Funnies

It’s rainy and muggy today and I’m not sure if I’m depressed that it doesn’t feel like summer and we’re not at the beach or enamored that I get to spend another day wrapped up in blankets, reading whatever is in reach and writing whatever comes to mind. Put me down for both, I guess. Right now I’m cleaning out my drafts folder so what you see below is like finally taking that one box of things to Goodwill.

1. Does this bee sting make me look fat?

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(Not a new one—just still whining about the one I got the first day of summer.)

2. Sometimes things get weird when you reuse plastic bags.

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3. Watching a movie where the main character has a detachable leg (i.e. artificial limb).
Leo: What if he had two detachable legs?
Vincenzo: All legs are detachable. Some are just harder to get off.

4. The kids all keyed up to get candy at the Memorial Day Parade. When the first handful was thrown, everyone ran out except Vincenzo. “No candy for you this year?” I asked. He explained it didn’t matter because we all divide it up equally in the end anyway, so he was just going to sit there and enjoy the parade while everyone else got candy for him.

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5. Leo, reading from a joke book: Dad, what letter of the alphabet can you drink?
Kevin: P!

6. Every time I go to Target, I have to fight a huge urge to call Cuba.

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7. Leo set his stuffie hick here and said, “Now Chick has a place to rest his head.”

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(I think we can all relate.)

8. Trying to choose a card for Vincenzo’s spring play (he didn’t feel too great about how it was going to go):

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9. Leo: The last one must be a strong cup of coffee! (He didn’t even realize the double entendre.)

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers, including:
Chicken fajitas
Fried rice with ham and peas
Potato leek fritatta
Garlic green beans

Spoonful of Sugar

Last week my dear friend Megan and her family moved out of the house next door–moved on from their Seattle adventure and on to the next adventure in Chicagoland, where they found their dream neighborhood, dream house, and dream job. I don’t know how to describe the past three years I’ve had living next door to Megan. It’s like the Mary Poppins movie except instead of a nanny dangling from that umbrella was a magical, sparkly, brand new unicorn friend.

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Megan used to work at Disneyworld. The current version of Megan is a fifth grade teacher. When any of her students had a birthday she’d leave a handful of pixie dust on their desks.* Real pixie dust, she added. Her kids might be skeptical at first but the more time they spent in her class, the more they came to believe in magic, too, and the more they believed in the wishes they made. As proof of the strength of Megan’s magic, I should mention that even the fifth grade boys would blow the pixie dust off their desks and make wishes.

You know what I miss? I miss seeing their bathroom light at dinner time and our family’s guessing game of what’s going on in that bathroom. When we told Megan about the game, she started placing various objects on the windowsill just to keep us guessing. That’s what kind of neighbors we were.

We lived so much life together in three years. We went to the zoo and science center together, had spontaneous dinners and overly planned parties together. We sat on the grassy knoll at the beach and watched 4th of July parades together.

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We doubled dated, ate huge breakfasts at the Maltby Café, stayed up until 2AM talking when there was that much talking to be had. There were Christmas Eves and summer BBQs, football games with fried chicken, 80s parties with bad hair. We spent weekends at Whidbey Island and Suncadia.  We’d accidentally find ourselves at a vodka bar in the middle of a grocery trip.

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We spent so many afternoons at the beach, Megan in her red swimsuit with white polka dots, her belly getting bigger and bigger until George was ready to pop out. And when he did, I was the lucky one who got to bring Cal to the hospital to meet his baby brother. (Talk about magic!)

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Megan and her family would show up on Halloween as a Jurassic Park crew or the cast from Curious George.

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We shared books and recipes, classroom ideas, cookies, Tupperware, and a slightly inappropriate sense of humor.

Megan’s the kind of mom who doesn’t overreact when her kid drops a plate of food on the floor. The kind of Mom who, when you ask about her boys, doesn’t tell you about their latest and greatest accomplishments but instead tells about The Horrific Poop Incident of Last Saturday and asks again for the name of the carpet cleaning company you use.

