First Day 2021

The first day of school has come and gone and I have not yet gotten weepy. On the first day I was mostly cranky, the second happy, and the third also happy. As you can imagine, I am confused by and wary of all this happiness.

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The first-day crankiness came from the sudden change in my interactions with the boys. Instead of nudging them into picking blackberries with me or making another batch of cookies then giving up and watching Teen Titans Go with them instead, our time is now intensified into 2 crazy hours of trying to instill urgency into them in the morning, followed by the after-school craziness of soccer practices, dinner, homework, and nagging them about all three of those.

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The very day Leo was born, probably while the placenta was being born, I held him close and did the math: there would be a period of time in which my children go to three different schools. The nurse saw my face blanch and asked if I would like another cup of apple juice. Will it help? I asked. It’s juice, honey. Juice always helps.

Well, friends, the day has come. Three boys, three different schools. Three wake-ups and three send-offs, some of which involve complicated carpools and all of which involve kids accidentally taking each other’s lunches, not finding socks, remembering the 14 forms I was supposed to sign the night before, getting distracted by whatever book is laying on the ground, deciding they’re going to be a professional soccer player and wanting to run to school as part of their training, and showing up to the bus stop either 30 minutes early or 1 minute late. This has all happened, and school has only been in session for three days.

So I was cranky that first day.

At a grocery store I told the cashier it was my kids’ first day of school and she said, “It must be nice to have all that time to yourself.” The thing, I don’t feel I have more time for myself—I have the same amount of time, only now with restrictions, and also a lot picking up. Papers, lunchboxes, kids, backpacks. They all need picking up.

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But since the first day, I have embraced the schedule. I’m still doing the same things I was in the summer (slash last year-and-a-half)—working out, rollerblading, blogging, writing, running, walking, gardening, cooking, scrapbooking, reading, blogging (!!), playing pinball—but now I’m doing more of it. Plus, I don’t feel guilty about ignoring the kids while I am doing all of it.*

It’s rather blissful.

Like I said, though, I am wary of the happiness. I have been lulled into complacency by the first week of school before, then the second week comes up and is all, SMACK! BLAM! Sucker! And I start crying.

But so far, I feel steady and calm. I have reasonable expectations of myself. I’m writing some, playing lots, and celebrating the successes in each day. I’m drinking my apple juice.

And I really feel like this year the back-to-school blues might not come.

Right?

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Thai carrot and sweet potato soup
Gnocchi
Edamame
Chocolate pudding cake

*For the record, I always invite them to join me, but the only one they say yes to is pinball, and usually I’m playing it so they can’t right now.

The Un-fair

It’s the first day of school, but instead of writing a weepy, sentimental post I’m going to write about summer and deal with the weeping another day.

Today’s topic: the state fair.

Actually, this one might make me weepy after all. It wasn’t really a fair, it was more of an un-fair this year, as it was empty of displays, there were no “how to care for your cavie” posters with adorable misspellings, and we didn’t see a single person wearing a Razor Ramon shirt.*

You think I’m exaggerating?

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Check out this best-in-show farm display.

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And the prices! They were insane! My sister bought a hot dog and bottled water for $19. This fish cone and ice cream cost $13—and it wasn’t even real fish!

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Normally the fair is like Summer Christmas for me—I wake up shouting, “It’s Fair Day!” I skip instead of walking all day, I hug everyone, and I go to sleep smiling because I got everything I wanted. This year it was more like Day After Summer Christmas. It felt like the curtain for the play had gone down, the actors had left, someone was sweeping the stage, and that’s when we all showed up. “Hiiiii!”

Of course, it wasn’t all bad. I still drank my purple cow. I still ate my scones. I still watched the kids blow $20 in twenty seconds on the games.

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And at least there weren’t any toddlers to hog the kiddie tractors.

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Plus, there was enough room to hula hoop.

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I didn’t mind when Covid closed restaurants and the mall. I didn’t mind when Covid shut down schools for 18 months. I didn’t even mind when Covid canceled real Christmas. But the fair?

Now it’s getting personal.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pita pizzas
Parmesan broccoli
Gingerbread cake

*Of course, that’s because Kevin didn’t come with us this year.

