Cocaine Cat

Blogging topics are thin this spring. We’ve just come off of soccer season: six games during the week, plus weekend scrimmages and more games games games. As much as I like watching the boys play, nobody wants me to blog about my kid’s throw-ins or through-ball kicks. The sideline talk—now that’s something worth asking about. On the sidelines is where I find out which AP exams V should have been studying for (all of them!), what style of swimsuit is in this year (G-strings!!), and best opening lines for reviewing the birds and bees with our high schoolers (also G-strings?!).

On the sidelines of one game, I learned of my friend’s dream of inventing the pizza burger: two slices of pizza with a hamburger patty inside. Now I’m planning a Pizza Burger Party where I’ll make a bunch of prototypes, even though Kevin says the Italians already invented it, it’s called the calzone.

Then there was the game when my parents set up their chairs next to us, and Dad turned to Kevin and said, “Do you know what cocaine looks like?” I was a little offended he started with Kevin and not me. We both watched Cocaine Bear. But it didn’t matter since neither of us knew the answer and anyway the bigger question was, “Why are you asking?” Dad said his neighbor’s house is going to be demolished so he got permission to go in and take whatever he wanted. Among his finds was a cat statue.

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Back home, he turned it over to notice it had an opening on the bottom. He pried it open and pulled out a big bag of white powder. We spent the rest of the soccer game looking up “how to tell if it’s cocaine” and suggesting my dad either smell it or rub a little on his gums to find out (it should taste like gasoline). Dad wasn’t sure what to do with it. Take it to the police? Sell it? Wrap it up for our white elephant gift exchange? We left that game with a lot of questions, to say the least.

To our great joy, Dad brought the cat to the next game, sans bag of white powder. My MIL glanced over at it. “What are you doing with a cat urn?” After a brief moment of realization, we laughed so hard we cried, then spent the rest of the game periodically bursting into giggles.

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Somehow Dad hadn’t noticed the writing when he pulled out the cat cocaine. The devil’s in the details. RIP, Kit Kat.

This year the sideline talk has been worth all the days we spent standing in the rain, eating dinner out of mason jars while asking the person next to us to explain what off-sides means again. We deserved this. No; we didn’t deserve it. We urned it.


And now for the exciting conclusion of our trip: Arches National Park. For this last leg, we fell into a pattern of driving a little ways, walking a little ways, taking two dozen photos,  repeating.


The first arch we hit up inside the park was Landscape Arch:


Unfortunately, I only remember the name of Landscape Arch, so I will make up names for the rest of them based on what we are doing in the picture.

Mom’s About to Do a Cheer Arch:


Skinny  Superheroes Arch:


Double Arch.* Or is it Triple Arch? I’m not sure if that little one counts. (By “little one,” I mean the hole in the rock; not Leo.)


Can Can Arch:


Behind the Arch:


Charlie’s Angels Arch:


The Gangsta’


Okay, technically no arch in that last photo, but there you have it. A quadruple blog post vacation, preserved here forever or until I stop paying for my MrsMouthy blog domain.

Oh! I almost forgot! The final arch:


Haven’t thought of a name for it yet, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

*“Double Arch” is actually a different arch in the park, but it applies here.

From Bryce to Canyon

To pick up where I left off…

After Bryce Canyon, we buckled up for the four-hour drive to Arches, which took six hours, one of which was spent waiting for a single scoop of huckleberry ice cream that Rocco forgot to order. I only slightly exaggerate. The drive was full of yet more breathtaking views: canyons of all colors, a magical snowy forest, huge slabs of orange rocks rising above us. Four of us gaped and gawked while one of us tried to keep the car from plummeting thousands of feet down a cliff, which always seemed to be three feet away from the passenger side of the car. If Kevin were writing this blog, today’s post would have a totally different vibe, with an ominous looking font written in all caps and lots of danger signs.