Megan just gets what life is really about. She knows that life is about going on a drive to help your kids fall asleep and ending up at a little restaurant in the heart of the mountains. It’s about coming home from a long day of work and playing baseball with a plastic bat and soccer ball on the front lawn. It’s about inviting someone in when they knock on the door. It’s about never making that someone feel they’ve stayed too long. It’s about watching your kid lick a blob of frosting off his hand, then letting him feed you a fresh blob from that same finger. It’s about ordering more food than you could possibly eat and then ordering dessert too. It’s about letting others help you when help is needed. It’s about knowing that you are enough and  that perfect doesn’t always mean the corners are tucked in and the pillows arranged just so—it can also be blankets hanging off the bed and the pillows being thrown at each other.  It’s knowing that beautiful doesn’t look as much like the “after” picture as it does the “before.”

When I’m around Megan, I feel better about who I am—like I’m being looked at through a pair of glasses that show the loveliest parts of me. That’s how it is for everyone who knows her.

Last Friday, it was time for Mary Poppins to move on. I wasn’t ready, but the final ballad was starting up and the credits were about to roll so we stood on their lawn and hugged until our arms hurt and I took about 100 pictures of her family and they got in their van and drove down our street for the last time. We cheered and waved because as sad as we were for ourselves, we were so happy for them. It felt, I imagine, like blowing a handful of pixie dust off your desk and making a wish. So I made one. It’s not hard to guess what it was. All we need is a long weekend and a handful of plane tickets to make it happen.

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Le sigh.  I miss them so.

I will end, however,  not with a teary sentiment but instead with the ridiculous because more than anything, I will remember the laughs this family gave us. And so, here area few life lessons we learned from Megan’s family.

1. If your pants fall down at a party, just throw your hands up in the air and yell, “Whee!”

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2. Perfect sometimes looks like this:

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3. But sometimes it looks like this:

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4. And more often than not, this:

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6. If you find a crown lying around, by all means try it on.

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7. The same goes for glasses.

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8. You can never go wrong with a yellow slicker and matching galoshes

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9. You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose…and you can also pick your mom’s nose.

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10. And finally, if your dreamcatcher isn’t big enough to catch all your dreams, make a bigger one.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ask Kevin’s Mom!

*Please excuse the tense changes in this post—when I tried it all in past tense it sounded like they were dead, but present tense didn’t work either. It’s a perfectly imperfect mess of past and present, with a bit of the future thrown in hopefully.

MOHAI

Yay! Summer field trips are back! We took our first one to the MOHAI, which is a great museum because it is full of things kids can touch and pull and poke and twist, and those things do no touch, pull, poke, or twist the boys back like they do at home.

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One of our city’s old tow trucks, and an example of what happens when you take a Dad Joke too far.

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Rocco in his happy place (every place is Rocco’s happy place):

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We always love this display of our city’s former icons, from beer to clams to volcanoes. The kids turn any of the wheels and each of the displays does something. The only thing that would make it better is if it started raining real rain on you the minute you touched a wheel.

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But despite all the bells and whistles at the museum, my favorite part is always the table with pencils and paper where you can draw your own invention. Like:

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Most pictures come with an explanation, but Octoship does not need one.

Kevin got it in his head last year that I should write a picture book about an economy that uses chicken nuggets instead of money as currency. He genuinely thinks this would make a great picture book and brings it up frequently, despite the consistent look of NO on my face. But I was feeling generous yesterday and so I present to you…

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Rocco created an invention to solve homelessness:

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Houses. Houses will solve homelessness.

Vincenzo takes first place this time, though. Whatever device you’re reading this on, it is worth taking the time to zoom in so you can learn about all the features of the Hovercat 3000.

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It’s going to be a good summer.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Leftovers, including…
Sticky finger ribs
Grilled chicken
Fettucini with gorgonzola, walnuts, and grilled radicchio
Fruit pizza

Because BEES

Stung by a bee. The first day of summer break. The FIRST DAY. This is exactly why I have a hard time with the last day of school. Because BEES. Right on my middle finger, too. I am not kidding you, that bee, which was really a wasp because EFFING WASPS, came and stung me on my middle finger the first day of summer vacation.

I only cried a little. I mean, when the kids got on the bus for their last day, I only cried a little. When the wasp stung me, there was much more swearing and much less crying, plus quite a bit of running because they sent a couple thugs out to finish the job.

Not to mention just a second before getting stung, I got stabbed in the thumb by a thorn and now my thumb hurts.