Rocco Turns 12 and 1 Month!

Rocco’s 12! Since no one has any infections anymore, I have time to blog about it. I will begin as I begin every birthday blog for Rocco: by saying how much he talks. He talks so much! About anything and about nothing—about all the things. The letters TMI have no meaning to him.

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Even though he is the wizened age of 12 and heading into middle school, he plays with Legos more than ever.* For his birthday we got him supplies to build a Lego table.

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We’ve always wanted to have Lego bricks sorted by color but I did that once when the kids were little and the organization lasted for 26 seconds. We’ve gotten a lot more Lego bricks since then. A lot a lot. I was not excited to put more furniture into our stuffed house, but I was excited to get rid of the 6 giant tubs of Lego bricks cluttering the basement.

We spent a couple days sorting. We got pretty good.

  
And voila! No more Lego mess!

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We can now live in a perfectly organized, color-coded house without Lego mines littering the floor!

Er…

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Rocco’s main Lego love is boats. He has spent hours on-line, searching for boat hulls.

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Lately he’s changed his focus to gathering parts to build a Lego set without actually buying the Lego set. He finds a piece on Brick Think for 12 cents and is all excited until we tell him shipping is $5.00 and it will also be $5.00 for all the other 150 pieces he put in his basket. He’s only slightly less excited. We do the math for him. He puts another piece in his basket. We explain again. “Only 465 pieces to go!” he says. We give him a full-on economics lesson with charts and diagrams and sound effects and ask if he understands. “Yes,” he says. We breathe in relief that we got through to him. It took a lot, but we finally turned him around.

“So, can I buy it?”

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Rocco is the one kid who sometimes says “yes” when I ask if anyone wants to go for a walk or bake cookies or pick blackberries. Actually, he’s as obsessed about picking blackberries as I am. He understands the joy of finding the perfect patch. It’s much like finding an obscure Lego piece on-line. He gets it.

He played four roles in the school play, which suited him perfectly as he has the energy of four people, plus extra.

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You may be surprised to learn that Rocco is a taker of gigantic bites of food. He literally bites off more than he can chew. He puts a huge piece of steak in his mouth, pushing it in with the food jammer, which most people call the pointer finger. “Small bites!” we say. Then we give him a 5 minute lecture on taking small bites, which he listens to with a sheepish smile on his face, as his mouth is so full he cannot argue back. These are the only moments in the day he’s not talking and I guess we should cherish them, but they are dampened by watching our kid struggle to make a fist-sized piece of beef fit down his throat.

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What? Only a single bite of birthday cake this year?

He is a rider of  whales.

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He has confidence. So much confidence!

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I’m not sure why I took this picture or what Rocco was doing here, but $10 says it involves soliciting.

Rocco’s favorite thing to laugh at is himself. I’ve only seen him truly upset a couple times in his life (though I’ve seen him make others upset many, many times). He still completely looks up to Vincenzo and is always inviting him to do stuff Vincenzo has completely zero interest in doing, like playing Minecraft with his 6th grade friends and picking blackberries with his mom.

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He still can make Leo cry at will.

Rocco is strong-willed, confident, good-natured, argumentative, happy, steady, smart (so smart!), hard working, industrious, forgiving, creative, never bored, never tired, always friendly, always helpful. He feels welcome everywhere. He invites everyone in. He assumes they want to know every tiny detail about how he built that Lego boat.

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He pauses in his Lego boat play-by-play oration. “Mom, what did you like to play with when you were growing up?” I answer, and he listens. As long as you’re not trying to talk him out of something, he really listens.

Rocco is a big-hearted kid and he’s worth every minute of exasperation.

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We love him to pieces.

Lego pieces. Dillions of ‘em.**

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Fair fare!

*I will unapologetically use the word “Legos” instead of “Lego Bricks” for the same reason I say, “a whole nother.” It’s common law.

