The Winner!

And the winner of the perler bead naming challenge is…McStreamy! She was not only the contestant with the most correct answers, she was also the most beautiful, smartest, most talented, the tallest, the shortest, and the dumbest contestant. She was the only contestant! Her answers were alarmingly correct. The only thing she messed up was the grenade (#4) and the teacup-near-a-fence (#5) which, to be fair, is pictured sideways. How she ever knew that #2 was a happy seal and #7 was a Skittle are beyond me. She most definitely should see a therapist.

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LMK what recipe you want, McStreamy. Since you entered your answers twice, you can pick two: entree, salad, or cookie.

Now for the Covid 19 update from Mrs. Mouthy’s house.

Rocco’s hair is not handling the quarantine as well as the rest of us. It has some very strong opinions about where it would like to be.

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Every time I look at him, this is what I see, which makes me laugh.

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But this is what I remember, which makes me smile.

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His hair is as strong-willed as the penguin—er, boy—whose head it sits upon.

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Never change, Rocco. Never change.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Fettuccini with lobster sauce
Garlicky green beans
Fresh fruit
Butterscotch poundcake

To Market, To Market

Leo got it in his head he wanted to do a Student Market  on Friday where we all make things and sell them to each other. We tried to reason with him. There are only 5 of us here and we all share everything; what are we possibly going to sell to each other? The more we explained, the more we logicked, the more we resisted, the more Leo insisted until we finally threw our hands up in the air. He spent many hours in his room making perler bead creations. Here’s a picture I pulled from on-line for those of you who don’t know what perler beads are.

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All week Leo’s eyes would light up as he came up with the “perfect idea” for someone in the family, then he’d dash to his room to make it. Ready to see the result of over 10 hours of work?

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They’re a little bit, what’s the word? Homogenous? Art nouveau? Bad?  There’s everything here from a happy seal for Kevin (who has started insisting everyone call him Baby Seal for some reason) to a Skittles for me (because one time I must have eaten a Skittle). They also include a ball for happy seal, an Easter basket, a ninja blade, a grenade, teacup next to a fence, and a sword.

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I know my comments section is a dark, dank, cobwebby place to go, but if you want to take a guess at which perler bead creation is which, leave it in the comments. I recommend using one of those randomizer websites to help your decision-making process. The winner will receive a recipe of their choice of my favorite entree, salad, or cookie recipe. I promise, it will be worth it!

Picking up where I left off, Rocco’s shady looking booth made it feel more like we were buying stuff from the black market instead of the student market. He baked 3 dozen cookies to sell. You know, to the 4 of us.

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Leo bought 2 dozen of them.

Vincenzo, in typical Vincenzo fashion, said, “Market? Oh, that’s today?” and then spent 2 minutes getting ready for it.

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If you zoom in, you’d see it says “Deals available!” only he spelled it “avaliable,” also in typical Vincenzo fashion.

As for me, I sold contraband.

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At the bottom, my sign says, “price: negotiable.” Spelled correctly. Not that I would point that out to anyone who has a sign taped to their shirt or anything.

I also sold one dollar bills for $2.00 (or best offer). Please note the misuse of quotation marks on my sign, in the name of authenticity.

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The boys laughed at my dollar bill booth, but they weren’t laughing so much when I sold my first one.

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At the end of market, I slashed prices by 25% and sold dollar bills for $1.50. Talk about deals avaliable!

Leo also sold sit-time in his unicorn chair. There were different packages, from just sitting in the chair with no extras (3 cents for 1 minute) to “the works” where he piled on every blanket and pillow from his room, let you hold his turtle and llama, and gave you a head and back massage (for 6 cents).

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As ridiculous at this seems, he was the only one taking this whole thing seriously.

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I guess it paid off.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Butter chicken
Basmati rice
Roasted asparagus
Cookies (if Leo’s in a sharing mood)

Very Much Not The End

And the million dollar question is…did she or didn’t she finish the novel? Did an act of God call the whole thing off? Was that The End of our hero’s journey?

No!

