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

Introvert or Extrovert: Do I Have to Pick?

Ah! I keep forgetting I have a blog! Because it’s summer!

It’s hard to think that two weeks ago we were still quarantining pretty hard, because now suddenly life is on, and it’s on times 200.

The past week has been all end-of-year parties, barbecues, out-of-town friends, photoshoots, picnic parties, lunch dates, and watching Rocco while he watches the neighborhood kids in our backyard.

The first social event left me wanting to sit in a dark closet for the rest of the evening. When I tried to sleep that night, it felt like I was riding the scrambler at the fair, with faces and conversations jumping out, whizzing away, jumping out, whizzing, away. I lay there analyzing everything I said, worried I offended someone or thinking of something funnier I could have said. I replayed things other people said to figure out what they really meant. I obsessed about whether I wore the tank top and ultimately decide that no, I did not wear the right tank top. I want a redo! I knew exactly which tank top I’d wear.

This used to happen in The Beforetimes, too. I had just forgotten how exhausting it can be.

My therapist says I have social anxiety. Me? Social anxiety? I’m the one who’s planning half these things! She also says I’m an introvert. Me? I love being around people! I was Homecoming Queen! Homecoming Queens aren’t introverts!

She repeats back all the stuff I just told her: the inability to sleep after parties, the over-analysis of conversations, the wanting to sit inside a closet after social events, the relief when parties get canceled, the crankiness that quarantine is over.

“Oh,” I say. “Huh.”

She says I’m an introvert with some fairly extroverted tendencies, but how does she know I’m not an extrovert with some fairly introverted tendencies? How could one tell the difference? I feel more like half and half, and my two halves constantly battle each other.

The Extrovert: Plan a big BBQ! It will be fun! You’ll love it!

So I do. And then the other half starts talking.

The Introvert: Well way to go. You ruined another perfectly quiet, calm evening you could have spent watching Star Trek reruns with your family.

Then the BBQ happens and I thoroughly enjoy myself. As the last guest leaves…

The Extrovert: See? I told you you’d love it!

Three hours later, lying awake in bed…

The Introvert: See? I told you this would happen.

They’re worse than the kids. At least when the kids fight, I can separate them. Or plan a date night to escape them. Or yell, “Popsicle time!” to distract them.

But alas, they can’t be separated, they show up to date nights, and the popsicles aren’t working.

Anyway, I was just wondering if you want to come over for a BBQ? It will be awesome! You’re going to love it! I already know which tank top I’m going to wear!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Black bean burgers
Cotton candy grapes
Ice cream sandwiches

Status Quo

Heeeeyyyy, it’s me with nothing to blog about. I guess I’ll give you the status quo for all the Mouthies?

Vincenzo continues to be the most chill human being on the face of the earth.  He is surprised on a daily basis to realize he missed another homework assignment. Every day. No idea. He’s indifferent about pretty much everything—except computers. When I have a computer problem, it’s now Vincenzo who helps me with it. Kevin is getting nervous, as I will soon have no more use for him. Vincenzo comes alive about 9 at night, when his friends log on to play games with him, and we hear him laughing, getting excited, despairing—we hear him emoting. The other time he comes alive is when he’s with his younger cousins, who still worship him as their god. He is a fair and just ruler, and more importantly he can lift the heavy logs.

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He is also a very good sport.

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Rocco continues to be the loudest Mouthy. He’s also the fastest, finishing an hour’s worth of homework in ten minutes. Quality is of little concern, unless it comes to Lego boats, which Rocco spends hours and hours working on. He’s always happy, which makes it hard to get after him. It takes a lot of lecturing and taking away of things to make him doing anything other than smile at us and laugh at himself. We try our best. I don’t want to write too much about him because there will be a graduation post coming up plus a birthday blog in July, so we must ration our Rocco ramblings.

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All traces of Leo’s snuggly cuteness have given way to random silliness, and it is physically impossible to get a picture of him smiling like a normal human being. He walks out of his room doing monkey arms and making a bug-eyed face, stomping around the living room and asking what’s for breakfast in a slow-motion voice. The neighbor girl has been teaching him and Rocco how to jump rope, and now Leo has decided to teach his neighborhood friends how to jump rope—and not just for fun, but for pay. He is very persistent and will not take no for an answer, so now we have to pay him to play with his friends. Fortunately, he accepts video game bucks.