**Inside joke. Rocco will get it.

Chi-town

We did it! We took our first plane trip since quarantine started! I never thought I’d miss the feeling of finding the last three empty seats at a boarding gate, or the tiny bag of pretzel mix. I never thought I’d miss the tiny tray tables. Or of waiting for bags. Or of the smell of the inside of an airplane. But I did. Even though an airplane’s whole purpose is to take you away from home, once I got on one it felt like being home again—part of our bigger home, which includes our dear friends and family in Chicago.

And also Portillo’s.

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Here is Kevin, holding a “wet big beef,” which is a lot less inappropriate than it sounds and a lot more sandwichy.

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In his left hand is a chocolate cake shake, at the bottom of which were two solid inches of chocolate cake mud, which is my favorite kind of mud.

Kevin keeps insisting that now that he doesn’t have a gall bladder, his body doesn’t absorb fat so he can eat as much as he wants. He actually believes this. He is not joking.  I felt obligated to drink most of the cake shake. You know, for Kevin’s health.

We spent the next day at a water park with the Calamaras family, who is just as joyous and magical as they were when they left our neighborhood two years ago, except now two of them are dinosaurs. Wet ones.

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(Not pictured: pointy teeth and sharp claws. They are implied. )

The place was small enough and the kids were big enough that the adults could just sit around talking, soaking up the sun and being lazy. But then Rocco came up and said, “You should try the water slides, Mom,” and Rocco doesn’t take no for an answer. I’m glad he doesn’t because the water slide races were super fun, mainly because I kept winning—though though I didn’t appreciate the kids pointing out EVERY TIME that it’s because I weigh SO much.

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(Not pictured: really heavy Mom beating her kids down the water slides.)

No one was ready to part ways by the end of the afternoon so we moved the party to the Calamaras home, which has enough closets to fit our entire house in. Wet beefs aren’t the only thing that’s big in Chicago!

We left Vincenzo to watch the boys, who watched The Wizard of Oz, while the adults went out to dinner.

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(Vincenzo made sure to watch his phone while we were gone, too.)

Over squid and pasta we started planning our next vacation together and accidentally planned a whole dozen of vacations together. San Diego! San Antonio! Alaska! Yellowstone! Italy! Croatia! Transylvania! We would have kept going but we had eaten all the carrot cake and tiramisu by then. So we picked up the boys, said goodbye for now, and drove away, yelling, “See you in the Galapagos!”

The next day we met up with the owner of the Ashley Whippet Museum, a.k.a Uncle Tom. The Ashley Whippet Museum takes up most of his basement, but don’t let that lower your expectations. It has things behind glass, bumper stickers,novelty t-shirts, knick-knacks and collectibles (both !), things behind counters and more things hanging from the walls and ceilings, just like a real museum. Which it is! (I blogged about it several years back, if you want to revisit.)

You probably guessed that we started the day by frolfing. Frolfing, I should clarify, is not a word. It makes Uncle Tom turn red and shake his fist and invoke the name of the PDGA. I may very well be banned from the sport of frolfing simply for writing the word so many frolfing times in this blog post. But hey, that’s just par for the [frolf] course!

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Uncle Tom and Aunt Chris’ house is full of kids and dogs, and all of them are friendly except the one that tries to bite you anytime you make eye contact with it. (That one’s a dog named Kahlua, and occasionally a kid named Leo.) Kahlua follows you around staring up at you, and do you know how hard it is not to look at someone who is staring at you with big, literal puppy dog eyes? I wanted a picture in the worst way but I also didn’t want my face bitten off in the worst way, so instead I took a picture of a more emotionally stable dog.

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That’s Aria, and she’s just as sweet as she looks.

This was only the second time our kids had seen most of their second-cousins, but they were instant friends. The recipe was simple, as it is for most instant things: just add water!

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The chicken never warmed to us, but she posed for a picture anyway. (She doesn’t have any issues with eye contact.

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Vincenzo spent so much time with little kids during our stay that he began wearing them as capes.

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It’s the first time Kevin’s grandma (GG) was together with all eight great grandchildren, so they gathered around for a photo op. The kids wore their nicest beach towels for the occasion.

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After two days of nonstop laughter, splashing, staying up late, and playing tag, we needed a little downtime so on the last day we went to the mall to spend an hour at Mish Mash, which is a combination of an escape room and American Gladiators. You know it’s been an intense vacation when plowing through vats of exercise balls and climbing rock walls feels like down time.

