Grand Canyon Part 4 of Yes I’m Still Blogging About This

[Insert your own eloquent and spunky introduction here.  Then continue reading.]

We flew into Phoenix on a Wednesday, and since we were stuck in traffic, Renee said she’d hack into the ADOT to get all the lights changed to green for us.

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WTF, Renee?  (She blamed it on the fact that she is not only legally blind, but she is color blind as well.  Some people are such whiners.)

We met up at Fuddruckers for burgers and shakes, then the light turned green and we were off to our next city.  Wham, bam, thank you ma’am.

The next day was sunny and 70.  We drove north to the Montezuma Castle, which we found out was not a castle at all but more like an ancient apartment complex.

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It really should have been named the Montezuma Projects, and we kept pressing the lock button on our car keys, just to be sure.

We hopped back on the freeway and until we hit Sedona, where we dropped our bags then headed to Slide Rock State Park.  It was a little too cold for my boys to jump in, but they loved climbing around the rocks.

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Rocco: Is this the Grand Canyon, Mom?

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Me: If you have to ask if it’s the Grand Canyon then no, it’s not the Grand Canyon.

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Vincenzo discovered two wet, abandoned socks that he pulled to higher ground.  Here he is, moments after the sock rescue.  Just an ordinary boy doing extraordinary things.  (The socks can be seen on a rock behind him, gazing with admiration upon the young hero.)

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Rocco found the raging waters of Oak Creek to be…inspiring.

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Fun fact: In the summers, sometimes Slide Rock Park has so many visitors it gets closed due to high bacterial levels!

Please note that Leo’s legs had stopped working in the following picture.

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The next morning was 30 degrees and a little snowy.

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My boys are either catching snowflakes in their mouths or eating an energy vortex.  In Sedona, it’s hard to tell.

Oak Creek ran behind the hotel, and my boys did what they always do when they are near water…

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…they built a dam.  I swear, they must have been beavers in their past life.  They spent a whole hour trying to dam up this little piece of the river.  Zoom out to see how many fudgsicles the river gave about their little dam.

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Rocco must have been feeling competitive because he saw Vincenzo’s wet socks from the previous day and raised him one pair of crusty men’s underwear.

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That afternoon we took a Pink Jeep Tour through the red rocks of Sedona, and while Kevin looked like he had some regrets on the ride, the boys sat in the back saying, “WHEE!  WHEE!  WHEE!” all the way. 

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Sadly, we didn’t capture a WHEE moment here, but I felt like the moment needed a picture.

We stopped at a lookout point to get a photo taken and to “water” the “his and hers juniper bushes.”

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Our jeep driver, Mike, knew absolutely everything about everything we passed by.  Of course, it was hard for him to share this info with us because any time he started to drop some knowledge on us, Rocco would take over and give us his explanation of the landscape, then Vincenzo would interrupt to tell Rocco he doesn’t know snot about snot, then Leo would interrupt with some random rehash of the last video game he played.  Fortunately, Mike thought all this was hilarious.  And now we know that the reason the rocks are red is because the sun bakes them and Rocco I don’t think that’s true and one time in angry birds I got so many all with one explosion it was like BAM! BAM!  BAMBAMBAM!

So those were days .5, 1.5, and 2.5 of our trip. 

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pita pizzas

Grand Canyon Part 3 of I Don’t Know…maybe 20?

Okay, so we all had our fun reading about Vincenzo’s defining moment on our Grand Canyon/Vegas trip, so it’s only fair that I throw everyone else under the bus here, too.  We all had our moments on our vacation.

Leo, for example, frequently crumpled to the ground, saying his legs stopped working, and it would have been cute if he didn’t also say, “ENNNH!  ENNNNNH!” when we talked to him in this state.  He was such a pill we almost bought him this sweat suit, but the sarcasm level of buying this bordered on child abuse, so we decided against it.

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Leo did his part to conserve water in the desert by skirting all opportunities to take a bath for the entire week.  By the seventh day, his hair was really more in the category of fur.

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When I tried to pet brush this mess one day, it actually brushed me back.

Leo’s true defining moment came the day after Vincenzo’s, though, when he locked himself in the bathroom.

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He wasn’t locked behind just one door but two doors in there, so we couldn’t even slip him a cyanide pill under the crack.  He was in too deep.  We called the maintenance guy, Kevin continued to try to talk Leo through the unlocking system, and I stood there helpfully taking pictures and thinking how I might caption them on a blog post.

Leo does love a good knock knock joke, so I’ll caption this one “Knock knock!”

