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

Boring Life Stuff

Nothing makes you want to read a blog post more than when it’s got the word “boring” in the title! But life’s been boring, which gives me time to blog, which brings us to this post.

1. I got my first Covid vaccine! My second one is tomorrow, and I’m kind of dreading the aftermath…except for this part of me that is looking forward to not feeling guilty about lying in bed for a day. (That part of me is about 48 hours away from big regrets.)

2. I’m dreaming of all the places I want to travel to once I’m vaccinated, and Kevin says I can actually book something now. Go for it!! Then I think through all the logistics and details of it and realize I really don’t want to go to those places after all, or at least not on my own—I just like the idea of going.

3. Leo had his first day back at school, and any doubts I had about sending him back vanished when he got in the car afterwards with the biggest smile on his face. “That was the best day of school ever!”

4. The cloffice remodel is 95% finished!  Oddly, I’m kind of going to miss the roughing-it  feel  of my temporary office.

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5. My kids continue to resist any form of physical activity. I tell them to walk around the block a couple times. Instead, Leo starts spontaneously doing high knees next to me.
Leo: How long do I have to do this for it to count?
Me: Okay Google, set timer for 30 minutes.
Leo: MOOOMM!

6. I’m looking into GI specialists to help with this whole Tourette’s-squawking thing. My search slowed considerably when I read that most likely I’ll be given either an endoscopy or a colonoscopy. It’s really not SQUAAWWWK  that bad!

7. I’ve put the novel to the side for a bit. I can’t remember how much I’ve blogged about it, but there’s a chance it’s just not my book to write and I’ll have to walk away from it. [Insert a month of grief and mourning.]  In the meantime, I’m writing little stories about a cast of woodland creatures in  winter. They are cute and cheesy and nauseating…and I love writing them. Who knew my creativity had such a dark side?

9. Vincenzo made flan for Spanish class. Remember when we had to do that?

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10. My sister tapped our maple trees.

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We didn’t get a single drop of sap. Of course we didn’t, because that would be interesting and exciting, and like I said, life has been boring lately.

But it’s been sweet and good, and that’s the important thing.

Now I’m off to write the cheesiest story yet about Hedgehog giving the gift of nothing (and everything) to his friends for Christmas. The smell of a raspberry, the sound of a river, feel of a sunny day, the taste of April rain…

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Penne with meat sauce
Parmesan broccoli
Chocolate pudding cake

A Conversation

Rocco, after looking through Lego magazine: When is Mother’s Day?
Me: Tomorrow. I hope you got me something!
Rocco: No, really when is Mother’s Day?
Me: Sunday. You have one day to get me something.
(At which point Rocco went to the computer to find out the answer himself.)
Rocco: Oh no! We missed it!

It took a long time to sort it out after that. I kept laughing about the whole “we missed it” thing, Rocco kept feeling badly that he missed it and wondering how it could have happened. “You missed it by ten months!” I said. He seemed confused. I explained to him the cyclical pattern of seasons, months, and days, and how Mother’s Day happens every year, not once in a lifetime. He’s actually two months early for Mother’s Day. And finally the reason for his confusion surfaced.

Rocco: Ohhhh. I thought we were in May.
Kevin: Ah yes, March and May are both months that start with “m.” Like Manuary.
Me: Every month is Manuary.

Then Rocco pulled Kevin into a different room to show him the perfect thing I absolutely must have for Mother’s Day. From a Lego magazine.

The ironic thing is that, after all this, there’s still a good chance he’ll forget Mother’s Day.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Apricot chicken tagine
Edamame

Barely Even a Blog Post

Sorry guys, no time to blog lately! It’s not that I don’t want to, just that life is busy. For example, our cloffice looked like this when we woke up:

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And now it looks like this.

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Also, my bedroom looked like this in the morning (minus the fan—it’s an old picture)

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And now it looks like this:

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Between all that plus  cooking, cleaning, exercising, writing, scrapbooking, gardening, and general momming, my to-do list is long—but hey, at least I can cross “blogging” off it!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Sesame noodles with chicken
Edamame
Mango
Florida lemon bars

Check-in and a Short Play

Oh hi! You’re still here? Me too! I’ve been doing well lately. As a writer, I’m in recovery mode, like I had an injury and need to recuperate. After spending a couple weeks fighting the concepts of rest and recuperation, now I’m enjoying them both. Mostly. (I am genetically incapable of enjoying them 100%.)

I’ve been writing stories about woodland creatures making snow cone stands and trying to find enough scarves to outfit all the snowmen and following a set of mysterious tracks in the snow. They’re the kind of stories I always thought were too cheesy for my taste, only turns out I really like writing them. I’m also filling my time with an on-line class for my teaching certificate and subbing here and there. I’m gorging on middle grade books, reading the good ones as slowly as I want and skimming (sometimes ditching) the bad ones as fast as I can. I’m keeping the writing small. I’m letting the bread baking, the book reading, the dinner cooking, and the kid wrangling be big.

In short, I am recovering by putting writing back in its place, as one thing about me instead of the only thing about me.  I understand that this struggle to keep writing the right size is a chronic condition that will need to be treated more than once over the years. Maybe I will get better at embracing the recovery process because once I do, it’s an awfully fun place to be. It gives me time to write the fun stuff, like this little play I whipped out for today’s blog.

A Dinner Conversation
A one-act play

VINCENZO, ROCCO, LEO, and DAD sit at the dinner table. MOM walks by to take her seat.