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We celebrating by eating rolled ice cream. Whaaaat?

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We finished up the vacation with deep dish pizza at Uncle Tom and Aunt Chris’ house. I wanted to bottle up the sound of the house as we were leaving. Everyone packed together, kids wanting up, kids wanting down, dogs barking, moms looking for lost shoes, dads looking for lost kids, adults finishing conversations and making plans to see each other again.

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It was exhausting.

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And amazing.

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And I’m so glad to be back in the world.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Macaroni and cheese
Garlicky green beans
Peaches & blackberries
Chocolate pudding

What Could Go Wrong?

Warning: If your name is McStreamy, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. There is stuff in here that will make you never come to our house again. Close the browser. Delete the browser! Go watch some kittens walking with a tiny chick instead.

Okay, now to get into it. Last week was a helluva week. Vincenzo got an ear infection, Leo got a staph infection, Kevin got a gallbladder infection, I got a yeast and bacterial  infection, the microwave broke, the fridge stopped working and the washing machine is leaking. Basically now we’re all just sitting around looking at Rocco, waiting to see what he gets. I hope it’s something good!

Let’s break some of this down.

I took the kids in for their annual check-up to find out that Vincenzo has an ear infection. We were both surprised, as he hasn’t been in any pain, so he got off easy with a prescription of ear drops. Well that’s kind of crazy I thought, because I didn’t yet know what crazy meant.

Then it was Leo’s turn. Leo’s knee got cut by a rock at Whidbey and had developed a bit of a rash, which often happens when he uses Band-aids so I didn’t think much of it. The pediatrician took one look and the mood of the room went from, “Do you eat your vegetables?” to, “THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY HOW DID YOU NOT NOTICE?!” I took a closer look and realized it was more than a skin rash—it was a red, puffy, angry thing and, as the doctor explained, having an infection close to a joint can lead to sepsis very quickly. The only reason she didn’t send us to the ER is because it wasn’t causing Leo any pain, so we are giving it a round of topical antibiotics and I am trying not to think about the what-if’s.

Kevin’s gallbladder you already know about, so I won’t rehash. He feels slighted that I got two infections to his one, but he should know by now that I’m super competitive like that. #winning!

Anyway, no one wants details about my female problems, so let’s move onto the fridge, which had problems even grosser than mine.

MCSTREAMY, YOU BETTER NOT STILL BE HERE. I MEAN IT. HERE IS A VIDEO OF CUTE CATS DOING FUNNY THINGS.

And here is a picture of the bottom of my fridge yesterday morning.

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You’re looking at an inch of standing water with two colors of mold growing on it. Let’s all be thankful McStreamy isn’t here to witness this.

I feel like the biggest idiot for not realizing sooner what was going on. I clearly remember eating a runny yogurt three weeks ago. Three weeks ago. “That’s weird,” I thought. “They must have changed their recipe.” Then there was the parmesan cheese that went bad, and the tahini that we’ve had for five years and had never gone bad before. And my iced tea wasn’t that cold anymore so I started keeping it in the downstairs fridge. There was the smell, too, which we kept blaming on things like the turkey that had gone bad, and the marinara that had gone worse, and the onion which had grown a stem, and the Reddi Whip that had gotten moldy. Reddi Whip! That’s not even food and it went bad!

But the control panel in the fridge kept saying it was 37 degrees and it  looked so believable, with its blue computery numbers. The food kept telling me, “SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG!” but the fridge kept saying, “ALL GOOD HERE!”

I am grossed out and completely shocked that we haven’t gotten sick. It’s like we’ve been setting all the things you normally put in a fridge—milk, eggs, yogurt, ham—in the pantry instead. There I was, slicing off pieces of pantry ham for my children’s sandwiches.

Fortunately,  we all survived and now instead of mold our fridge smells like bleach. Normally I would not feel good about my food smelling like bleach, but it’s been a crazy week and that’s where I am.