No, it wasn’t the end because YES, Mrs. Mouthy finished the draft of her novel!!!

Okay, now that we’re all done celebrating, let’s look at how she’s feeling about it all.

First of all, I wish I could just say, “I finished my novel!” But I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m too wizened for that. I say, “I finished a draft of my novel,” which doesn’t feel nearly as nice because there’s a huge difference between a draft of a novel and a novel.

My friend asked me if I had a romantic moment like happens in the movies when the movie-star-pretending-to-be-an-author types (always on a typewriter, for some reason) T-h-e    E-n-d.

Doh! I forgot to write The End! I missed my chance! But I couldn’t bring myself to add those words to the draft because it feels anything like the end. There’s soooooooooooooo much work to do. Am I a pessimist or a realist? I don’t know, but either way, I wish I were an optimist.

I followed my writing coach’s advice and took a month off after not writing The End. The month was up, and I couldn’t bring myself to print it because I knew it would open the door to a particularly violent, ruthless crowd of mean voices, so Leo did it for me.

Ctrl + P, and there it was, in my hands:

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After 2-1/2 years you’d think I’d have a manifesto, but here instead here is my draft, weighing in at 9-5/8 ounces and standing .5 centimeters high.

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Pro tip: If you ever write a novel, do not weigh and measure it. This is a masochistic thing to do.

Then I read my first chapter. I was happily surprised that my comments included a lot of, “Wow!” and, “That’s really good!” Me? Saying that about my own work? What is this—a  post-apocalyptic world?

I should have stopped there though. I read the second chapter and my comments were all, “This sucks! You suck! Everything sucks!”

Sigh.

McStreamy suggested I tell the “you suck” voices to put a sock in it because they’ve never written a novel. McStreamy is a good friend.

It’s hard because with the quarantine and home schooling my boys, I have just enough time to realize how much work the novel needs but not enough time to fix anything.

I’m full of worries and doubts. What if it’s too hard to edit the novel? What if I’ve gotten everything wrong? What if this takes the whole rest of my life? What am I going to write when this one is done? Do I even like writing novels? Will it get easier? Can I both be a writer and be happy? Was I born to do this or was I born to only do it once? Will anyone else like my book? What about the haters? What is the meaning of life? What is the meaning of my life?

I’ve decided that yes, I like writing. I love writing. I write pretty much every day of my life. Do I like writing novels? Jury’s still out on that one. I want my words and stories to be shared with a big audience—to make that connection and to create connections between my readers, to make them think and wonder, to learn something, sometimes to laugh, sometimes to cry, always to feel something. I want the payoff. I just wish there were a way to make the hard work part of it more fun and less Medieval torture chamber-like.

In the meantime, while I figure all that out, I guess I might as well go ahead and edit the novel because despite all my doubts, behind all my pessimism, under all the self-deprecation, at my very core, are a whole bunch of words waiting lovingly and patiently for me to let them out.

And also because, as proven earlier, I am a bit of a masochist.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Grilled salmon with Indian spices
Garlicky asparagus
Crusty brown bread
Blondies

Almost Done…

Prologue: I drafted this blog over a month ago but  never published it because of Reasons.

Okay guys, this next thing I’m going to write is too scary to say out loud so I’m going to whisper it here.

I’m almost done with my novel.

I’m afraid that by writing it down, it won’t come true. I’m afraid you all have big expectations of me now. I’m afraid next time I see you you’ll ask me if I finished it, and I won’t have finished it.

For the past six months, I’ve been close to the end, but the closer I got the farther away it went. Now I’m getting closer to the end…and closer…and…closer. I’m winning the race. Anytime I say this out loud to someone, I start listing off all the problems with it, the things that need fixing, the long long loooooooong way it has to go after this draft is finished.

I know all that.

But I also know, and let me whisper this again:

This draft of this book is almost finished!