The first of Rocco’s defining moment could not be captured in a picture.  If I had captured it, it would have been a three hour sound byte  of him talking nonstop to the sweet lady who had the great misfortune of sitting down next to him on the plane ride to Phoenix.  We kept trying to get him to stop, but the lady was very sweet and said she enjoyed sitting next to her chatty little companion, and thank goodness because “stop talking” is not something Rocco is programmed to do.

The best photo I captured of Rocco came on the evening he spent filling his swim shirt with air from the hot tub jets.

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This photo should probably be included with all Epipens.  Does your child look like this?  If so, administer Epipen!

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Picture caption: “Do you even lift?!”

Kevin’s defining moment came when he dropped us off in front of the Grand Canyon Visitor’s Center to join with Renee’s family, then he went to park.  There was no cell reception so we all waited for him…and waited…and waited…and two hours later finally decided we were just going to have to see the Grand Canyon without him.  Just at that moment he came around from the side of the building.  “Finally!” we said, “We can go see the Grand Canyon!”  He said, “What?  You haven’t seen it yet?”  Apparently he had been walking all over the trails, hogging the view all for himself while we waited in the visitor’s center for him.  Scumbag.

This picture’s caption is: “Hey Kev, will you take a selfie of us in front of the Grand Canyon?”

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And my defining moment?  I guess it came during a rest stop in the Oak Creek Vista, when I found out that all my life, I’ve been doing it wrong.  (Or perhaps my defining moment came after the trip, when I actually opened Photoshop and edited a picture I took in a bathroom stall to post on my blog.)

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Picture caption: “TIL.”

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chinese hot pot

Grand Canyon: Part Two of Some Amount

This past week of vacationing was so big, so full of memories and laughs and wonder, that the vacation itself made the Grand Canyon seem like a crack in the sidewalk.  I don’t know how I’m going to shrink it down to the size of a few blog posts, but lend me your foot; we’re going to try to cram this thing onto it.

Back in the dark ages, when brand new babies came complete with their own mommy blog handles, I met Renee of MommyBlogYay (the Yay is silent).  I loved everything about her, except that she was funnier than me.  I am a forgiving person, though, and thus we were still able to be friends.  Renee lives about 1,000 miles closer to the Grand Canyon than me, so last December I e-mailed her that our family was going to visit the Grand Canyon on April 1st, and wouldn’t it be awesome if her family wanted to join us?

She e-mailed that it would and that they did.  It felt like the best Christmas present ever.

We are both a little nerdy so we had fun referring to the upcoming trip as Grand Canfun and Grand Vanyon and variations thereof.  At one point, Renee even designed t-shirts for our trip but chickened out on getting them made up.

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(Van Halen graphic for the VanAusdels, Beatles for the Betos.  Brilliant!)  Just knowing this design is out here on the Cloud forever now brings a smile to my heart.

Of course, we flew 1,100 miles to visit Renee and her family, we spent over 24 hours together, and we didn’t manage to take a single picture of ourselves together.

No worries, though—you guys have seen my mad Photoshop skillz before.

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I see a picture like this, and I think the “Yay” shouldn’t be silent anymore.

Renee and I had a great time catching up, discussing everything from what the Jeopardy topics would have to be for us to have a chance (I’ll take Breakfast Foods for $500, Alex) to what is more amazing—the Grand Canyon or a jar of Goober, which includes both peanut butter and jelly (both made us say, “Woah!” but only one brought us nearly to tears).

Both our husbands are just oozing that cool dad vibe, but as you can see one is definitely oozing it more than the other.

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Of course, neither of them is cool enough to hang with  this guy.

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All these pictures really are is an excuse to show you some flat, washed out, tiny little 2×3 pictures of the world’s largest, deepest, most grandiose natural wonder, so I guess I’ll just let loose.

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But you know what this spectacular view is really missing?  A bunch of people standing in front of it!

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There we go.  Much improved.

WHAT’S FOR LUNCH:
Kalbi flank steak
Roasted potatoes
Fruit

Vincenzo’s Wild Night in Vegas

Today is our last day of our family vacation—we’ve seen everything from biggest natural wonder on Earth (the Grand Canyon) to the biggest unnatural wonder on Earth (Las Vegas).  While we’ve filled our heads with so much wonder and grandiosity, the only thing I want to write about is a family legend that was born the other night in our Las Vegas hotel.

It was Monday night and we were worn out, so Kevin and I tucked the boys into bed in their suite at 8, then went to our joined suite to watch TV for an hour, then fall asleep ourselves.  Ten minutes after turning out the lights, we heard a knock outside and thought, “Is that our door?”  “No, couldn’t be.”  We went back to the job of trying to fall asleep.

A few minutes later, we got a phone call.