Wait a minute. Back up. Did I just write that I’m shocked we haven’t gotten sick? Did I not read the first half of this blog? Am I right in wondering if eating food growing above a moldy puddle for three weeks has anything to do with our recent rash of infections?

Or am I just crazy?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Kalbi flank steak
Corn pudding
Green beans with dill

The Gall!

Rocco had a slumber party on Saturday, and you know how those things go—the kids commandeer every pillow and blanket in the house, eat all the Skittles, go to bed way too late, and your husband wakes up at midnight and has to go to the ER for emergency surgery. We’ve all been there, right?

No?

At midnight, Kevin was having a lot of chest pain, then he started sweating and vomiting. We called 911, which sent out a few fire fighters who didn’t think it was a big enough deal to call an ambulance but did think it was a big enough deal to leave seven children unattended and go to the ER. I woke Vincenzo up to tell him where we were going in case anyone needed me. He looked at us, nodded, said he was wide awake and understood, and in the morning had no recollection of the conversation. (Turns out he had taken a Nyquil because it was too hot to sleep, which led to a whole different conversation.)

At the hospital the nurse ordered an ultrasound of Kevin’s gallbladder. The sonographer measured something on the computer and labeled it “neck,” then drew an arrow at another thing and labeled it, “head,” and then I sat up straight and said, “Kevin, we still have the crib in storage, right?” The sonographer didn’t even look up, even though Kevin kept groaning and curling up into the fetal position and it was clear he was in labor.

I went home to sleep wile he waited for results. I was hoping for another boy, but the sonographer told me it was a gallbladder. The nursing staff told Kevin it was a good thing his daughter went home because he’ll be staying overnight.

Kevin  texted an hour later. Infected gall bladder. They’re taking it out tomorrow lol

The gallbladder, as everyone knows, stores bile to break down fats in the body. Like say if someone went to the movies and ate a whole thing of popcorn with extra butter, then a few pieces of Domino’s pizza, then cake and ice cream, hypothetically speaking, the gallbladder would jump into action. Kevin’s gallbladder was infected because he got a gallstone, and his body happens to make super-sized gallstones, which is just great because now he’s going to be bragging to everyone about the size of his gallstones.

Anyway, he sent me the text and I texted back some prayer hand emojis and a gif of the game Operation, which is my way of saying, “I love you, I hope you’re not in pain, and please don’t die because the thermostat is flashing an error message and I’ll never figure it out on my own.”

Kevin’s dad spent the day with him at the hospital while I finished up the slumber party and scrolled through gall bladder gifs (of which there are a surprising amount). I barely had time to send them though because Kevin was home by 1, explaining how they put mini scissors through one hole in his abdomen, a mini camera into another, and then they pulled the gall bladder out through his belly button. I patted his knee and pretended to believe it all, as you do when young children or drunk people tell you crazy things their friends said that they believe are definitely true.

Since he was home I cut off his his tags.

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“Kevin.”

Did he make finger quotes when he said his name? Did he say it sarcastically? Did they think he was really a young Rodney Dangerfield?

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(Kevin the one on the right.)

(Wait—left.)

Before driving off, his dad told me that “Kevin” (if that even is his name) is not allowed to shower for a couple days. As soon as I tucked him in bed, he started asking for a sponge bath. I don’t know if he’s going to get one, but I do know I’m not letting him go to slumber parties anytime soon.

Some people just can’t handle them.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Southwest chicken salad
That’s it.
Nothing else.
Just a couple lines of writing to
make it look like there’s more.

My Ears Are Still Ringing

The Whidbey trip of last weekend was one of epic proportions. I let each of the boys bring a friend this time. You already know what my boys look like; here are their friends:

Oliver, playing a full-sized violin:

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Cole—Rocco’s brother from another mother, and the only person I know who can squeeze more words into a minute than Rocco can:

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Ian and Harley (Leo got a BOGO deal, as he chose twins for his friend).

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Harley is the one flashing a “loser” sign and Ian is the apparent loser.

On the way up, the boys did the math: two adults to seven boys.

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What that mostly meant was that we lost track of the times we said, “Chew and swallow before you talk!” Like, we lost count by the end of our first meal. It also meant every car ride and meal sounded like this.

