It wasn’t the tryptophan that got us…

It was the croup.  Poor Vincenzo ended his Thanksgiving night in the ER because his throat had swollen so much he was struggling to breathe.  The doctors had him breathe a cool mist for about an hour then take some steroids, and he wasn’t too happy about it.  That’s not what got his heartrate up, though.  It wasn’t until Kevin said he was going to head out that the heartrate monitor went from “beep…beep…beep…” to “BEEP!BEEP!BEEP!”  It was cute and sad at the same time, and it really showed me that when he has his temper tantrums at home over things like Daddy leaving for work, there’s a lot going on inside his body.  His mac ‘n cheese rages are actually biologically fueled.

I am so thankful for modern medicine all the time.  When my kids start coughing I don’t think, “Oh crap, this could be the end of it for all of us.”  Instead I think, “Oh crap, he’ll have to miss preschool tomorrow.”  There really was a time in history when a cough could have led to death, and not just for the kid but for the kid’s entire family.  Crazy, isn’t it?

Anyway, we’re all up and running again and Vincenzo is back to jumping around the house in his underwear, yelling WHA-BANG at everyone, being a human neck rest at times, pretending to be Daddy’s “Boy Cape” at others, and trying to teach Rocco to jump off the couch.  When, that is, he’s not screaming about the lack of mac ‘n cheese around here.

All-day minestrone
Homemade bread
Brownie pops

True Stories

1.  A conversation between Kevin and Vincenzo that shows how smrt he is:

V: Dad, when we get home I think you know what I’m going to tell you.
K: No…what?
V: I’ll give you a clue.  It rhymes with “hunk.”
K: Chunk? 
V: No
K: Monk?
V: No
K: Funk?
V: Nooooo….
K: What else does it rhyme with?
V: It also rhymes with snack!
K: …
V: It’s “I want a grilled cheese sandwich!”


2.  A conversation between me and Vincenzo that shows how far he will go to always be right:

V: Girls don’t hammer very well.  It’s kind of a guy thing.
Me: That’s not true.  Aunt Jnet is really good with a hammer.  She even went to carpentry school to learn how to use hammers.
V: Nooooo!  That’s not what I’m saying.  I’m saying she’s not good at clothes.
Me: Sure she is!  She sews her own clothes too!
V: Nooooo!  But I’m saying she’s not good at making clothes of wood.


3.  A Vincenzo statement that shows how practical he is:

V: I don’t like to eat lamb because of all that wool.

Wikipedia, here we come!

I decided it was time to take some scientific notes on Ninja Turtles.  This is what I know from playing with Vincenzo over the past nine months; he filled in a few gaps when I asked him some questions this morning.  This post will self-destruct when you finish reading it.

Species: Flying Fighting Secret Agent Shell Ninja Turtle

Common name: Secret Agent Shell or Ninja Turtle

Habitat: States with lots of volcanoes.  Ninja Turtles live in three-story houses that are spooky

Diet: Raw beef, worms, and jelly bellies when available

Behaviors: Ninja Turtles are a rare, nocturnal species of flying turtle whose entire bodies are covered with shell, including their arms, legs, and faces.  This renders them indestructible even when faced with a basket of cactus balls or buckets of electricians.  They have a sword strapped to the front of their bodies and their wings are see-through—only people who are friends of Vincenzo [the Buddha of Ninja Turtles] can see the wings.  These turtles can shoot confetti out of one finger, but their other nine fingers are dangerous.  The confetti is magic and cleans itself up.  Despite all this, Ninja Turtles occasionally get scared and shrink themselves down so that they can hide inside crumbs. 

Ninja Turtles are extremely fighty and are capable of saving the world but are guaranteed to not answer the phone if you call with such a world emergency.  In their leisure time, Ninja Turtles love to climb trees and swim in boiling hot lava.  They also lay and hatch their eggs, so it is assumed all Ninja Turtles are female [which explains their intense mood swings and frequent temper tantrums].

