Another Whidbey Weekend

I’m all about the photo dumps this summer. When I go on vacation, it seems my words go on vacation, too.

Last weekend’s getaway was to Whidbey Island. Vincenzo forgot to ask for work off, despite the 17 verbal and written reminders I gave him. Fortunately, replacements are easy to find.

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His brothers don’t even need him to build driftwood forts on the beach anymore. Here are Rocco and Leo D starting one of their own:

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And here it is all finished:

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No matter how many times I go to Whidbey (and I’ve been going since I was a baby), it always feels new in some way, whether it’s the people we’re with or the time of year or the detours we take or the things the tide washes up. This time we stopped at Fort Casey on the way up. I took a lot of pictures of the fort and the boys, but the sky kept stealing the show.

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The sky even makes this picture I took to remember where I parked in Coupeville look good!

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Fort Casey was such a hit, we stopped at Fort Ebey the next day. The next two are both search-and-find pictures. Can you spot all three boys?

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Leo thought this would make a good picture.

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I woke up on Sunday to see two young bucks play fighting outside my window. I think that makes me officially a Disney princess.

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We forgot to bring snacks to the beach, so we had to improvise.

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I found this cool rock and seaweed creature on the beach and asked McStreamy to add eyeballs.

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She went for the extra credit.

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Other than all that, the boys ran their hearts out in wide open fields, collected rocks on the beach, turned to prunes in the pool, ate triple scoop cones at an arts-and-crafts fair, climbed giant rocks, played board games, and watched a parasailer jump off a cliff and possibly fall to his death.

(He’s okay, right?)

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And there you have it: another amazing, unforgettable, magical weekend of the same-old, same-old.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Picking up something-or-other

Look Who Turned 13!

It’s Rocco! Rocco turned 13! Which means it’s time for his 13th birthday blog post!

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If there were one word to describe Rocco, it would be wordy. If there were a sound, it would be the shhhhhlck of Lego bricks being rifled through. If there were a taste, it would be preceded by the words “five alarm.” If there were a color, it would be the blue of this blasted sweatshirt he won’t take off this summer.

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And then in the winter, he refuses to wear anything but shorts!

But because Rocco loves to prove me wrong…

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In some ways he’s still smooth-brained (can we please get away from answering everything with “yo’ mama?”). In some ways he’s brilliant (he’s already solved global warming in his head. Twice.).

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Rocco comes home from school with his planner filled out, tells us his plan for homework, writes a note to himself to talk to the teacher about a wrong answer he got on a test, makes a schedule for the evening, and plows through it. Afterwards, he studies our calendar, makes a few phone calls, tells me that he’s arranged a five-day sleepover with his best friend, and hands me a grocery list.

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He’s more likely to defend himself than apologize. (“But I thought Leo wanted to be sprayed with the hose.”) If you tell him you don’t feel like making fettucini alfredo for lunch, he’ll make it himself. He refuses to drink boba from any place other than Bobae, where Vincenzo works, even if we’re at a different boba shop and everyone else is ordering something. If I yell, “WHO ATE ALL THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS?” Rocco hops on his bike and rides to the store to buy more, even though we all know Vincenzo ate the chocolate chips.

He’s good at both time management and micromanagement.

He’s not good at holding babies.

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Whenever a Nerf gun breaks, he and Kevin take it apart to fix it. They watch tutorials, order parts, unscrew things, and 3-D print pieces. They solder things in the kitchen. Not once in all the years have they successfully fixed a Nerf gun. But then, they also have not burnt the kitchen down, so that’s something.

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We sometimes have to yell, “NO ROCCO!” just like when he would sprint-crawl to the wine glass rack. He pushes farther and farther still. It’s not that he’s trying to be bad. It’s just that he’s still as intrigued with the world around him as he was then, ready to learn something new, wanting to see what happens if he pushes this button or touches that particular wine glass.

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Rocco is a buoy that always pops back up. He’s the question mark at the end of a sentence. He’s the kid wearing a penguin suit in a rendition of The Tempest. He’s a triple scoop of ice cream when you asked for a sample.

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It’s a good thing we love our ice cream.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Sticky finger ribs
Mac ‘n cheese
Baked beans
Blue cheese coleslaw
Mix ‘n match ice cream sandwiches

Summer Catch-up

Yikes, here we are in August already! Summer feels like a bus that I grabbed onto  as it passed by and am currently flying behind, hanging on with one hand, yelling woo-hoooo and slow doooowwwwn!