I love being a boy mom. I truly do. But wouldn’t it be nice to hear the kids have a conversation in the back of the car? An actual conversation, maybe about the scenery, or feelings, or the Kardashians. Just anything! But alas, the boys do not have conversations. They have verbal peeing contests, like this:

Question: Can you count to 10 without saying the number 10?
Answer: (5 minutes of shouting numbers and yelling of the word, “NOPE!”)

Statement: My friend has a 16-foot deep pool.
Discussion: (10 minutes of competitive pool depth comparisons)

Statement: I figured out how to build a house out of bedrock in Minecraft.
Discussion: (conversation was indecipherable, but excessively loud and passionate)

The biggest problem with these “conversations” is that they start with an iffy-sounding statement and they end nowhere. The kids get trapped inside and the only possible way out is by me saying, “Enough,” then yelling, “ENOUGH,” then adding, “ENOUGH! ENOUGH!”

The only time the competitive sentence yelling ceased was after the arcade, when instead, the car filled with chewing and slurping sounds as the boys dumped packages of sour grape heads into their mouth. It was enough to make me want to ask if anyone can count to two billion without saying the words “two” or “billion.”

Oh right! The arcade! In the dozens and dozens of times I’ve been to the cabin, I had never been to the arcade. I want a redo on those other dozens and dozens of times.

As soon as you drive past the 60s-era sign, you feel like you’ve walked on the set of a movie that takes place in some charming small town frozen in time. A Jack-and-Diane town.

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(Picture shamelessly lifted from Internet.)

It smells like popcorn and red vines, they’re piping oldies outside—real oldies, not 80s oldies—and people show up for the drive-in movie three hours early to throw footballs around and swap jelly recipes or whatever.

We didn’t stay for the drive-in, but the sky put on a pretty good show of its own. For free!

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The arcade had basketball Connect Four, giant Pac-Man, and an even gianter version of this:

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Pushing the giant water-filled giant was every bit as satisfying as you’d imagine it would be.

Cole and Rocco rode the go-karts.

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Cole came in first place.

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Rocco came in safest place.

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Meanwhile, inside the arcade, Kevin beat the giant water ring game…

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…and Ian discovered his favorite element on the periodic table.

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(This is the same kid who, when told he needed to have something green with his dinner, chose Ginger Ale.)

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But the arcade, of course, was not the reason we go to Whidbey. We go to Whidbey to get away from screens. We go for the beach time!

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*AHEM*

We go for the beach time!

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Vincenzo and Oliver decided to build a driftwood fort.

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Things got kind of out of hand.

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They built a house, no big deal. The house had a hanging shelf,

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another hanging shelf,

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a rock garden,

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a couch,

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and a table and chairs, where the boys could often be found whittling driftwood pencils or making rock art.

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Here’s the virtual tour that we’ll be listing on Redfin soon.

When I planned the trip, I imagined the boys spendings hours a day swimming at the pool while I lay on a chair, reading a self-help book in the shade of my sunhat. The pool was colder than the boys liked, so I spent significantly less time than I wanted lying poolside.

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I spent a lot more time than I imagined being caught up in a ridiculous, raucous, random mess of boys and noise. In the end, the trip was better than I ever could have imagined, and my happiness cup runneth over.

But my energy cup runneth dry.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken satay
Coconut rice
Roasted broccoli
Peach cobbler a la mode

Our Marriage is Old Enough to Vote

We celebrated our 18th anniversary with dinner at a monastery-turned recovery center-turned rec center-turned hotel and restaurant at St. Edward’s Park.

I thought it would keep our marriage fresh if I went to dinner naked.

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Just kidding. I wasn’t naked. I wore eyelid tape!

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Why did I not discover such a wondrous thing until my 45th year?

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Okay, okay, I wasn’t naked.

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I wore a dress and proper foot attire, which is more than I can say for Kevin. (He hates dresses.)

Eighteen years is the porcelain anniversary, which means I can finally buy Kevin the porcelain box he’s been pining for.