There is only one word in the Ninja Turtle language, and it is always said twice: “Turtle turtle.”  The Mexican ones say “Tortuga tortuga.”  This word can mean anything from “Let’s play” to “I’m hungry,” but it never ever means “I’m sorry.”  Ninja Turtles never apologize. 

Ninja Turtles often appear to the human eye as pool balls.

That is all that is known of Ninja Turtles to date.  There is apparently much more, but Vincenzo couldn’t tell me because that information “is really really really really really really really dangerous for girls.”

4 years old and counting…

When Vincenzo woke up today I told him he could have anything he wanted for breakfast, since it was his real birthday.  He asked for this:


It’s his own Belgian-Italian fusion cuisine: Belgian waffle on bottom, then whipped cream, then berries, all topped off with a bed of noodles.  He ate every last bite of it, too.  I’m submitting the recipe to Parents Magazine—other mothers need to know about this!

Next I dressed Vincenzo for his special day at school.  Only after we had gotten there did I realize that this may not have been the choicest shirt for a boy on his fourth birthday.


The shirt, it turns out, was the least of his problems, as we discovered at dinner that something was a bit off about his jeans… 



What do you think?  Is this a daft four-year-old who put his pants on backwards…or a highly advanced four-year-old who can zip and snap his pants on backwards?  Either way, it wasn’t until we got home and changed him into his PJs that we realized he was commando that entire time, which is more concerning anyway.

Dinner was a blast.  Vincenzo talked in jibberish with Abby the whole time until finally one of them yelled, “I WENT PEE PEE IN MY PANTS!” as ends all dates the two of them have.  They’ve both been potty trained for forever but they seem to lose control of their bodily functions when they’re together.  We’re thus setting an expiration date of “puberty” on their relationship.


Happy birthday, little D.  As long as I’m living, my flying, fighting, secret agent shell ninja turtle you’ll be.

Something has to be done!

Okay, I need to stress about Rocco’s name again even though I’ve said it all before and none of it really matters anyway.  Chalk it up to my OCD.  (After this I’ll go wash my hands a few times, too).

When we told people Vincenzo’s name, our biggest reaction was: “Vin-sen-zio?  Am I saying that right?”  We’d explain that no, they weren’t, and they probably never would be able to because they just didn’t have the mental capacity to do so.  His name itself is a sort of preliminary IQ screening test for any potential friends or neighbors.

But when I tell people Rocco’s name, I get a different reaction: “Oh…I know someone who just named their boy ‘Rocco,’ too!”  I hate that.  It’s not that we named him Rocco solely to be unique…it’s Kevin’s middle name, and he was named very significantly after someone dear to his father’s heart named Rocky (you know…the one from the movies?). 

(His sister was named after Wendy from Peter Pan.) 

(His Dad really, really likes TV.) 

But uniqueness was definitely a factor in deciding our second son’s name.  I mean, you can’t exactly introduce your sons “Vincenzo” and “Joe” and still feel good about yourself.  Anyway, I’m worried that by the time Rocco gets to kindergarten he’ll have to be called “Rocco B.” or worse still, “Rocco T.B.,” which makes it sound like he’s the Rocco with “an often deadly infectious disease caused by mycobacteria.”

So let’s review what I know:

1.  Madonna’s son is named Rocco (this I already knew; I’m just hoping it goes unnoticed in the shadow of Lourdes’ name)
2.  There is another baby named Rocco at Rocco’s own pediatrician’s office (Kevin keeps trying to convince me the “other baby” is actually our own Rocco)
3.  Just yesterday I found out that the son of the cousin of the lady in the Starbucks’ parking lot was also recently named Rocco

See?  EVERYONE is naming their sons Rocco!  People, I need your help.  If you know of anyone considering naming their child or their dog after my son,  I beg you  TALK THEM OUT OF IT.  Tell them of Rocco the Porn Star, but not Rocco the saint, for example.  Tell them their son will spend his whole life being rhymed with “taco.”   Tell them it’s spelled with a silent G at the beginning.  Just do something!

And for heaven’s sake, delete this blog post after reading it.  I’ve said too much already .