Also, to be clear, by “four of us gaped and gawked” I mean “two of us gaped and gawked.” Rocco and Leo spent the drive asking if they could stop being forced to look outside and play games on their phones instead. Vincenzo, Gold bless him, gets carsick if he spends too much time on his phone. I know moms aren’t supposed to pick favorites but…

We pulled over in Escalantes for a stroll through the Petrified Forest, which made this Pacific Northwest girl raise her eyebrows and say, “Forest?”


Well, you may see a forest but all I see are Leo’s socks that he wears like this despite my attempts to make him less of a goon.


The Petrified Forest was “truly remarkable,” as the brochure promised. We spent most of it discussing the differences between being truly remarkable and most remarkable and also what it means to be re-Mark-able, which was fun for a bit but then suddenly irritating, as most conversations in the Mouthy family tend to be.

The beginning of the “hike” through the “woods”:


A cool piece of petrified wood:


The boys looking petrified on a piece of petrified wood:


At one point in the road trip we pulled over to see some petroglyphs.


The boys had a hard time seeing them, even with the binoculars.


Welp, the socks are fixed, but the goon part is still there.

That concludes the commented picture section of this blog. Now for a few more:




That’s it for now. Next up, Arches!

Zion & Bryce

After Vegas we started on our four-hour trip to Zion, where a Jeep tour with S’mores awaited us. Between a rental car issue (nothing big, just the BRAKES GIVING OUT ON THE FREEWAY), a stop for boba tea, and a forehead-slapping moment when we realized Utah was an hour ahead, we didn’t make the Jeep tour. Instead, we took our family’s first trip to Cracker Barrel. It felt like a fair trade. Chicken fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, broccoli, and a roll? What reality is this?! Plus, this game of checkers had all the intensity of a red rock Jeep tour.


It was pitch black when we checked in at Zion, which meant we missed all the scenery on the way up, but the starry sky made up for it. They take light pollution seriously at Zion, so  the amount of visible stars rivaled the amount of pictures I took on this vacation. The stars were so spectacular, the only way to talk about them is in cliches. They shined like diamonds. They winked, they twinkled, they peeked and poked, they speckled and freckled and spangled.

I didn’t get a picture, so I made you one in Photoshop.

Starry night

Takes your breath away!

The next day we went on the Emerald Pools hike, which took us first under a waterfall then to the top of it.


The kids bounded in front of us, hopped across the pools on little rocks, scaled bigger ones, and marveled at the sweeping views. It was a magical lesson in perspective. Leo shared his own perspective with us at the trail’s end. “I hope I never have to go on that hike ever again!”

The drive from Zion to Bryce Canyon was even more spectacular than the night sky (the real one, not the Photoshop one). This piece of road must be where someone coined the phrase, “Life’s about the journey, not the destination.”


Miles and miles of that, only ten thousand times bigger. I generally don’t like the feeling of being small and insignificant, but it was a complete joy on this drive.

Bryce Canyon was more magic, mainly in the form of oranges rocks but also in the form of this little restaurant we stumbled on in the town of Tropic.


Finally, s’mores!


The boys played baseball using a broken cornhole set, ate a whole bag of marshmallows, and did some competitive porch swinging in a hexagonal gazebo that had six porch swings hanging in it. Darn it! Forgot to take a picture of that, too, and I exhausted my Photoshop skills in the starry sky picture. At any rate, if I ever get stuck in a Groundhog Day situation, I would like it to be this day please.

The next day we hit up some lookout points…



hiked down into the orange spires…



took some profile pix of V…

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splashed around in the hotel’s pool…


then ditched the boys for a mini hike to Mossy Rock. You have to be careful on these trails though–


there are some real weirdos out there.

MrsMouthy’s Spring Break Vacation Extravaganza

For spring break we went on a four-part trip to the southwest: from Vegas to Zion to Bryce to Arches. It felt like cheating, having four vacations in one…but our family motto is “Cheat to win,” so I won’t say anything if you won’t.