I no longer wonder if I’ll finish it. It’s like when you’re working on a puzzle and you’ve gotten to where the undone part is just a little puddle and the only way you won’t finish it is if some natural disaster happens in the next 15 minutes. That’s where I’m at.*

Yes, it will need a lot of work. I’m still at the beginning of this journey. But I’m not at the very beginning. I keep thinking about what I’ll do when I make it to the end. Even though I have a long way to go, I keep reminding myself that this is a milestone. It’s one ending; it’s one success. It’s a reason to celebrate, to cheer, to run around the house yelling, I DID IT I DID IT!

I hope when I finish that last paragraph, I let myself do those things. I hope I take a week off, or even two. I hope I fill those weeks with scrapbooking, gardening, hiking, reading, running errands I don’t even need to run, playing pickleball with my dad, just being instead of doing.

But I also know myself. I was going to take a whole year off of everything when Leo went to kindergarten, and that lasted for exactly 48 hours before I started expecting things of myself.

In a few weeks I will print the draft out and rant and rail over it again, I will rip apart and piece back together, yell at it, apologize to it, and occasionally love it. The mean, nasty voices in my head will start up again and I’ll feel beat up at the end of every day.

So for now, I want it to be something I stick up on that mantel and tell everyone who comes over to look! Look what I made! I want to let myself feel all the way happy with myself and proud of what I did. I want to sit on the side of the road and watch everyone else rush past me while I take whole, complete breaths and think about how lovely the grass smells today.

And then I would like to saddle up my horse and keep on riding, not knowing exactly where I’m going. It will be hard, dirty work.

But at least now I have a horse to ride.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Almond chicken
Brown rice
Edamame
Roasted cauliflower

*As we all know, it did happen. The natural disaster did happen. Did Mrs. Mouthy finish in time? Or is this The End of everything but her novel?

Zoom Easter

Happy Easter, everyone! We celebrated the same way all you did: by ourselves at home. We did get all dressed up to Zoom with our family.

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Actually, we only got halfway dressed up.

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We call it “Zoom casual.” It’s kind of the fashion equivalent of a mullet, and we hope it never goes out of style.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Kurobuta ham
Cheesy potato casserole
Garlicky green beans
Sourdough bread
Mango
Sugar cookies

Mrs. Mouthy has AGED!

Q: How was your birthday, Mrs. Mouthy?
A: It was awesome! Kevin and the boys decided to stay home with me all day!

The day started with Kevin making me crumpets, which, he said, was two gifts in one: not only did I get breakfast in bed, but he also used up the last of the sourdough starter that kept creeping out of its container and declaring itself Lord of the Fridge.

The boys made cards. Leo went the minimalist route and wrote all of 15 words on a piece of printer paper.

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If this were being sold at a store, it would be in the “Blank Inside” section.

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And the back (which was technically the front, as the card opened backcwards.)

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Of the 15 words he wrote, one was a brand new one: dishises. I can’t think of a better gift for a writer than a brand new word.

Vincenzo’s card carried through with the graphite-on-white color scheme. He had tried to draw a face mask but decided it looked like a banana, so he drew a series of pictures to show it was not a banana.

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If his card were being sold at a store, it would be in the “Awwww” section.

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Rocco’s card speaks for itself.

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That kid gets me.

Speaking of yeast, thank you to my lovely friends and family who stopped by and left gifts six or more feet away from my front door.

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It looks like a lot, but seriously, this stuff is disappearing in my house quick as buttered toast! Next time I blog, I’m going to write about how hard it is to find $100 bills around here.

The boys also made me a cake, all by themselves!

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It came complete with its own mess for me to clean up!

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But it was worth it, because it was my favorite cake ever.

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Not only did it taste amazing and look amazinger, it made them say, “How the heck does Mom do this?!”

The day ended with a board game in which all of us cheated so badly, somehow we all won.

It was definitely my best quarantine birthday ever.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Orecchiete with broccoli and sausage
Fresh fruit
Pink sprinkle chocolate poo cake

Don’t Be Stealin’ My Yeast

YEAST! The stores are all out of YEAST! I was holding it together until they started taking my YEAST!

Hey, listen up all you people who are clicking around on-line for “bread baking for dummies”:  Please return to  aisle 2 with all where you will find the lovely assortment of prepackaged breads and pastries that you were perfectly happy with up until two weeks ago. Thank you for your understanding.

