expecting anything out of me. 

Oh, except Myself.  I have never worked for a more ruthless, no-nonsense,  no-fun boss before.  In fact, Myself is making judgy glances at the screen right now, wondering why I’m blogging instead of editing that picture book I wrote yesterday.  I kind of wish I could change companies, but looks like I’m stuck with this one.  For life.

Well, there’s always medication, right?

Anyway, now for a little levity, a la Leo.  Here are some of my faves he’s brought home from kindergarten lately:


He wrote about a playdate where they got hungry and apparently got into the rum.  “yum rum!”  Well, at least that explains the speech bubbles. 


Leo’s rosy look into the future: “When I am 100 years old, I will be wrinkly and blond.  I will feel sick.  I will be a teacher.”  He forgot to mention he will also look like the black Orville Redenbacher, but I guess that’s implied.


And this one’s just sweet, from the 100th day of school. 

Some days, I feel like I could do with 100 love.

Black bean chicken quesadillas with pico de gallo

Tortured Artist

Ah!  I still have a blog??!  Why is nobody writing it for me?

I’m still adjusting to life as a tortured artist.  I spend a lot of hours in front of the computer, sometimes typing, sometimes not, sometimes banging my head against the keys then looking up hopefully to see if anything good showed up on the screen.

My picture books are the bright spots in my week.  This month I’ve added to the Mr. Chuck series–the wiry-haired substitute teacher whose good intentions always get bungled.  I’ve written about the unlucky leprechaun who gets stuck in all the traps.  I wrote a story about a boy who buys a hot air balloon with a penny, and another about rock with big dreams of running a marathon.

My novel is a different story.  I regutted it only to find that the remodel job is actually a new construction job.  My writing coach is wonderful, but the things she asks me to do are hard.  For me, writing has always been like breathing, so hearing the advice is like someone telling me that I’ve been breathing wrong my whole life.  I’m a very strong breather, and my breathing is beautiful, and I shouldn’t stop breathing, but turns out I was supposed to be using gills.

It’s sink or swim, and I’m still walking around the edge of the pool, afraid of doing either.

Anyway.  I think I’m happy this way, and  I know I’d be devastated if I stopped.  So I guess I’ll just keep going, circling and circling that pool until I’m brave enough or hot enough or stupid enough to get back in.

Chicken cordon bleu
Fresh fruits & vegetables
Mint chocolate mud pie

Remembering the Quickie

Do you remember when I had little kids and I used to start every blog post with a quickie?  Back in the days when my blog wrote itself while I was sleeping?  I miss those days!

Leo tried to help me out this week.  He had a major meltdown when we were leaving for swim lessons because he couldn’t put on his SHOOOOOES.  He was sitting right next to two pairs of his shoes.  I told him to JUST PUT THEM ON ALREADY!  But he didn’t have any SOOOOOCCCKKKS.  I stepped over him on my way to the car, telling him to figure it out and ten minutes later he joined me in the car, somehow having worked through his insurmountable problems.

Well thank goodness, I thought.  Leo is finally figuring things out for himself.  And here he is, walking from the car to swim lessons.


You know, wearing his invisible shoes.

Then he proceeded to get changed for swimming.


Right outside the changing room.

Right in front of all these people.


I texted this all to Kevin, telling him that Leo has gotten better at being Vincenzo than even Vincenzo is.

Anyone who has read this blog since the days of the quickie knows what a bold statement that is.

Crepes!  Filled with any combination of the following: ham, swiss, Nutella, feta,  chicken, strawberries, whipped cream, roasted squash, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter

That One Time I Left for a Weekend

I left the boys last weekend to attend a KidLit conference in Bellingham.  The weekend was bliss—a good, long car ride with a great friend, meeting about 50 new friends, hearing well-published authors say that they have no idea what they’re going to write tomorrow, hugging my favorite college prof, and best of all: a hotel room all to myself.  A bed the size of Jupiter.  I didn’t even care when the  heater woke up and performed an exorcism on itself at 2AM.  It just meant  I got bonus wee-hours reading time in a bed so big I had to mapquest my way out of it.

It was even easier to get away for a couple days knowing I had left my boys well taken care of at home.  The only thing on the list for Kevin was “FEED KIDS FRUITS AND VEGETABLES.”  I left the crisper brimming with vegetables, the fruit bowl stocked, and I prepped a batch of shrimp scampi to toss with some fresh pasta.  I even left the boys’ favorite pancake recipe open on the counter.

I don’t know what I thought would happen.  I guess I saw myself coming home around dinnertime on Sunday to the boys sitting around the dinner table, eating shrimp scampi, drinking wine, and quoting Shakespeare to each other.

Instead, the only signs anyone had eaten at all was a caveman sized box of Honeycomb on the counter that looked like it had been chewed open.  I peered inside.  Empty but for a handful of cereal dust that they were maybe saving for dessert.  I took stock of the kitchen.  There was the fruit bowl, still overflowing with fruit.  There was the crisper, not a single fingerprint upon it.  There was container of shrimp scampi sitting next to the box of fresh pasta, though I guess by then it was not-so fresh pasta.

Sigh.  I raised an eyebrow at Kevin and said, “What about the to-do list?”

He shrugged and told me I probably shouldn’t leave them alone together again.

And I’d consider it.  I really would.  But I keep thinking of that hotel room, sitting there completely empty but for the possessed heater and the bed so big it has a gravitational pull.*  I miss that room and I know, somehow, that that room misses me.

In the words of another author, the king bed is calling, and I must go.

But not until I reset the boys’ digestive tracts.


Filet mignon
Hasselhoff potatoes
Salad (my usual)

*Yes, I know everything has a gravitational pull.  But it really mucks up the writing to say, “…and the bed so big it has a bigger gravitational pull than most other objects on planet Earth