Me: Hello?
Other Voice: Yes. Is this Rachel?
Me: Yes…
Other Voice: This is Carol from the front desk. I’m calling to say that some guests at the hotel have found your son.
Me: My son??!
Receptionist: Yes ma’am, your son.
Me: Which son??!
Receptionist: I don’t know, ma’am. They just found a boy who said his last name is Beto and he is staying in the junior suite.

I should mention that the receptionist’s voice sounded judgy and also not at all surprised.

She couldn’t give me the name or number of the guests, even though they were in possession of my freaking SON, but said she would put me through to them. Then the line went dead.  I waited there with panic and confusion rising in my chest until I was definitely sure no one was going to get back on the line and say, “April Fool’s!”  In fact, no one was going to get back on the line at all.  Kevin went to do a kid count and only came up with two kids in bed—Vincenzo was gone.

I set the phone down, went into the hallway, and started calling, “Vincenzo? Vincenzo?” until a door opened and out staggered a very shaky, scrawny looking boy wearing nothing but a t-shirt and a pair of underwear.  Boxers, thank goodness, but still.  Underwear.

Two nice looking ladies came out behind him and Kevin went down to explain that we are actually very good parents and we have no idea how this all happened but, ha ha, we’re not laying in our rooms strung out on heroin or anything, while I gave my shaking, sobbing boy the hug of his lifetime.

It’s not the first time Vincenzo has sleepwalked.  He used to get night terrors as a toddler.  (I’m pretty sure The Exorcist was written by a parent whose kid had night terrors.)  As he grew up they turned into what we call “Creepy Pees,” where V gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom but if you talk to him his eyes are all glassy and he speaks in tongues.  I got a call last summer from his overnight camp that the counselors found him wandering around outside in the middle of the night, crying and saying something about the bathroom.

Anyway, over the past couple days, more details about V’s Vegas Escapade have come out.  Vincenzo said that the first thing he remembers about is waking up outside our hotel room door, sans pajama pants.  He knocked on our door but no one answered, so he instantly panicked and ran up and down the hallway, trying all the doors.*  Want to see what a real life nightmare looks like?

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Then he found an elevator, so he decided to take it to find some help, but it was the service elevator and no matter what button he pushed, it kept bringing him to floor 15.

I swear, I have had actual nightmares like this.

Then he went back to running around the hallways in a panic until two nice ladies found him and called the front desk, who called me.

As for the pajama pants, Vincenzo found them in the shower the next day.

Kevin and I, of course, felt like the world’s worst parents, losing our child in the immoral town of Las Vegas while we slumbered peacefully on. 

Vincenzo was afraid to go to sleep the next night.  We had him memorize our room number, rattle off my phone number, we stuck a key in his pajama pants (not that that would have helped), and we barricaded the door to the hallway with a few very heavy chairs. 

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God help us if the hotel catches on fire tonight.

Today we are heading out to the strip and I told Vincenzo we’ll probably see “Wanted” pictures everywhere with his picture on it and a list of all the mischievous deeds he did on his Wild Night in Las Vegas.

You know, that would be a great premise for a movie…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Maybe another family legend.

But hopefully not.

*For anyone fact checking this story, that was not the knock we heard.  The knock we heard a half an hour later was from the ladies a few doors down who had found Vincenzo.

Riddle Me This

Blog posts are harder to write than they used to be.  I mean, it’s not like the old days where a blog post would just walk in and sit down at dinner with us and all I had to do was hit “publish.”  When my kids were younger, there were much more incidents involving flying underwear, untimely pantslessness, and kids asking their aunties if they want to see what’s in their pants.  (All those links are totally worth clicking on.)

These days, if you haven’t noticed, I have to think about what I’m going to blog about.  Then, after thinking, I have to write things down.  Those things are WORDS, and they can be a real pain in the neck.

So it felt like a huge gift when Rocco came home from school on Friday and presented me with his weekly letter.

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In case you didn’t bring your bifocals with you, the important part of the letter is a riddle Rocco wrote.

Here is a solid riddle.  My solid is soft, warm, and tan.  Can you guess it?

First thing that you picture is…

GROSS!

Of course, I was very proud that Rocco’s sense of humor is at least on a junior high level.  He’s so advanced.

Rocco’s riddle reminded me of my own favorite riddle, which goes like this:

What’s brown and sticky?

If you can’t think of an answer, scroll to the bottom of this old Mrs. Mouthy post.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Mac ‘n cheese
Chicken quesadilla
Steamed broccoli & cauliflower
Fresh broccoli & cauliflower

P.S.  The true answer to Rocco’s riddle is “The Snuggie,” and the one to mine is “A stick.”  We’re not as gross as you think.