Wait! Stop! You can’t take all the chocolate chips with you! YOU TOOK ALL THE CHOCOLATE CHIPS WITH YOU!

I thought we’d be getting back to normal by the third week of quarantine, but it seems things are getting worse. It’s unsettling to go to the store and see the cashiers we know like friends now protected behind glass shields. It’s eerie to see whole shelves swept clean of their wares.  It’s confusing to follow all the new rules about where to stand and what to touch and not touch.  Kevin got yelled when he walked past someone in the cracker aisle. “SIX FEET!” I put my cloth bag on the conveyer belt and the cashier looked at me like I had placed a hypodermic needle there. The next time, I remembered to not use my reusable bags, I waited until the customer in front of me was halfway across the state before unloading my groceries, I waited for the cashier to ring the last item before stepping forward to pay, when WEET! WEET! WEET! I got busted because my groceries hadn’t been all the way bagged yet. There are so many, many rules and no matter how hard I try, I keep breaking them.

Last week I looked forward to going to the store but this week, it just makes me feel sad and weird. Why aren’t things normal yet? When are things going to get normal again? What is normal even going to look like when all this is over? Will all this actually ever be over?

At our neighborhood grocery store, Kevin and I were standing in the check out line which, due to social distancing rules, now stretches into the cottage cheese aisle. I was staring at my grocery list that only had half the things crossed off because everything else was sold out—eggs, yeast, flour, baking powder, chocolate chips, cereal, TP, paper towels–when Kevin remembered a store that probably no one else was remembering and whose name I won’t write here because then you might start remembering about it, too.

Okay, it’s Cash ‘n Carry.

(Great. Now all 8 of my readers are going to be elbowing me out of there, too, now. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, fast forward one hour and…

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Kevin carried the 50 pounds of flour upstairs like he was rescuing it from a burning building. I was at the stove, skimming whey out of warmed milk to make cheese and Rocco was stirring the sourdough starter. Vincenzo came in, surveyed it all, and asked if we were starting on the Oregon Trail tomorrow.

I told him I wish we could, but it’s against quarantine.

I end with a couple more pictures. May they fill your heart with joy the way they fill mine.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:

Black bean burgers
Butternut squash gnocchi
Buttered broccoli
White chocolate macadamia nut cookies

There’s No Place Like Home

…and now we’re sheltering in place. The quarantine is a painfully literal iteration of the word “staycation.” Going to the grocery store is a huge treat.  I used to go daily and now I’m stretching it out to almost a week—the day after I eat the last banana. (If it weren’t for bananas, I could probably make it two.)

But like my last post said, there are some good things about the quarantine. Like, have you noticed how we’re getting in touch with long-lost friends now, checking in on one other? Just this morning I reconnected with these guys:

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Billy Blanks still has it, after all these years.(Fun fact: he’s 65 now!) Cindy Crawford’s high-waist bikini has gone from being the latest style to a total embarrassment and back again to the latest style. I know there are lots of workout apps I could be doing instead, but I’m SO TIRED of technology. I had been skirting around it all these years and now it’s all up in my business with the on-line school stuff.

There’s Power School and One Note where teachers post worksheets. There’s Dreambox for math and IXL too. There’s Lexia for reading and also A-Z for both reading and science. There’s FlipGirl and Zoom and WebEx and Google Hangouts. There’s Dance Mat typing for Leo and Epi Story  typing for the older two. That’s 12 programs, each with their own address, username, and pin number, which is 21 things to remember, times the three kids, which is SIXTY THREE THINGS TO REMEMBER. Our efforts are constantly sabotaged by websites freezing up, or showing the words in a really tiny, unreadable font, or telling us it’s the wrong pin, or loading things s…u…p…e…r  s…l…o…w…l…y,  or making us do voo doo magic to type on the page, or just plain being a jerk.

Which is why Kevin found me on the couch at noon yesterday with a bag of frozen peas on my forehead, saying I just needed a minute.