The extravaganza began with Easter weekend at my sister’s house in Vegas. Instead of going to church to see all the baptisms, we just did them ourselves.


There weren’t any crosses to carry lying around, so we improvised that, too.


On Easter morning the kids dyed pancakes, since Jesus dyed for us.


(God doesn’t read blogs anymore, does he? If so, let me beg forgiveness!)

Don and I felt that the Mrs. Butterworths bottle doesn’t seem exactly PC, but the more syrup we used, the less offensive she became.


After breakfast, we went outside for pictures. Here are the cousins, all smiling at once.


My sister insisted she wasn’t doing anything behind my back to get the kids to smile, but she forgot about the selfie button.



No snarky comment for this next one, just a nice family picture:


See? No snark! Sometimes I have to prove I can do it.

After that, it was off to the national parks. There’s a lot to blog about, so I’ll split it up over a few posts. Here are the cliff notes (pun intended).

Each bend of the road opened up to another spectacular wave of cliffs, either rising dramatically above us or plunging drastically below us. Each viewpoint was spectacular and unique, and I captured them all in a bazillion photos that look more or less the same.


Well, there was that one rock that stood out from the rest…


But let’s keep our maturity intact and move on.

I was a bit anxious about this trip because it would involve a lot of hiking. Hiking has not been a pleasurable activity for my family. As soon as we set foot on a trail, someone needs a snack, someone has to pee, someone’s shoe is untied, someone found a stick, someone needs another snack, someone wants everyone to know how much they hate hiking…and that’s just Kevin. Imagine how the boys are!

Only it wasn’t like that this time. We were able to hike. To really hike! To take big, strong strides, to feel the burn in our quads, to breathe heavily, to work up a good sweat.

At least, that’s how it was for me and Kevin. Way up ahead of us, casually strolling along with their hands in their pockets, were our boys, somehow going twice as fast as us, talking and laughing like they weren’t out of breath at all.


They literally left us in their dust.


It’s hard to remember that just last year, we called the boys the Cabbage, the Goat, and the Wolf, like from that one brain teaser. We had to be careful who we put in the boat at the same time. Now we can put them all in the boat and not worry about anyone eating anyone else. The only thing we have to worry about is the boat leaving me and Kevin stranded on the shore.


We’re not too worried though. They still need us for some things, like teaching them how to do a power walk instead of looking like a bunch of bouncy-stepped goons with strings for arms. We keep giving them advice. “Walk like your thighs are so muscular they can’t quite touch,” or “Walk like someone might have insulted your mom and you’re on your way to find out,” or “More shoulders!” or “Less gorilla!” They usually end up looking like they wet their pants or dislocated their knees, but I did manage to get one shot where everything is going right.


Just don’t click on the video.

All right, that’s enough for today. Tomorrow, onto Zion—or, as Rocco calls it, Zeeon!

Easter Inspired Cookies

My boys and their cousin decorated Easter cookies last week. They have a history of decorating cookies for the wrong holiday.

In fact, I was shocked last month when Rocco decorated a shamrock that actually looked like a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day:


…and then he flipped it over.


Here’s what he did with a different shamrock:


I’m not sure what holiday this one goes with. Juneteenth?

They do this despite me making holiday-specific colors of frosting, like pink, orange, and yellow for Easter. They do it despite me hiding the edible eyes. They do this despite me saying we never did this when we decorated cookies in the 1900s.

To my delight, this year Vincenzo decided to make a real effort to decorate cookies the right way.


So close!

His second attempt was equally well-intentioned.


Well at least he tried, which is more than I can say for the others.




Don’t even get me started on the Easter eggs.



It’s times like these that I recall the words of the serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and a basic knowledge of Photoshop to also change things.

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Sweet revenge.

(Did you spy another attempt at a carrot in there? That’s what they call an Easter egg which, in this specific instance, is what you call confusing.)