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Wait—actually he did smile normally for a picture! Unfortunately, it was while sitting on a free toilet someone left on our block, so it doesn’t count.

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Kevin only went to the office that one day, and now he’s back in the cloffice, which, BTW, looks like this now!

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We’re still finishing up some details, but I’ll post befores/afters in another post. Or maybe I won’t. Who knows? I’m a loose cannon!

Anyway, I asked Kevin what he wants me to write about him and he said, “Just now I was trying to figure out how to use boto files for a owned test account. I didn’t know how to do it so I searched internally for someone who could help, and my name showed up as the foremost expert on it.” So that’s where he’s at. (If you know anyone who knows more about boto files than he does, please post in comments.)

Me: I’m still writing stories, with no publication plans in sight. I moved my woodland creatures into summer, where they sneak each others’ cucumbers and try to turn rivers into swimming holes. Here’s the beginning to the swimming hole story that I can’t use but it’s too good not to share.

“This is the year it’s going to work,” Squirrel said.
”Darn right it is,” Mouse said.
”Dam right it is!” Squirrel replied, because that’s what they were making.  A dam.

It’s so hard to hold myself back sometimes.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Beef sukiyaki
Edamame

Bits & Pieces

Just a little catch-up on the past few weeks.

1. Passing a house with a big yard on a walk with my boys:
Me: Can you imagine how much time you’d spend playing outside if we had that yard?
*pause*
Me: Actually, you’d still probably stay inside playing video games.
Rocco and Leo simultaneously: No; we’d be outside playing video games.

2. Family discussion at dinner.

Me: What if I wrote a book called Little Red Fighting Hood?
Leo: Her hood was actually white, until the fighting began.
Me: The woods were a dark place. A very dark place.

3. Kevin had his first day back at the office:

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4. Rocco chipped another tooth. This time, it was Leo’s.

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5. Rocco acted in a play while also sitting with the audience, watching the play:

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6. Just a typical Saturday morning:

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7. We had our first public outing (other than parks, beaches, and hikes):

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I had forgotten how much I love this kind of thing!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Macaroni & cheese
Roasted broccoli

More

All right, you all failed me in the comments section, but my friend Renee texted some winners. She’s my former blogging friend and my current IRL friend who lives 1,412 miles too far away, and she is the funniest person I know.

1. You can camouflage with anything…but you make a loud fire alarm sound every time you do.

2. You have X-ray vision…but every time you use it you appear naked to everyone else.

And here’s one she made up just for me:

3. You never drop a breakfast casserole again…but you never make one as good as the one you dropped.

Renee, I will be sending you the prize of one million dollars shortly. (Did I forget to mention the prize earlier?)

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Who can be tied down with dinner options on a 70 degree day in Seattle?!

Mother’s Day Ups and Downs

Mother’s Day has been a series of ups and downs. The biggest down was when I dumped the breakfast casserole I was bringing to brunch upside down in the trunk of the car. I was already having an emotional week (slash month slash year slash life), so when we got to my parents’ I hid in the backyard to cry. But my sisters found me and listened while I cried that I want to go back to that part where everything was closed and we couldn’t go anywhere and didn’t have to talk to anyone. My sisters were all empathy and caring and God bless ‘em not a single one mentioned how badly they wanted a slice of breakfast casserole right then. They cheered me up in the way only sisters and good friends can. (I’m so lucky they are both of these things.)

The conversation we had over breakfast casserole, scrambled eggs and ham also cheered me up. We played a game where one person named a superhero and other people added a caveat. You know—like you can fly, but only once a week and you don’t know when it’s going to happen.

Here are the highlights, for all those moms out there who are trying to forget the fact that their minivans will forever smell of breakfast casseroles:

1. You can breathe underwater…but you are a weak swimmer.

2. You have super speed…but you can only go backwards.

3a. You have super strength…but only in your pinky fingers.
3b. You have super strength…but you cry like a baby every time you use it.

4a. You can change the weather…but every time you do, the weather also changes you.
4b. You can change the weather…but only on Mars.

5a. You can read people’s minds…but only your own.
5b. You can read people’s minds…but only by reading it in Braille on their foreheads.