Nothing

Wow, so my voice was completely MIA for five whole days last week, and let me tell you it gets tough going through the world with only the words you can convey are “yes,” “no,” “I don’t know,” and “F— you.”  Poor Kevin got flipped off more than I’d like to admit last week.

Anyway, how about an update on the boys this week?

Vincenzo:  “V”

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We don’t see much of him lately.  He’s either with his friends or bugging us to get a phone so that he can text his friends when he’s not with them.  (Yes, he is the only fifth grader on the planet of the Earth who does not have his own phone.)  I mean, he is gone so much he even has his own germ biome separate from the rest of us—we’ll all be sitting around with colds and sore throats, and Vincenzo will be in the bathroom puking his guts out. 

As little as we see V, we see even less of his sweatshirts and jackets, which he leaves around the school and town like calling cards.  Everywhere we go, people come out of their houses and lean out of cars to return a sweatshirt of his they found.  I’ve got a plan now, though—we are going to buy him sweatshirts that are nearly impossible to lose.

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Vincenzo lives in the moment and doesn’t overthink things.  He has zero opinions about anything, from what he wants to eat to who he wants to have over to play.  “I don’t know, Mom—I definitely want to have someone over, but you pick who.” 

Two things I’ll never understand about V: how he loves Toxic Waste candies and how he loves jumping from hot water into cold then back to hot again.  (Pictured below was a lay in the snow after a soak in the hot tub.)

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At 4.5 feet tall and 70 pounds, he is one of the shortest, skinniest kids in his class, but he can still wrestle a 100-pound friend to the ground before returning to the couch to reread Ender’s Game for the nth time.

He is a favorite of his younger cousins because, well because he never really outgrew his early childhood.

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And at 4.5 feet tall and 70 pounds soaking wet, maybe he never will.

Rocco Taco:

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Rocco has come down with the same affliction that struck Vincenzo about five years back: an obsession with books.  He now gets in trouble just as much as V for reading when he shouldn’t be.  During read aloud with my boys last night I caught Rocco hiding under the covers, reading his own book while listening to the one I was reading.  Incorrigible child!

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Rcocco is a do-first-think-later kind of kid and one who loves nothing more than a good argument.  You tell him to brush his teeth then put on pajamas and get into bed and he instead lays out a five minute explanation of how it wouldn’t matter if he brushed teeth first or put on pajamas first, so really he could do either, and you snap at him, “JUST GET READY FOR BED ALREADY!”  Ten minutes later you see him walk out of his room wearing swim clothes and reading a book.  We have yell at Rocco a bit more than we like.  He doesn’t mind the yelling, which drives us crazy. 

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(Here he is with his leprechaun trap.  I can hear Pinterest weeping.)

Like Vincenzo, Rocco lives in the moment and doesn’t hold grudges.  Last year some kid got expelled for trying to choke Rocco; this year Rocco loves to play with that kid at recess.

Rocco is resilient.  He is more likely to get mad instead of sad.  He thinks his older brother is a superhero, and he giggles his way through movies at the theater.  He’ll make you so mad you want to throw him off the deck, then he’ll pat your arm and say, “It’s okay, Mom.  Don’t be mad.”

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I just love this kid.

Leo.  Leo, Leo, Leo. 

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He went through a rabid phase in his fours and we kept hoping it would pass and it finally did…only to give way to an even more rabid, ferile, and screamy phase. We’ve been saying, “This too shall pass” for over two years now.

He’s very sweet when his brothers aren’t around, and his teachers cannot say enough about what a wonderful boy he is, but then Rocco asks Leo to please pass the butter and Leo screams, “DON’T TALK TO ME, ROCCO!  I DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SAY THAT!”  Then he slides down his chair like a melting popsicle and ends up in a puddle at Kevin’s feet.  We get out some towels, mop him up, prop him back on his chair, and ask if he would like anymore grapes.  “WAAAAAAAHHHH!”  And he melts onto the floor again. 

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But when it’s just me and Leo, he is all hops and snuggles, playing baseball with battle axes and beach balls, baking cookies, trying on various facewear, then curling up in bed with me and listening to me read Narnia books, dragon books, picture books, tax returns–absolutely anything that has words in it.  He’s not picky.

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Leo loves when his older brothers need help with something that he is able to do, like fetch silverware or put their coats away.  Fortunately, his older brothers have not caught on and taken advantage of Leo’s over-eagerness to prove his Bigness.