I feel for the flies on our wall


Dinner conversations used to be so different in our house.  It used to be that Kevin would come home from work and ask me how my day went and I’d tell him, “Fine.  Yesterday I made a student throw away the latte he was sneak-drinking in my class, and today I was greeted by the student’s mother, the vice principal, and a representative from the NAACP who wanted me to explain my actions.”* 

Or Kevin would ask how my day went and I’d tell him, “Fine.  One student stole a box of Good ‘n Plenties from another student and would have gotten away with it had she not stashed the box in her pants and left a trail of pink and white pellets everywhere she went.”** 

Or Kevin would ask how my day went and I’d tell him, “Fine.  At the dress rehearsal for my students’ play today, the main character nearly mooned the audience of students, teachers, and parents, and he changed one of the lines about falling in love to instead be about having a boner.”***

Now when Kevin asks how my day went, my stories are…well…I’m not sure what word best summarizes it.  I’ll show instead of tell.

Kevin: So, how was your day?
Me: Fine.  Today Vincenzo was pretending two skeletons were ninja turtles and I was two little Noahs (i.e. Lego guys).  Little Noah 1 was all, “Hey, ninja turtles.  You should eat more.  You’re all skin-and-bone!”  Little Noah 2 was all, “Heh, heh.”  The ninja turtles explained they had been eating lots; they were just eating all white things. 

All four went on a vacation to Africa, where the ninja turtles started digging a hole for a tomb, as they were, it was explained, extremely good and fast diggers.  A dust storm came and buried the two Noahs.  The two Noahs appealed to the ninja turtles for help, as the ninja turtles were known to be extremely good and fast diggers, but the ninja turtles pretended not to hear.  The Noahs started slowly digging themselves out of the tomb (i.e. I got a 10 minute break) and finally made it out, where the ninja turtles were testing out their new dust machine.  The Noahs made fun of the ninja turtles, saying no one in Africa would want to buy a dust machine—it would be like selling a rain machine in Seattle.  The ninja turtles immediately began warning the Noahs not to bring any rain machine near their tomb hole because it would make it slippery. 

The Noahs decided to end their friendship with the ninja turtles and they went in search of new friends.  They climbed Baby Mountain which, they were informed, was actually a volcano, but the Noahs realized it was a sleeping volcano and they had nothing to fear.  They knocked on the Baby Mountain’s face door.  This conversation followed:

Noah 1: No one’s home.
Noah 2: But I can see the baby. I’m looking at its eyes right now!
Noah 1: Yes, but I mean the other kind of no one’s home—like “the lights are on, but no one’s home.”
Noah 2: Oh. Well look, there’s his arm. Maybe we could get him to sign this paper saying he’s our friend.
[Noah 1 moved baby’s hand on the pretend paper]

Having secured their first friend, they continued their journey northward to my face.
Noah 1: Hi. Are you the person who’s making us talk?
Me: Yes.
Noah 1: Then you’ll be our friend, right?
Me: I don’t know…I’ve been listening to you two for awhile and I think you’re kind of shady characters…”
Noah 1: But we can’t think of anyone else. Here, just sign this paper.
Me: Well, if you insist. [I signed paper]
Noah 1: HA! We tricked you! You just bought one of our rain machines and signed up for one year of rain!
Noah 2: Check’s in the mail!
Noah 2: Sucker!

The game ended several scenarios later when one of the Noahs had to go potty and the ninja turtles offered to build a bathroom, then added, “It should just take about two years…”

So…how was your day?

*True story.
**Also true story.
***Also true story.  Sigh.

For Real

What do you do when the person you love so much looks at you and has only one thought: “She looks delicious!”  When his mouth waters when you’re within arm’s reach of him?  When he works himself into a frenzy searching for the third nipple on your neck, your forearm, the outside of your shirt?  (My husband has looked, too, but the baby won’t take his word that it’s purely mythical.)