6. You can see at night…but only things that start with the letter “F.”

7. You can shrink to the size of an ant…but only when you’re hungry, and you’re an anteater.

8. You have eyes in the back of your head…but you have really thick hair.

9. You are a shapeshifter…but you can only shapeshift into your twin brother.

10. You can shoot lasers from your eyes…but you’re followed by an army of cats that chase the laser lights any time you use them.

11a. You can control other people…but only their blinking.
11b. You can control other people…but every time you do, the first thing they do is punch you in the face before you get control.

For anyone who thinks it sounds like fun, here are a couple super powers that you can add caveats to in the comment section:

You have X-ray vision, but…
You can camouflage with your surroundings, but…
You can walk through fire, but…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Picking up fried chicken, rolls, & sweet tea for a picnic. (I am not carrying ANY of it.)

Beautiful Baby Bump

I got to do a photoshoot!! This time of my effervescent cousin, her husband, and a baby bump built for two. (Twin boys!)

Sometimes I think I want to stop everything else in life and just take pictures of people wearing lovely smiles in beautiful gardens. But then, half the fun for me is that the people I photograph are some of my closest friends and family. I have a feeling it’s not all hugs and heart emojis once you start a business.

It’s impossible to take a bad picture of these two and it was hard to narrow down the 553 shots to a reasonable amount. (Seriously, do these guys even blink?) I could publish another post with another dozen and it would be hard to tell which ones were my first picks.

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And the best for last…

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There is so much joy here, it makes the tough times of the past year seem miles away. And to think—the best is yet to come!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pasta bolognese
Parmesan broccoli

In Which She Unleashes the Metaphors

The kids have gone back to school full-time, as in “full time,” as in they get out 90 minutes early, there’s no school on Wednesdays, and Vincenzo chose to stay remote. But it feels like they’re gone full time. Naturally, now that I have more time to myself, I expect Great Things of said self.

I just finished up a set of stories about woodland creatures in winter, and writing each one made me happier than the last. It’s a cast of quirky characters with big little problems. But now the well is dry, which makes me uncomfortable, like when you have an itchy tag in your shirt that you just can’t fix.

People say it’s okay to take a break—that it’s healthy and important. But I take after the tiny chickadee in my stories, who is not going to sit around waiting for the sun to return but will go find the sun and bring it back to everyone. (And she does!)

So I make myself sit at my keyboard and keep my fingers moving, even if it’s to write, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE over and over again, like a naughty kid sent to the chalkboard to write sentences.

When the boys are gone for at school, here is my schedule:

1. Write for an hour or two
2. Feel creatively spent
3. Read for an hour or three
4. Visit Kevin in the cloffice to report that I’m lazy, I should be writing more, I’m wasting the day, I’m out of ideas, I wish the boys were home, I want another baby
5. Cook, clean, garden, answer e-mails—do all the Mom things that would make me happy if they didn’t also make me feel guilty

(My therapist tells me that #5 is not healthy.)

I wish I could copy/paste my mentality from the when the boys were at home full-time to now. Where even half a page of I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO WRITE sentences felt like a huge accomplishment. Where instead of saying, “I only wrote for an hour today,” I’d say, “I wrote for a whole hour today!”

When I was at the gym this week, some guy came up and said, “I’ve been watching you work out, and you’re killing it. Killing it!”

I want to channel his ebullient voice and apply it to my writing life. Because this sage (extremely repressed) part of me knows I’m killing it. That reading on the couch for an entire afternoon is just as important as writing for an afternoon. That anything I write counts, not just the stuff that makes it onto the final page. That ideas will come. That rest is important. That not every writer is meant to sit in a room, pounding out words for eight hours a day. That some (many? all?) write in spurts, as inspiration and busy schedules allow. That I will always have something to write because for me, writing is like drinking water.

But the overachieving, anxious part of me says, “BS! Only writing stories counts. Only writing good stories counts. Go write one. Now!” I am both the princess trying to spin flax into gold and also the jerk making her to do it.

It’s a compulsion. An obsession. A passion. It’s an itch that can’t be scratched. It’s trying to wring another drop out of the washcloth. It’s a baby bird that can never be filled up with enough worms. I keep writing, thinking maybe I will feel satisfied that I did everything I need to and can spend the rest of my life browsing REI and watching nature documentaries.

But I keep wanting more. What even is my goal?