The boys’ summer to-do list was very thin compared to other years, yet somehow the adventures found us anyway. Here are some of the early summer highlights. I hope this post isn’t being graded because it’s rife with inconsistent formatting and punctuation.

Here’s Leo jamming in the kitchen:

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One of our many attempts at making boba (we’ve come a long way!)

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We’re working on our new bathroom…

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and also on our new leak.

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Tried out paddle boarding:

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Rocco turned 13! Hopefully I’ll have time to write a proper post about it soon.

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The boys leveled up to double decker forts.

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Captain Rocco drove us around Lake Union on an electric boat.

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Our perfunctory summer trip to Snoqualmie Falls:

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Climbing trees at the Seattle arboretum:

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Did some cat sitting for this gorgeous guy:

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Leo and the neighbors made a lemonade stand. No takers on the $25 haircuts, but they managed to eke $120 out of their customers, most of whom were blood relatives.

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Leo made it through Twilight Camp with nothing more than mere flesh wounds.

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Spent a day tooling around Bainbridge Island

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Kevin and I celebrated 19 years together.

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And we spent a few crazy fun days in Coeur d’Alene with my extended family.

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Whew! I need a moment to catch my breath!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Beef stroganov
Salad with green goddess dressing
Ice cream sandwiches

Hearing Things

Kevin and I keep hearing things Vincenzo never said, like, “I have Wednesday off work,” and “I filled out the paperwork for volunteering,” and “I already ate dinner.” When we realize he did not, in fact, have Wednesday off or fill out the paperwork for volunteering or eat dinner, we get: “I never said that!”

Yesterday I approached him. “You know, it’s funny, but both Dad and I keep thinking we heard things that you never said.

He didn’t even look up from his phone. “They say hearing is the first thing to go with old age.”

Something else we thought we heard him say: “I got in a little accident but no one is hurt and there was no damage.” (The next day he asked for our insurance information to pay for damages to the other car.)

Another fun thing he said: “I almost killed someone on my way home from work but we both stopped in time. Don’t worry; it was the kid’s fault.”

And: “The headlights on the car aren’t working, so I drove home with the parking lights on. Everyone kept flashing their brights at me.”

I really need to get my hearing checked before I hear anything else.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Soba noodle salad with chicken
8 sugar snap peas from our garden (!!)
7 raspberries from our bushes (!!)
Chocolate decadence cake with strawberry sauce

So Much Nothing

We’re still quarantining from our little COVID stint, so I have essentially nothing to do…and there still aren’t enough hours in the day to do it. Gardening, cooking, baking, cleaning desks out, blogging, writing, scrapbooking, playing board games, nagging Vincenzo, watching movies, sorting Legos, reading, working out (in the backyard). I don’t even have time for pinball, we’re that busy! I’m worried that at some point Rocco and Leo will realize no one is coughing anymore and ask to go to the beach and I am going.to.EXPLODE.

Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about that yet, as the boys couldn’t think of a single thing to put on our summer fun list. I made one for them instead.

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I’ve never seen them run for the pencil drawer so fast.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pasta primavera
Cherries
Mix ‘n match ice cream sandwiches

San Diego ‘22

It took me a bit to get over the transition to summer, especially since it was still gray and 50 degrees when the kid came running out of the school doors…but after a week in the California sun, I’m over the hump. Summer! Yay!

We met up with our friends-that-feel-like-family in San Diego. The ages of their two boys extend down nicely from ours so that it felt like we were a happy family of five boys and their two moms and dads, enjoying the zoo and Legoland.

We saw a giraffe wearing a hat:

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a bucket flamingo (the others were standing sensibly in a small pond):

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a monkey on its mother’s back:

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a big lion:

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two smaller lions:

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and a bunch of weird looking koalas.

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There was beach time:

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pool time:

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even New York City time.

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Vincenzo discovered the art of exerting minimal energy while keeping the younger kids entertained.

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(They’re supposed to be abs, not ribs.)

Leo had a turn too, but he had eaten so many chicken nuggets in those five days that his sand body looked like this:

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Vacations are the only time he eats.

The rest of the trip is not pictured here because we either ate it, drank it, or laughed it away, and inside jokes about Sea Hats and Racing Spoons are just too hard to explain.

Now we’re back home, but the fun times are still going. Kevin, Vincenzo, and I all tested positive for COVID the next day! COVID! Yay!