The answer is you start wearing loose clothing and easy-access bras.  You bare your breasts in public or in the backseat of your car—whichever is classier at the moment.  You walk through the house shirtless and with something attached to your boob, trying to find the blasted phone. You *occasionally* sit on the toilet and have a B.M. while your nipple is methodically tugged on.  You coat said nipples with creams and oils in hopes to numb some of the pain.  You start to understand more and more what the Velveteen Rabbit felt like by the end of the book.

Because even though you are nothing more than a food source to this grasping, rooting, crying thing, he is everything to you.  Everything.  And even though it seems he is the one who needs you, you realize that it is actually you who needs him so desperately.

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time…REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

From The Velveteen Rabbit

Thank you, Vincenzo and Angelo and Rocco, for making me Real.

Reality Check

QUICKIE: Vincenzo, pressing a button on a toy while watching Rocco’s sporadic newborn breathing, exclaimed, “Look, Mommy!  When I play music Rocco’s tummy dances!”
I keep thinking I’ve really got this two-kid thing under control, and then I look down and realize I’m wiping spit-up from Rocco’s mouth with a pair of Vincenzo’s dirty underwear that was lying on the couch.  Or I go to pump milk and realize I’ve set the bottle up like this:


Speaking of milk, I’ve been pumping once or twice a day and we give Rocco a bottle during his night feedings.  We’re hoping this will keep him on good terms with bottle feeding, and I can sleep through the night if I so desire.  (I’m still in the phase where I love waking up at any hour to hold my baby.)  I keep a couple bags of milk in the fridge, which has become a literal milk bank.  The bags in the fridge are my checking account and the ones in the freezer are my savings account.  The problem is that I’m a saver while Kevin is a spender.  In fact, he spends as freely as someone who doesn’t have to hook himself up to a milking machine twice a day.  I’m one pump away from setting up an appointment with Edward Jones so we can make more informed decisions about our milk spending/saving.

Kevin is staying home for one more week and he’s started remodeling the bathroom, giving me some alone time with the kids and a frightening glimpse of how miserable the Turtle can make life for me when he feels like it.  I have cried more than once.  Today, for example, Rocco needed some momma love (wah wah)  and Vincenzo needed absolutely EVERYTHING.  Noodles.  (wah wah)  No; gnocchi.  (wah wah)  No; noodles.  (wah wah)  No; gnocchi.  (wah wah)  And MILK.  Right NOW.  And he asked for gnocchi; where is the gnocchi?  (wah wah)  Didn’t I hear him ask for it? 

After making him repeat it about 50 times until he came a fraction closer to using nice words and a nice tone of voice, I *lovingly* set a warm milk and gnocchi in front of him. 

“I WON’T eat gnocchi.  I WANT NOODLES!” 

(wah wah) 

Sob sob sob sob.

Labor Day

QUICKIE:  When Grammy brought Vincenzo to the hospital on our second day, he walked right up to Rocco and said, “Hi other turtle!”  If that’s not acceptance, I don’t know what is!
I totally apologize for all the posts I’m going to publish the next week or two.  It’s going to be a ton of baby and not much else until my hormones have been safely rounded up and beaten into submission.  I don’t feel anything in moderation anymore.  I nurse my baby and think I am a unicorn flying over a rainbow; then my husband looks up from his crossword puzzle to ask who sings Xanadu and I start bawling.  In Vincenzo’s words, “It’s compusing.”  My blog is going to be very mushy and definitely very baby, but I assure you that regular blogcasting will resume as soon as possible.

So for those of you who love a good labor story, here’s ten percent of what’s in my journal from that glorious, perfect day.  Spoiler alert: It does not end with a Louis Vuitton bag.

I woke up on Wednesday and told Kevin the baby was coming soon.  Not today soon, but maybe tomorrow soon.  At 4:30AM the next morning, contractions woke me up—they were coming every 10 minutes and required focused breathing—so I gave myself a French manicure.  Pictures, people, pictures!  I sent Kevin off to work with a Fluffer Nutter sandwich, a bag of homemade cookies, and a kiss because “who knows how long these things can take, dear.”  I was basically smack-talking labor; taunting it.  Labor countered by slowing down after three hours so that the contractions just came and went whenever they wanted.