Right now it’s to write something that sounds like and says exactly what I want it to sound like and say, and for certain people to be so moved by it that they publish it and put into the hands of many other people who, too, feel moved by it. If I could just do that once even, I could relax.

Kevin shakes his head. “You really don’t know yourself, do you?” He points out that the minute I reach a goal, I move the goal posts. He says I’m trying to hit a moving target. (He can do metaphors, too!)

But I have to believe that someday I will feel satisfied—that my words will go out in the world and make a life for themselves. That they won’t be hanging out in the basement, eating all the Cheez-its forever.

It’s a big pile of flax I’ve got to spin. If only I could remember that one name, that one word, that could make me do what I so very much want to do.

Great. This post is done. And now, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’M GOING TO WRITE!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pita pizzas
Salad
Brownies

Different Whidbey

For spring break this year, we went to Whidbey, only not the same Whidbey I’ve been blogging about these past 13 years–we did the sacrilegious and rented a house instead of staying in our family cabin.

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The house was charming, the location was stunning, and, as all our favorite VRBO’s, this one some good quirks.  Like having windows where there shouldn’t be windows…

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and not having doors where there should be doors…

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and having some bathroom art that just shouldn’t have been at all.

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The house should have come with a PG-13 rating, right? We do love us some quirks. But really, the house, the little town nearby, the beach–the whole weekend, really, was perfect.

The boys kayaked.

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Rocco flew a kite.

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Actually, it’s hard to see below, but he outsourced the kite flying to this chair so he could go fly a different kite.

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Vincenzo finally emerged from his cocoon.

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Leo flip-flop hop-scotched.

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Vincenzo built a tiki bar.

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At some point, Batman was signaled.

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In the evenings, dozens of seagulls gathered on the beach to pick up clams in their beaks, fly up, then drop them to the ground to crack open and eat. There was drama, thievery, daredevil acts, and even romance. It was better than TV!

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Leo’s not really into kayaking, kite flying, beach-combing, playing board games, or fort-building. He is into taking baths, so he spent the three days  making rounds between the hot tub, the slipper tub, and the jetted tub. We’ve decided all future vacation rentals will be based on the amount of available tubs.

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With quarantine still going on, I dream of the day I’m comfortable enough to fly to Hawaii or California or New Zealand, but in the meantime I feel fortunate that we live an hour and a half way from the northwest’s version of paradise. There might not be any palm trees, but you don’t even miss them.

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Or the curtains either.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Pasta primavera
Overbaked blondies (that’s not some new gourmet thing—we just majorly overbaked them, but my childhood upbringing prevents me from throwing them ou

Easter ‘21

Is it a sign your kid is getting too old for egg decorating when he gets too tall for the pictures?

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Well, at least two of them still fit.

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Of course, those two lasted about 30 seconds before the egg decorating devolved into this:

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On Easter Eve those same two went to a glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt…

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…which quickly devolved into this:

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Then I went home and worried because Leo still believes in the Easter Bunny and he’s old enough I should probably tell him, but as a sweet, fragile soul, he will be crushed to find out the truth. But in the midst of all my worrying, he popped into my room and said, “I think it’s funny that I don’t believe in magic, but I do believe in Santa. Unless Santa is your parents…” He got about three words into asking The Question before he decided against it, but the way he said those three words told me he knows, and he knows I know he knows, and it’s more like a fun joke than a soul-crushing truth. My kids have all handled this so much better than I did! I went to sleep on Easter relieved that I won’t have to pull the whole “I Love You Forever” stint and creep around Leo’s house playing Easter Bunny when he gets married and moves out.

The important thing is, the Easter Bunny came anyway,  even with everyone knowing what everyone knows.

You can see by his hair how fast Leo was going on the egg hunt.

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Kidding! His hair always does that.

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It’s enough to make Rocco’s hair look  calm and mild-mannered.

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Vincenzo looked more like a bleary-eyed parent on Easter morning than a 15-1/2-year-old.

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I didn’t get the perfect Easter picture, but I got one that manages to capture all three boys’ personalities: one grinning mischievously, one hiding in the background, one exuding confidence.

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Yup. And that’s about it.

WHATS COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Fridge and freezer dive:
Hot dogs
Fried rice
Pasta
Baked potatoes and creamed eggs
Girl Scout cookies