Since we’re talking about pain,I should also mention that on Sunday Kevin ordered a tea latte to share with me because I can’t have coffee anymore and I took one tiny sip and said, “It’s good—but that’s not tea.” The barrista had made a regular coffee latte. One sip, one teensy weensy teeny tiny sorry little sip, and an hour later I had the worst canker sore of my life. It is still going strong and it’s four days later. Now along with the usual things I can’t eat (coffee, artificial sweeteners, citrus fruits, tomatoes, pineapple) I also cannot eat anything with vinegar, salt, fruit, chocolate, or flavor. I’m down to vanilla yogurt and hard boiled eggs and I am googling things like “Can you die of canker sores” because this one really has it out for me.

And even though I am “living the dream,” as Kevin points out whenever I go down this rabbit hole of self-pity, I am having a no good, very bad day and I hope my mom reads this post and calls so I can say, “I got stung by a bee,” because that’s what you do with bee stings. You tell your mom and she makes you feel better.

Then you send your husband outside with a big can of poison and instructions to kill everything in the hive but make sure he kills that one wasp last so it can watch its entire family suffer and die before he finally succumbs to the poison himself. Then Kevin is supposed to yell to the garden, “LET THIS BE A WARNING TO ALL OF YOU EFFING LITTLE BASTARDS.” And he’s supposed to shake the other, unopened can in a menacing fashion.

I’m sorry. I don’t usually swear in my blog, but I got stung by a bee today.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Vanilla yogurt
Hard boiled eggs

P.S. It did cheer me immensely when I came across this gem from Leo’s one million  end-of-year papers that got sent home yesterday.

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He meant “potions,” but I hope he sticks with poisons so I can spray them all over the wasps.

Another Stupid Last Day

School’s out tomorrow and you know what that means—it means a sappy, blubbery blog post where I cry all over the keyboard and wonder where all the time went and how it went so fast and wish I could go back to where the whole family fit in the palm of my hand  and I could hold them close to my chest. You’ll remind me of the diapers. I’ll say I never minded changing them. You’ll remind me of the sleepless nights. I’ll say I’ve forgotten them. You’ll remind me of how they needed me every minute of the day. I’ll say that’s what I miss the most.

And here we go. I made myself cry already.

September is hard, when I have to say goodbye to the boys for nine months—but, June is even harder. When I waved them onto the bus in the fall, they were so much younger, their cheeks so much rounder, their voices so much squeakier. Even though they seemed bigger than ever to me then, in their new grades and their new shoes, so much happens between September and June that it’s like being spun around on a merry go round. I stumble around in June, wondering, Where am I? . How did I get here ? What happened to my babies? June is the time of year I tell Kevin maybe we should have just one more. Just one more, and maybe I’ll finally be ready to move onto the next phase of life.

But I know it wouldn’t work. That one would grow up too and leave me at the bus stop wondering how  I let  it happen again.

And so, I am faced with the truth: this is the next phase of life. Just like all the other phases that came before it.

The boys, of course, aren’t all teary-eyed about how much they’ve grown and changed this year. For them, it’s not so much the last day of school as it is the first day of summer. They weren’t the ones standing and waving at the bus stop—they were the ones getting on and off it, coming home with hands full of wrinkled papers and mouths full of tattles and tales.

Leo’s favorite subject is math, he no longer thinks he’s the fastest boy in the universe, and recess would be more fun if there weren’t so many cheaters. He learned to read this year. He says he doesn’t like it, but I keep finding him in bed with books. Every time Leo has a friend over he sends them away with something—a handful of Pokemon cards, his favorite stuffed animal, a prize they won from his claw machine. He’s like the giving tree, only a lot moodier and sometimes kind of bitey.

Rocco built, invented and talked his way through the year. The word “no” continues to mean “maybe” to him, and while it makes it hard to be his parent sometimes, that “maybe” is going to take him places. It’s almost impossible for Rocco to be in a bad mood, and even though you sometimes get after him and wish you could put him in a bad mood, he’d never hold it against you. He has a few close friends who are just as goofy as he is, and he thinks he’s the most popular and second-fastest kid in the third grade.

Vincenzo had a rough time with grades this year, it’s true, but despite that he has grown smarter and funnier and taller. He looks like a man child now, and he  smells like one too. And his voice! It’s so deep now! His favorite place to be is all the way under his blankets in bed, but he occasionally comes out to sit on one of his brothers or to eat an entire box of Wheat Thins and wash it down with an entire pitcher of iced tea. He’s so happy on his own that I still have to invite friends over for him, which I do because, I keep telling him, he is not a caterpillar and his bed is not a cocoon, though I’m not sure even I believe that anymore.