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I never knew he had such a thing for lemons!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken curry
Jasmine rice
Fresh vegetables
Chocolate macarons

Leavenworth

When we booked a house at Leavenworth last fall, we didn’t stop to ask ourselves, “Will the temperature be above 110 degrees in July?” We also didn’t stop to ask ourselves, “Does the house have AC?” The answer to the first question, you probably know, is yes. And the answer to the second, you probably guessed, is no.

The trip was incredibly awesome anyway—all my siblings, parents, and nieces/nephews (21 of us!) in a house with a pool on a river in the mountains. There’s so much that could have gone wrong, but instead there were so many things that went right.

Except the things that went wrong.

Like the pool water being so murky we couldn’t see our feet.

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(Where even are their legs?)

And the deck that dealt out splinters like dollar bills at a strip club.

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We had to open a 24-7 ER for splinter removal.

And the mosquitoes. The MOSQUITOES! The river was a breeding ground for them. By the time we walked the little path to the river, we were weak from blood loss. To sit and enjoy the view was certain death.

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Do not be fooled by the serenity of this picture. There are a zillion bloodthirsty little buggers hiding in those bushes.

They didn’t just keep to the river either. In the morning we’d look out the windows and a dozen mosquitoes would be bumping into the window, asking, “You guys open yet?”

But really, the point is, so much went right on our trip.

Like discovering a meat-only vending machine.

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And like when we passed my dad coming up the drive and asked if he had any Grey Poupon and he handed this over.

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(Tru-ish story: Dad drove two hours home and then two hours back to get that mustard out of his fridge. There was about an inch of mustard in the container.)

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An there was Kevin, exerting his dominance over everyone smaller than him in the pool and insisting they call him Uncle Scupper.

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Uncle Scupper and the Missus:

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The vacation weekend made it feel like old times, when pandemics existed only in movies and masks were something you wore at Halloween.  Pictured below: Leo and Shelby blowing into both ends of a water noodle, signaling the official end of quarantine.

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The kids fell into a glorious routine of swimming, Dungeons and Dragons, screen time, Legos, pool, Dungeons and Dragons, screen time, Legos, pool…you could feel the world spinning as you watched them go round and round.

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They also spent a good deal of time looking for Waldo…

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and playing games…

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and trying to eat their ice cream cones fast enough.

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Our final night there, my dad brought a water balloon launcher.

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My brother & co provided the targets.

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Needless to say, there were shenanigans and the targets ended up thoroughly soaked.

This has been a tricky trip to blog. There were too many inside jokes, too many gruesome pictures of splinter operations, too many moments that were meant for just being inside of and can’t be blogged about. I’ve spent about 5 hours on this post trying to write it all out but the moments lose all their funny. It’s driving me crazy not to be able to write them out! So here are some pictures that may or may not spark a funny yet un-writable memory for you.

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Bucket hat:

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They said they were just doing their job, but the timing of this log removal felt personal to those of us there.

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Contraband:

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My brother, spraying the children with pesticides to get a good photo:PXL_20210630_020333532.PORTRAIT

Random tiny babies:PXL_20210630_234902679.PORTRAIT

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Nothing! Maybe we’ll walk to the taco truck?

Fourth of July ‘21

It’s weird because it seems quarantine is over—barely anyone’s wearing masks, parties are back on, and I stopped individually hand-washing the grapes—and yet all the Fourth of July activities were still canceled. It’s like our city is suffering from a bad quarantine hangover.

We managed to piece together a version of the events on our own, though admittedly the parade looked a bit sad.

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I know!  Not a single advertisement for the local car dealership or that one Really Big, Loud Truck you’re not sure why is in the parade. Not one piece of street-warmed taffy to be had.

But the fireworks show was pretty good. It started with this…

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escalated into that…

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…then went straight to the grand finale.

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It was a wild 90 seconds of fun!

At some point in the day, it stopped feeling like the Fourth of July and started feeling like The Fifth or Twenty Second, or Any Random Day of July.

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But Any Random Day of July is still better than Any Random day of January, February, March, and a whole lot of other months, so we’ll take it.

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Wishing you all a happy Random Day of July!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Asian meatball lettuce wraps
Lemony kale salad
Magic bars