We’re feeling find—just mild cold symptoms—and the “yay” is genuine, as I can now bake, lounge, read, write, and watch all the movies I want without feeling like I should be doing something else.

Yay!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken and dumplings
Ice cream sandwiches

Time Warp

I ran into a young lady at my favorite clothing store yesterday and as I stood in front of the mirror checking out my backside in a pair of short shorts, she said, “Weren’t you my English teacher in junior high?” Turns out I was.

“Where has life taken you since then?” I asked.

“Well, my son just graduated from high school…”

Whaaaaaaaa?!

Yes, this person who I last saw when she was 13 and had braces is now an empty nester who snow birds with her husband in Arizona and they’re thinking of moving to Portugal, now that they don’t have kids at home. For those of you who are good at math (I stopped teaching when I had Vincenzo), you’ll realize it is her stepson, but still.

The conversation moved on to complaining about city council, the ridiculous increase in property tax, and whether the shorts made my butt look big, but the whole time all I was thinking was “!!!!!!!!!”

Time always gets whack for me at the end of the school year, thinking how fast everything’s going and how one minute it’s preschool, the next college tours, but this year I’m a little more messed up than usual. Am I young? Am I old? Are the kids growing too fast? Are they growing too slow? Do we at some point go back to the beginning and start all over again? Is time maybe less like a straight line and more like this?

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I don’t have any answers, other than that the shorts did not, in fact, make my butt look big.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pizza and pasta
Cotton candy

Famous Last Words

My family went to our cabin on Whidbey for Memorial Day as usual. The boys built mattress forts inside, dug a WWI style trench on the beach, went to a parade in Coupeville, hiked around Deception Pass, and had an amazing time.

There was only one glitch that weekend. One tiny blip among all the lovely moments: Rocco threw up all of Friday night. We considered packing up and heading home, but  on Saturday morning he was up before anyone else, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, asking if he could go to the beach.

“It was probably just something he ate,” we said.

Boy, were we dumb.

An hour after getting back Sunday, Vincenzo said he had a stomachache. 15 minutes later, he was at the toilet. Then I got a text from my sister, saying she got it too. An hour later, both Leo and I started up. It was not a one-off kind of thing either; it was an EVERYBODY OUT kind of sickness where you threw up again and again and again and again. Fortunately, Leo and I were on a syncopated rhythm. As soon as one of us went in (blaaaaargh! flush!) the other went in (blaaaaargh! flush! ), then the first (blaaaaargh! flush! ). It was almost poetic.

Each time a new person got it, a group text went out. It was like watching major cities fall as the tanks rolled in. Jeanette’s boyfriend, then Michelle, then Luke, Ari, my dad…but all the while, Mom bravely held out. We thought she was going to make it. On Tuesday morning, her text came in. Somewhere in the distance  a lone trumpeter began playing Taps.

We sent other texts too, comparing symptoms. One end or both ends? Fever and chills or just fever? Every half hour or every two hours? I’ve never before been jealous of someone who threw up twice then had a day of fever and chills.

Once all was said and done came the daunting task of cleaning and sanitizing the bathrooms. You might think what we did is extreme…

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…but then, Norovirus is not something to be trifled with.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ginger sweet potato soup
Teriyaki pork
Won tons
Candy shop pizza

Mrs. Mouthy’s Delights

Have you all read The Book of Delights by Ross Gay? For a year, he wrote down a delight a day, and since reading the book, I’ve been finding delights in my life, too. I don’t try to force it, but once or twice a week something will hit me in just a way that makes me put my finger in the air and announce, “Delight!” Then I go home and write it down, which is a delight all in its own.

Normally I save this kind of creative writing in hopes that someday it will get published, but I’m tired of waiting for the unknown, so I am going to put my delights here. Here, in this safe place where no one critiques or rejects or tells me it’s just not working for them. Here, on this comment-devoid blog, I will post my delights. (Though I’d love your comments!) (But only the good ones!)

With no further ado…

March 12: An elderly couple walking along the lake on a cloudy day, both in unremarkable clothing, backs bent from age and the cold, and her with a pair of the fullest, most spectacular, fuchsia-painted lips. She looked at me with her Look at Me Lips, and I felt suddenly that I knew who she was, or rather, that I knew who she is.