In conclusion, I apologize on Leo’s behalf if you have tried to tickle him or teas him in the past year or hug him or ask him how his day was.  He probably yelled, “ENNNNNHHH!” or perhaps bit one of your fingers off.  What he meant to say was, “I’m kind of going through some stuff right now, but with Mom’s gentle guidance I’m sure I will grow up to be a calm, reasonable, well-adjusted adult without any residual self esteem issues from having been born  the “baby” of the family.”

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I have such a soft spot for this guy.  He’s my little buddy, and I know he would murder me in my sleep if he knew this, but when I kiss his puffy cheeks I still get a baby fix.  This one is always going to be my baby.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Cornbread taco bake
Cinnamon roasted squash
Fresh vegetables
Chocolate almond bundt cake

Worst. Cold. Ever.

Ugh, last Thursday I got this really bad sore throat and that mucous-lung feeling that got worse on Friday, worser on Saturday, worser than that on Sunday and so on, and today is Wednesday.  I’ve had colds many times over the course of having this blog, but never before has a cold warranted an entire post dedicated just to it.

At some point on the weekend, the cold yanked the voice right out of my throat and left me speechless.  I wake up each morning and see if today’s the day my voice come back.  I say, “Good morning, Kevin!”  All he hears is the sound an air mattress makes when you sit on it it to get the air out.

Laryngitis is tricky to deal with when you’re a mom.  The kids come tattling to me about who said what and what punishments should be doled out, and I can only answer with a nod of my head, a shake of my head, or a shrug of my shoulders.

Leo: Mom, Rocco got mad at me when I told him to let me use the stool because he told me I was parenting him, but that’s not parenting.
Me: [shrug shoulders]
Leo: Did you hear me, Mom?  Rocco got mad at me when I told him to let me use the stool because he told me I was parenting him, but that’s not parenting.
Me: [shrugs shoulders]
Leo: [repeats message, then gives up and returns to bathroom to yell at Rocco]

It’s super frustrating.

And if you’re wondering why I don’t just whisper—surely I can still whisper—you are right, I can.  But it is actually more painful than trying to use my voice, and it is worse for your throat to try to whisper than to talk.  (Look it up!)  I type messages to Kevin and the older boys, but otherwise I am virtually unable to communicate with them.

The worst thing about this cold, though, is that it seems to be inside out.  Instead of all the yucky stuff running out through my nose, it’s running down the back of my throat, and it’s not the nice, smooth kind of mucous, either.  It’s chunky.  I know this because on several occasions I have not been able to push the stuff down my throat into my stomach and it has landed in my mouth, along with the urge to throw up.  I will spare you any further details.

Sleeping?  Oh, forget about sleeping!  There is too much mucous management at night and coughing spells.  It’s like I have two days instead of a day and a night.  There’s the day-day where I take care of other people, cooking, cleaning, prepping, packing, shrugging, hugging, nodding, kissing goodnight.  Then there’s the night-day where I read books, take baths, drink tea with buckets of honey in it, eat buttered toast, meditate, and periodically try to fall asleep.  I know day-night has turned to day-day when instead of taking a third bath, I start cooking breakfast.

Friends, neighbors, and strangers have all been very sweet and helpful.  They’ve given me lots of  throat sprays, cough drops, prescription mouth washes, home remedies, and advice.  One familiar cashier even busted into full ASL with me, signing, “Do you want help out today?”  Like laryngitis comes with the side effect of automatic fluency in ASL.  I just smiled and signed, “Milk” back at her, as that’s the only sign I remember from my boys’ babyhood. 

Unfortunately my cold just looks at all the medicines and throat sprays sideways and says, “Pffffffft.”  It’s here, it’s got my voice, and it’s not going away until it’s good and ready.

Damn, it feels good to blog though.  The cold can take my vocal cords, but it will never take my fingertips!  (Oh Lord, it can’t, can it?  Because this one most definitely would if it could!)

Here is what I’ve learned from this wretched cold and from not being able to speak for three days and counting.

1.  The human body is a disgusting creation with some serious design flaws.

2.  When Mom’s body is present but her voice isn’t, for a couple days the kids will be miserable to each other.  Then they kind of clue in and start running the machine all on their own and you’re proud of them but of course, you can’t tell them.

3.  There should be a universal sign for “Laryngitis” that everyone knows so that, when you hand the barrista a piece of paper that says “Laryngitis.  Tall vanilla latte pls!” people don’t think you are trying to rob the Starbucks.

4.  Physical comedy is much harder to pull off than verbal comedy

5.  I need my voice more than it needs me.

I’d like to end with this quote and this picture today, which I am dedicating to My Voice.

If you love something, let it go.  If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever.  If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.    –Author Unknown

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Moussaka
Ricotta gnocchi
Salad with apples, pecans, & blue cheese
Rainbow Jell-o