5 Random Things

Random thing #1:

Me to the boys: When I was a kid…
Boys: You mean in the 1900s?
Me: *moment of realization*
Me: Can we just say the 80s? So when I was a kid, in the eighties…
Boys: Nineteen eighties?

Random thing #2:

Sometimes when I’m making pancakes, or listening to the showers running in both bathrooms, or looking at the dozen socks strewn around the living room, I have a giddy moment. “I have kids. I have kids!” Like it’s a brand new realization. I have a husband! And a house! And kids! When and how did this happen?

(I am only being sarcastic about the socks.)

Random thing #3:

Me to V on his way to bed: Goodnight! Love you!
V: *crickets*
Me: Hey, why do you never say I love you back?
V: It loses effectiveness if you say it every night.

(This from the same kid who, when he was a toddler, wiped my kisses off his cheeks and claimed he was “rubbing them in.”)

Random thing #4:

Overheard, as a brother and sister rode bikes by my house:
Younger sister: Slow down! I’m just on a little kiddie bike!

Random thing #4

Overheard, as two sweet old ladies rode past me on the trail:
Sweet old lady: You’ll never f***ing beLIEVE what he said…

The Best Spring Play Ever

After getting roped into producing Rocco’s play last fall, I made a promise to stay away from ropes. Probably forever. So when Leo’s auditions for Pinocchio rolled around last January and the e-mails asking for a producer went from pleading to threatening to despairing, I said nothing. I avoided eye contact with members of the PTSA board when I ran into them at the grocery store. I despaired along with the rest of the play parents. Oh no! What are we going to do?

(We all see where this is going, right?)

I knew it was a risky move to attend the school’s game night in January, which would be swarming with PTSA board members. I knew it. So I prepared. I prerecorded a message in my brain and played it on repeat the entire evening: Do not say anything about the play. Do not say anything about the play. Do not say anything about the play.

But the PTSA leads have powerful magic. Suddenly, inexplicably, there I was, standing next to the Communications Chair, thinking, Do not say anything about the play, Do not say anything about the play,  while saying, “So, did you find anyone for the play yet?” In one swift motion, she grabbed my hand, raised it in the air, and yelled across the room, “HEY JENNIFER! WE GOT ONE!”

So there you are. Here we are.

Fortunately this time, two other hapless souls got roped in with me, and fortunately, they turned out to be two of the nicest, most capable, supportive people I’ve ever worked with. We were Rachel, Rachel, and Eva. The Three Rachels, as I liked to call us. We were…The Producers.

Over the next two months, I garnered enough stories and incidents to write my own version of The Best (Worst) Christmas Pageant Ever.

For example, the entire box of donkey ears went missing the day before the play. Then a kid found the intercom button during a performance and used it to send messages to everyone in the green room. The director couldn’t make it to the second performance. A scene was accidentally skipped, leading to Cat and Fox appearing on stage without their costumes, singing their songs as two random people. During intermission a game of football broke out using Geppetto’s wig as the football. I broke up a fight between two kids mere inches from going on stage, using only body language. The costume room grew so ripe with the smell of feet by the third performance that we almost had to forego costumes altogether, for the sake of everyone’s health.

And the Band-aids! Don’t get me started on the Band-aids! Behind the stage, kids kept coming up to us holding out bloody fingers and arms and legs—once, a forehead. Had the audience been paying close attention, they would have grown alarmed to see that with each new scene the actors were growing more bloodied and bandaged. We went through so many Band-aids, I had to make a line item for them in the budget.

In short, there was DRAMA.

Despite my resistance to signing up, despite the work, the headaches, the 100 e-mails each day, I miss it all. I miss the Rachels. I miss the kids singing along behind the curtain. I miss making cheesy jokes about noses in my pre-show speech. (I’d write some here, but there’s snot enough time.)