April 25: When I went to chop vegetables for soup on this April day, I noticed the dappled shadows of leaves playing on my counter and realized that this is a thing of spring I hadn’t noticed before. It’s something that surely has been here on my counters every spring and summer, but now that I’m aware of its seasonal show, only now does it fully exist. Now it belongs to me, this dancing of leaves upon my unchopped carrots.

May 25: Would you trust me if I said that today I delight in having a cold? A baby cold that’s naught but a stuffy nose. The first of any kind of sickness I’ve had since quarantine started two years ago. This cold, plus another bout of rainy weather, has brought with it several mid-afternoon naps without the consequence of ruining a good night’s sleep. Today I’m treating myself with extra care and gentleness. This cold has made me be a good mother to myself, and I’ll almost miss it when it’s gone.

May 29: A go-kart under construction by two boys and a girl with matching, sun-bleached hair, surprised me on my walk outside our family’s beach house today. A go-kart made of two Rubbermaid tubs, each with a car seat inside, their lids being used as running boards, all atop a dolly on its back for the wheels. The whole thing was tied to the oldest boy’s bike and the girl held a remote control, just for the idea of it. The contraption was so wildly imaginative as to be a Shel Silverstein poem. Perhaps it was their own vision, dictated to a willing dad. Perhaps it was his childhood vision finally come to life for his own kids.

While such an unhinged, wild creation could never exist along the well-planned streets of my children’s lives, it brings me joy to know that not too far away, a trio of towheaded kids are riding down a bumpy road in a two-seater, Rubbermaid, remote control go-kart.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Shredded chicken in gravy
Mashed potatoes

Kids at Play

Last week was an exciting but busy one, with Rocco and Leo being in plays over the weekend. Leo played Smee in Peter Pan and Rocco played Trinculo in The Tempest, Disney Cruise Version, as his play director is the creative sort.

A few weeks after rehearsals started, Leo began asking about what bouquet I was going to make him. He gave me a lot of suggestions and asked so many questions about it, I grew suspicious it’s the only reason he signed up for the play. He had big expectations after the Twinkie minion bouquet I made Rocco last year. It was a lot of pressure! Fortunately, I managed to pull it off.

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In Rocco’s play, most of the lines were true to Shakespeare’s work, but every once in a while a line was altered to have the name of a candy in it to work in some of the Disney Cruise stuff, so I made Rocco a bouquet of all the candies mentioned. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of it until he and his friends took literally one bite out of all the candy.

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This was the first time any of my boys had a role not added in to uphold the “no cuts” policy (you may remember Vincenzo as the left front wheel in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, or as a member of the on-stage audience whose role it was to have occasional facial expressions in Mid Summer Night’s Dream).

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Rocco is in the penguin costume, as I’m sure Shakespeare intended.

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Leo is the one grinning as his throat’s about to be slit.

He had to put on a few pounds to play the part.

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Leo was so proud of his big role. He identified as Smee so much that for the past month it’s been all “Aye aye cap’n” and “Ahoy, mateys!” at home. He actually practiced the songs and dances on his own and learned how to play his solo, I’m a Little Teapot, on the piano, even though he hates playing piano.

His excitement was so contagious, even wearing a mask didn’t prevent me from catching it. I’ve never done more than the minimum duty for plays, chaperoning the required rehearsal and signing up for a committee that requires the least amount of work. This time, with my boys having bigger roles, and specifically with Leo having a role big enough to have its own understudy—well, I couldn’t help myself. There I was, showing up to practices I wasn’t chaperoning, coaching my kid on the way home from rehearsals, making my own adjustments to his costume, and having the music director send me a copy of his mini solo so we could practice at home. I did everything short of spray-tanning him.

The month and a half of practices flew by. Opening night happened. Closing night followed. The boys took their final bow, collected their bouquets, then went home and picked up life where it left off six weeks ago.

Well, almost everyone.

I’m sitting at home, looking at the fridge where last week hung an intense, color-coded schedule, feeling a bit empty. I don’t want to go back to normal life! I want the songs and dances, the spotlight, the applause, the bouquets. I want my little monkeys to dance again! Here I am on the couch, feeling like a bride the day after her wedding.

*slaps left cheek*
*slaps right cheek*

Okay. Reality check. My boys were in plays. They had a fabulous time, they loved their roles and their bouquets, and when the plays were done they happily moved onto the next thing. That’s all a mother could hope for.

That, plus a stage, a musical director, an ensemble, a spotlight, and an audience…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Brown sugar glazed salmon
Roasted potatoes
Parmesan broccoli