The thing is, I know what I want to teach the boys and I get excited about those things. Rocco and I planned a whole bridge unit together that spans all the subjects. Leo’s doing a science project on sugar crystals. Kevin is teaching Vincenzo how to code. The boys cook and clean and have even learned the highly complicated process of loading the dishwasher. At dinner, we talk about the Cold War and McCarthyism, Ireland’s potato famine, and whether Sprite commercials appeal to our ethos, pathos, or logos. At this exact moment, Vincenzo is helping Leo bake a salted caramel tart and Rocco is making Oaxacan tacos for lunch. I’m not even being sarcastic for once!

But then I load up the on-line stuff from their school and we’re only making it through half of it, and it’s irritating because Rocco’s math worksheets are too easy even for his younger brother. But because the worksheets are there, THOUGH SHALT COMPLETE THEM and then I’m stressed out because we only had 15 minutes to work on bridges and candy science and coding. Then I feel bad complaining because it’s incredible what the teachers are doing and what technology is allowing, but still. It’s getting in the way of my teaching!

Writing this blog post made me slap myself on each cheek and say, “Get a grip! Do you even hear yourself?!” And then the part of myself that slapped me wrote this next paragraph. Now listen up, Me!

Wake the kids up at 8 tomorrow. Or 10. Wake them up whenever you feel like making the donuts. Write down the things you are truly excited to do with them.  If they spend the whole day building toothpick bridges but don’t unlock a single achievement in their on-line math program, then say, “Yay!” And if you end up with a package of peas on your head at any time, ask yourself why and make sure to not do the same thing tomorrow.

Right. Got it. Donuts. I’m on it.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Breaded sole
Pan-fried potatoes
Garlicky asparagus
Salted caramel tart

Quarantined

I guess you know things are getting serious when the TP jokes aren’t funny anymore. The stories of people who have gotten coronavirus start getting closer and closer to the circle of people you know and love and you realize this isn’t just something on TV, it’s something in your life. When you start searching on-line for the latest quarantine regulations, not so you can write a funny blog post about them but because you want to make sure you are doing everything you possibly can to protect you and your family—that’s when you know it’s just not funny anymore.

Last night before bed the boys prayed, “Thank you that school is canceled.” Even though we’ve been praying for small business owners, local restaurants, people who have gotten the virus and their loved ones, hospital workers who put their lives at risk every day to help the sick and dying—even though we talk about all that, the boys still just see this as a vacation. I didn’t point this out during prayers. I let them be thankful school is out, and I thought how there may be a day not too far off when the boys realize what a terrible thing it is when schools and libraries close down, and they start praying they can go to school again.

It’s scary not knowing how long this will last, how big it will get, how many more will die, how long we can keep up the quarantine, how different everyone’s lives will be by the end of it.

So I am going to borrow a page from my boys’ books and write the things that I am thankful for during this quarantine.

1. I’m thankful for the extra time I get with my boys and the quality of the time, since none of it is spent rushing and squeezing things into the day. We have time to ride bikes now. The neighborhood was full of kids riding bikes and playing hockey with plastic sticks in their driveways yesterday, the adults stopping six feet away from each other to chat and find reassurance from one another. I wish that when all this is over, we realize that our kids’ lives have been overbooked and we all decide to dial it back a bit.

2. I’m thankful the boys and I get to cook all day, every day. We go from biscuits and gravy for breakfast to chicken noodle soup for lunch to papas dauphinoise for dinner, mixing artisanal breads, cream pies, macarons, and soda bread in between. (When everyone else was buying the stores out of white bread, I was filling my cart with flour and yeast.) While the bread rises we start wondering about how yeast is harvested, and by the time the bread goes in the oven we’ve set up our own experiment to collect yeast from a bottle of beer. The quarantine has given us time to wonder.

3. I’m thankful I get to customize the boys’ education. We have an amazing public school system, but there are certain things I want them to learn that they aren’t getting in the classroom, like Spanish and typing, how to address an envelope, and how to write an essay to Mrs. Mouthy’s standards. Vincenzo is writing an expository essay on alloys; Rocco is building a basement-sized leprechaun trap; Leo is working on matching up daily life situations to appropriate emotions/reactions.