It feels kind of like the post-wedding blues. Before the wedding, before the show, there’s so much excitement and bustle, so much coming together of people, so  much pageantry and so many unforgettable moments, it’s almost like everyone gets married a little bit. Then it’s over and wham-o, you’re just normal people wearing sweatpants, sorting through apples at the grocery store and avoiding eye contact with the PTSA board members again. (One of which, I should mention, I’m married to. It makes family dinners very awkward.)

Anyway, I’m sad it’s over, even though it’s a good thing it’s over.

Still, I am not producing another play. Or going to another school game night. I mean it this time!

Leo, Age 11

Leo had a birthday last month, so this blog post feels like a late assignment. Can I still get full credit on it?


One big breath and suddenly he’s 11. Gangly, skinny, strings-for-arms Leo—the fifth grader who makes funny faces whenever the camera’s on, who runs like a newborn giraffe, and who is sweet on stuffed animals and games of physical violence.



How to sum up Leonardo da Beto, as he calls himself? Well, to start with, his eating habits could be better. He waits for dinner to be done so he can scrape it all into the yard waste then go to his room to “read,” which sounds like a whole lot of candy wrappers crinkling. In fact, all he asked for his birthday was candy. Thank goodness he got so much; now he can eat in March.

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His science experiment was about cotton candy, because of course he has a cotton candy maker. What did you think he eats for lunch?



(Originally there was a bag of cotton candy hanging in the blank spot, but he ate it.)


When I told him we were going to get cats in October, he said, “And who’s going to clean the litter box?” like he was the parent and I was the child. “I’ll clean the litterbox,” I said. “I’ll clean their litterbox, I’ll feed them, I’ll clip their nails, and I’ll play with them.” So who does Matcha choose to snuggle with?

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She wants absolutely nothing to do with me. She found a kindred spirit in Leo.

Leo sometimes gets picked last for kickball, but he still loves playing. He got a smaller role in the play this year and said, “They probably thought the bigger roles weren’t exciting enough for me.” He loves reading but insists he doesn’t. He likes soccer and videogames. He refuses to wear pants.


Leo still gets bigtime emotional now and then. He can’t be rushed and can’t be asked to do too many things at once. He has a hard time with constructive criticism. Sometimes we have to tiptoe around him.


But usually he is happy.


Really happy.


Sometimes he is blonde.


Sometimes unicorn-y.


But always, always, he is my baby because that’s what’s happens when you’re born in last place.

Or, as Leo would say, Best Place.


Owl, Donkey, and Goat

All my writing projects are stalled for one reason or another, so I’ve been going through my creative writing folder, deleting the embarrassing and playing around with the funny or poetic. My favorite so far is a document where I dumped a bunch of conversations from the boys when they were younger. I planned to write a book featuring Owl, Donkey, and Goat, where Vincenzo was the owl, Rocco the donkey, and Leo the goat. Will this ever happen? I don’t know! But I decided to share with you the first entry from that journal because it made me smile.

            Owl sat in the back seat lecturing Donkey, who had just waved goodbye to the sky.
             “You can never say goodbye to the sky—it will always be there.”
             Donkey kept interrupting the lecture to wave goodbye to the sky.
             “Now I’ve waved goodbye to the sky several times.”
             Goat, meanwhile, sat placidly in the middle seat eating the blanket he was wearing after soiling all the clothes he was wearing earlier in the day. Mom glanced at back him. He stopped chewing and smiled back with crystal clear eyes.
             “The clouds are going away,” Donkey said.
             “No, the clouds are coming,” Owl said.
             A heated debate ensued.
             “The clouds are coming, right Mom?” Owl asked.
             “M-hm,” said Mom, who hadn’t been listening.
             “Told you!” Owl said.
             Donkey released an unholy scream. Mom rewound the past minute in her head, the part she had heard but hadn’t listened to, and cued into the debate.
             “Boys! Boys!” the screaming stopped. “Maybe you are both wrong. Maybe the clouds are staying exactly where they are and it’s us that are coming or going.”
             That was a complex enough thought to quiet them for a bit, except for the sounds of chewing.