DAD: Woah—did you just crop dust me?
MOM (insulted): What? No!
DAD AND MOM (turning to face children): Boys?
[LEO shrugs. ROCCO throws hands up in air]
VINCENZO: Well, he who smelt it, dealt it.
[Family resumes eating, ignoring the smell as best they can. 60 seconds later, ROCCO hops up from his seat.]
ROCCO: Be right back!
[He runs to the bathroom and closes the door. The lock clicks. Family pauses, realization dawning.]
MOM (calling down the hallway): Rocco! We figured it out!
ROCCO (from bathroom): Oh! Who was it?!
[Remaining family members: look out at audience, throw their hands up in air.]
END SCENE

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Crunchy melba pork chops
Hasselhoff potatoes
Broccoli
Peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches

Nine.

Leo, my happy spaz of a kid, has danced way into his ninth year, his skinny arms flailing about like one of those blowy things at a car dealership. 

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While most of the pictures in this post don’t match up with the text, they all match up with Leo, Age Nine, in all his nonsensical glory.

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Leo is happy 95% of the time, but so very, very mad that other 5%, as demonstrated by this singular moment.

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He loves his stuffed turtle, fried food, math time and bath time. He hates timed tests, repeating himself, and dinner. Loves ice cream, hates cake. Loves reading, hates writing. Loves video games, hates arts and crafts.

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He liked riding his bike for about two weeks, until Rocco also decided he liked riding bikes and now Leo doesn’t like it anymore.

He loves attacking Kevin, even though his fists bounce off Kevin’s chest like tiny drumsticks off a big drum. And even though Kevin pile drives him onto the couch and pins him to the ground, every fight ends with Leo dancing around the living room, declaring himself the winner.

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His favorite Avenger is Loki, no matter how many times we explain he’s a villain. He and Rocco were very concerned about Loki when he got arrested at the end of Thor, thus securing a place in their empathetic hearts.

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Leo and Rocco get along much better than they used to, though at least twice a day they get into it over something dumb, like someone saying something in the wrong voice or standing too close to the pinball machine.

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But it’s nothing a little Loki time can’t smooth over.

Leo’s the random number generator of our family. He might come out of his room with a mini claw-grabber that he uses to pick things up with the rest of the day. I might go downstairs to see him wearing a beard and bandana, or reading a book upside-down on the couch. I may look down the hallway to see him squished up against the wall, claiming he’s not there. Me: “How long have you been standing there like that?” Him: “No one is standing here.”

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Leo is generous, sharing his favorite candy, his unicorn chair, and especially his art supplies with anyone who asks . Keep them! Keep all the art supplies!

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(Does this count as art?)

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There’s something about Leo’s brain and body that doesn’t do things fast, which is why he’s needed so much speech therapy and OT, and also why he has an absolute meltdown when he feels rushed. While the therapy has helped fix some of his issues, it hasn’t changed Leo’s best quirks, like the hair twirling he’s done since he was a baby.

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And whatever you call this.

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He loves a good prank and any kind of pun. He makes up a lot of jokes on his own, most of which are bad but some of which are funny.

Leo: What’s a sharp-clawed crow’s favorite room of the house?
Me: I don’t know, what?
Leo: The claw-set.

(I can’t tell which category that one falls into.)

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He is a boy of big feels. A couple months ago Leo pretend-shot Kevin, who said it missed and got me instead, and I pretended to die on the kitchen floor. As I lay there, pretend-dead, Leo ran over and fervently told me the bullet didn’t hit me, I’m still alive. That night, after the boys had been in bed for an hour, he came stumbling out of his room, crying, and asked me to never do that thing I did in the kitchen again. Oh, his heart.

He’s still my baby, even though he’s too gangly and sharp-elbowed to even fake it anymore. He’s a gentle, loving soul who is half silly, half, sweet, and 100% ridiculous. He believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and leprechauns. Believes in it all, whole-heartedly.

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And what a lot of heart he has.

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Well, surely we can do better than that picture to bring us to a sentimental end.

Take II: And what a lot of heart he has.

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Still not it.

Take III: And what a lot of…turkey he has?

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Gah! This is hard! Gimme a sec to find some kind of a picture that feels right.

Okay, got it.

Take IV: And what a lot of heart he has.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ham & Swiss quiche
Salad with roasted peppers, garbanzo beans, pepitas, and feta
Pan-roasted potatoes
Cherry charolettes

Leo’s Remote Bday Party

I’m still a bit on the outs with words and am showing up timidly today, approaching this blog post carefully, touching it with a stick, ready to jump back if it seems dangerous.

Leo turned 9 last week and we celebrated with a remote birthday party, which meant I got to be crafty!

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We dropped the boxes off the morning of his party, which was half the fun, as it involved parts of the world that exist outside of our house.

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That evening, the boys met up on Zoom where they did some minute-to-win-it games, like emptying out a box of Kleenex and trying to get an Oreo from their foreheads to their mouths without using hands. Hilarity (and big messes) ensued.

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Then the boys microwaved popcorn and watched a cartoon together, decorated party hats, made some noise for the birthday boy with confetti poppers and blowers, and played video games until their eyeballs turned into raisins.

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I don’t have a neat, conclusive way to end this blog post, so I’ll just throw a picture onto it and hope you don’t notice the abrupt ending.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Heart-shaped pizzas
Salad
Stained glass sugar cookies