I spent the evening alone with Vincenzo at a park, feeling all gooey inside that this was our last night as a twosome and what if down the road I forget what it was like having just one turtle and what if he never remembers what it was like to be an only turtle?  We found a tennis ball that we named “Timmy” and threw it down an imaginary well over and over again while Vincenzo laughed hysterically.  It really was a beautiful “last” memory with Vincenzo. 

Hold on a sec, I have to go cry again.

Okay.  That’s over.  (For now.)

At 9PM the contractions came back full-force and started coming faster so I called up my sister, who would guard the ninja turtle should the ninja turtle’s parents have to leave in the middle of the night.  At 2AM we headed to the hospital where the nurse hooked me up to the monitor and checked my cervix. 

Remember how I was all braggy about being 3 centimeters on Monday?  Yeah, well I didn’t feel so braggy when the nurse told me I was still at 3 centimeters despite feeling like I was in labor for the past 22 hours.  I pled for my cause.  I begged.  I considered calling a lawyer. 

Fortunately, Rocco came to my rescue.  During my time on the machines the doctor noticed that his heart rate had decelerated a couple times, which TOTALLY didn’t stress me out AT ALL, so they decided to give me a room to keep an eye on the little guy’s heart until the morning.

By 5:30AM the not-productive-at-all contractions were requiring all my attention and were coming every 3 minutes so I called the nurse to check my cervix again.  She grudgingly put on her gloves saying, “There’s no point, since you’re really not in labor…”  “Humor me,” I commanded.  She did her thing then looked up in surprise.  “You’re a good 5 or 6 centimeters!”  She called in the doctor.  Repeat scene.

The next two hours were full of needle pokes and hee-hee-hoooooooooooo’s and Kevin adjusting the volume of my soothing music because, I discovered, when you’re in labor, each song has its own, unique, perfect loudness and any deviation one way or the other can really make it challenging to JUST FIGURE IT OUT ALREADY!!  I’M IN A LOT OF PAIN HERE!  IT’S NOT THAT FRIGGIN’ HARD TO CHANGE THE FRIGGIN’ VOLUME!

The IV only took three attempts, which is a record on my veins, and the epidural only took two tries.  It kicked in at 7:45. 

At 8:15 my OB broke my water and told me she’d see me in an hour or two for show time.  I cheerfully waved her away and ordered a serving of bon-bons sent up to Room 2124.

A few minutes later I told the labor nurse, “I’m so sorry, but I think I’m going to poop the bed.”  Everyone in the room yelled, “THAT’S NOT POOP!”  Chaos ensued as they hunted down the OB and got her into delivery scrubs while I tried my hardest to hold something in that did NOT want to be held in while also searching for that mythical button someone had told me I could press if I needed to pump up the level of the epidural.  I never did find it but it didn’t matter because three pushes later, at 8:35AM, the doctor said, “Look down!”

And there was a beautiful, wet, wriggly, purple creature, screaming with life, for one instant straddling the worlds of in utero and out, knowing nothing but the smell of his mama and needing nothing but to be held by her and loved by her.

They put him on my chest.  And then I died and went to heaven.


(We haven’t put anything in his hair—it just does that.)

Dodge this!

Every day when Kevin gets home from work, Vincenzo runs up to him and yells, “Let’s fight, Daddy!”  They used to use foam swords but their fights have evolved beyond physical weapons, into the cerebral.  Instead, one person throws an imaginary object at the other and the other shouts out his defense then throws an imaginary object back.  Vincenzo has invented all but one imaginary weapon in this game.  How, we don’t know.

Vincenzo, making a throwing motion: Cactus ball!
Kevin: Duck!  Cannon ball!
V: Jump!  Cactus ball!  Cannon ball!
K: Duck!  Dodge!  Angry kitten!
V: Protective shield all over my body!  Electrician!  Zip!  Zip!
K: What?
V: Electrician!!!  Zip!
K: Uh…shell? 
V: But there’s a hole in it!  Heart attack!  Heart attack!

I’ll go make that call to the family therapist now…

Scotch salmon
Lime-cilantro sweet potato fries