Okay. Now I’m done and I only cried a teensy bit at the beginning. The last-day blog post is written.

And so, it is on to tomorrow.

Leo and Rocco in September:

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And in June (Rocco kind of forgot how to smile this year)

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Vincenzo in September:

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Vincenzo in June:

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Breaded sole
Roasted potatoes
Steamed broccoli
Chocolate peanut butter chip brownies

Why We Can’t Have Nice Stuff

My boys’ beds are usually a giant mess of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, technology, and Nerf weapons. They have a beautifully decorated room but all you see when you walked in is what looks like a homeless encampment. When I decorated the room five years ago, I bought tangerine and gray striped comforters to add a pop of color. The boys spent the last five years sleeping in the blankets, puking in them, bleeding on them, and occasionally peeing in them.  They tangerine orange kind of faded into a “past date pumpkin” color. The  vomit and pee washed out easily enough, but the blood turned to brownish blobs that looked very CSI.

I was kind of sick of the gigantic mass of blankets and sheets that were lumped up, squished down, and hanging over the sides of the bed. Not puke-on-the-pretty-comforter kind of sick. More of a disgusted feeling. But the bunk bed railings are as tight on those mattresses as a pair of spanx.  On the rare occasion I felt strong enough to make the beds, it took me 15 minutes each and I ran out of swear words halfway through. I couldn’t ask my boys to make their beds every morning. They don’t know enough swear words.

Then someone mentioned the perfect solution: Beddy’s.* You only have to make the bed once in your life and that’s it! The top blanket and sheet zip onto the fitted sheet part of it. Every morning, you just zip up thetop blanket and voila! One perfectly made bed!

So we splurged. The Beddy’s were expensive, but we can’t have our children sleeping in bloody blankets, can we?

I got Vincenzo’s Beddy on, breathed a calming sigh, felt my chakras settle back into place, and left him with the job of putting his pillow case on. Not five seconds later, not five seconds later, did I hear an, “OW!” I returned to the room to find Vincenzo holding a brand new gray-and-brilliantly-white striped pillow with a splotch of bright red  blood on it. Apparently while he was putting the pillow case on, his hand slipped and hit his brace-filled mouth and he bled on his pillowcase.

With a lot of effort and repressed swearing, I was able to get the blood off.

Maybe, I thought, maybe we’ll pull this off yet. So we went ahead and got one for Rocco.

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Rocco slept in it for the first time last night. I went to wake up him this morning, and you know what he said? You know what he said?

“Mom, I’m bleeding!”

I tried not to get mad at Rocco for waking up with a bloody nose. Oh man, it was getting harder to swear. I had repressed a lot in the past few days. I got the vinegar spray and started working away at the blood. Most of it was coming out, but there was this one little stubborn patch that wanted to hang around and I was all oh no, oh no you don’t! So I went for the big guns. I brought out the bathroom cleaner. One little squirt and BOOM!

It was over.

All my dreams of having one nice thing in the boys’ room, one beautiful, pristine, Pinterest-perfect thing—poof, gone.

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And now you know why we can’t have nice things. Because my children bleed all over them.

Is it okay to start swearing now?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Going out

I really HATE that there’s an apostrophe there, but look on their sight—this is how they write it the plural

Today’s Post Brought to you by Vincenzo’s Homework

I’ve been checking Vincenzo’s homework lately, trying to help him climb his way out of the academic hole he’s dug himself. I have to say, it’s been entertaining, to say the least.

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(I told him he spelled “steroids” wrong and he said that’s because he doesn’t take them. Would I rather he takes them and spells it right?  he asked.)

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This assignment also required him to write paragraphs throughout it, using vocabulary words. He wrote such stories as “Terminator Bloopers,” based on Terminator’s predecessor, The Germinator (turns out he wasn’t too good in battle); the time Batman left Gotham city in the capable hands of his Superhero friends, then returned a few weeks later “very sunburned indeed” to find everything in shambles; and one called “The Story I Wrote After Eating the Glowy Mushrooms.”

I’m enjoying his homework so much, I wish I had started checking it earlier in the year! Oh yeah, that’s right. I couldn’t have checked it earlier in the year because he wasn’t doing his homework. And that’s because…

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Going out for sushi!