4. I’m thankful the garden is still on-limits.

5. I’m thankful that we have a trail running behind our house and countless outdoor places we can go to shake off the feeling that the world is ending, and that the quarantine fell on the first week that looks and feels like spring around here.

6. I’m thankful that my own family is strong and healthy and will likely survive if/when we get the coronavirus.

7. I’m thankful for all the people who keep the city running while the rest of us try to avoid the public—grocery store workers, gas station workers, medical workers, fire fighters, police, utilities workers, and about 1000 other jobs I don’t even know about, working behind the scenes.

8. I’m thankful that Kevin’s job isn’t very affected by all this and that he can work from home.

9. I’m thankful that we have phones and computers to stay in touch with our support group.

10. I’m grateful that the people I love the most are the ones I am stuck with.

For each of the things on my list, I know there are people on the other side of the equation. Those who don’t have outdoor spaces, who have an unhappy or unsafe living space, whose health is already fragile, who are losing their jobs, whose lives are not merely inconvenienced but are devastated by the quarantine. My heart hurts for them. The quarantine is isolating, but it makes me want to reach out to others more than ever.

I hope that despite the hardships, they, too, are able to find things they are thankful for.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Baked potatoes
Irish soda bread
Kiwi and green apples
Triple layer lime Jell-o
Bailey’s Irish Creme cheesecake

More from Coronaville

Man, Coronaville has really gone downhill. It was all fun and games until SOMEONE CLOSED SCHOOLS FOR 6 WEEKS.

I don’t feel the panic, yet I  am living the life of someone who is panicking. It feels crazy to be taking such extreme measures when there are only a couple hundred cases in the state.

But then, maybe there are only a couple hundred cases in the state because we are taking extreme measures?

At Kevin’s yoga class this morning, the teacher put on a cover of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and everyone spontaneously started singing along. I said maybe she should have played a cover of “Don’t Stand so Close to Me.”

The problem is I’m a person who assumes nothing bad will happen until it does. Like, I figured we could leave our garage door open because who would steal something in our safe neighborhood? Until someone stole a bike right out of it. I’m the kind who didn’t see the need for shower shoes at the gym until I got a plantar’s wart. (Gross but true.) I’m the kind who saw no reason to stock up on toilet paper until all the stores were sold out of it. Seriously, the world is ending and all people think is, “TP! And lots of it!”

I’m trying to be good. My family and I dutifully stay inside for as long as we can, until I decide it would be best for everyone’s health if I go to the gym. I venture onto the roads, expecting to be the only one out. Expecting it to look like an episode from The Last Man on Earth. But lo! What is this?  Roads full of cars and coffee shops full of regulars and the gym full of people?! I start wondering–am I the only numbskull following the quarantine?  Is everyone else drinking boba tea and eating bubble waffles at the mall? My FOMO starts wigging out. Everything is canceled or closed, so I’m not missing anything, right? Then why does it look like everyone is out having a jolly old time? Is it just me? Is that a bubble waffle you’re eating?

Normally I’d be thrilled to have 6 extra weeks to just hang with my family, but it’s not the same when all our fun is taken away. No museums, no zoos, no malls or movies, no going out to lunch, no parks or pools, no having 250 friends over for dinner. I never realized how little this stay-at-home-mom actually stays at home. I miss all my haunts. I miss all my humans.

I home schooled the boys yesterday. Rocco woke up super excited, made himself a schedule, pounded through it, then asked what else he could do. Leo grumped a bit but got his work done. Vincenzo gave me a look that burned my eyebrows right off, then stomped off to his room. I’m afraid to even knock. Next week I think we’ll just do an in-depth study of 80s movies.

In the meantime, I will sit here not panicking while the world ends and the TP supplies run dangerously low. I will sit here and wait for someone to yell, “Olly olly oxen free!” and then I will get myself to the nearest boba kiosk, order an extra large, drink it down and wonder if it was just me.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken with cranberry pecan stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Chocolate hazelnut macarons