Random Funnies

The smoke is gone! It’s kind of crazy how quickly you can go from dancing joyously in the rain to grumping about how rainy it is. But still, I don’t take any breath of clean, fresh, misty air for granted anymore. Even taking the garbage cans out to the curb feels like a huge treat.

Anyway, here are a couple funny things I’ve jotted down in the past couple months, just for laughs.

Me to the boys: Would you rather be an ant or a house?
Rocco: I’d like to be a house because then no one could step on me.
Leo: An ant could step on you!

Me, explaining to the boys what shopping felt like in the early quarantine days: It’s like a real-life game of PacMan. You turn down an aisle, grab all the pellets you can, freak out and turn the other way when another moving thing shows up in front of you.

Me: What position do you think I’d be best at in football?
Leo: Cheerleader?

This next one comes from a family discussion about the dangerous combination of multiple choice tests and poor impulse control.
Rocco: I’m super good at multiple choice.
Kevin (after he and I exchanged eyebrow raises): Is that so? Here, let me give you a test. Multiple choice: What is the third letter of the alphabet…
Rocco: C!
Kevin: Incorrect. The correct answer was B: C. C was A.

Leo, as Kevin carefully selected each person’s cards in Monopoly Deal instead of randomly dealing them:
Leo: Dad shouldn’t be able to make my hand even though it’s Father’s Day.
Kevin: I made both your hands.

Me to Kevin: If we could go back to college and pick each other’s majors, what would we pick for each other? I’d pick massage therapy for you. What would you pick for me?
Kevin: Pole dancing.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Deep dish pizza
Salad
Peanut butter cookies

When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

The smoke is making everything weird. Like with CoVid, I shouldn’t be writing this post, as the fires are nowhere near our city and the smoke is a mere nuisance rather than the calling card of complete and utter devastation. But here I am, writing this post anyway because that’s how I make sense of things.

Everything is pinkish gray. It’s like we’re living inside an Instagram filter, or maybe in the movie Inception. The trees, the petunias, the picnic table all exist right outside my window but they might as well be in a different universe. They’re themselves, but they’re not themselves. I’m living my life, but I’m not living my life. Everything’s the same, but nothing’s the same. If I were an animal in the zoo, I’d be a jaguar—the one that paces back and forth with its mouth cracked open, trying to take enough steps to get back to that one place with all the grass and sky and antelope. What was it called?

I don’t mind being stuck inside on a rainy day, but it’s quite a different thing to be stuck inside on a smoky day. The ash out there—it’s made up of pieces of forests, homes, of living things that weren’t fast enough or who took a wrong turn or who didn’t see it coming. When I remember that, the smoke doesn’t feel like a nuisance. It feels like a great, deep sadness.

In the 80s, we read about gray futures where people stay in side, where they’re afraid to go out or where they’ve been ordered not to. Even though we knew the books were forecasting a future that could happen, we never thought it really would. (After all, not one of those books included a massive run on toilet paper.) Maybe we still aren’t. But when you look outside, it’s hard to imagine we’re not.

We’ve already cleaned out all our closets. We’ve watched all of TV.  We’ve dusted all the baseboards, touched up all the risers, sorted the mismatched socks. So now all there is to do is look outside and wonder if this is real or if we’re figments of George Orwell’s imagination.

Now I’m at the bottom of this post and I’m not any closer to making sense of things than when I started! I’ve gone and covered you with my own cloud. Maybe a picture from the week before would help, like a lollipop at the end of a doctor’s appointment?

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Ugh! Gross! Not that one—that’s from when I nailed my shin on the stairs.

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No! Stop! That’s just another angle of the same thing!

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Now we’re getting a bit weird (this is how the doctor found Rocco when he walked in for Rocco’s wellness appointment).

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This one is just an example of bad posture.

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Okay, now we’re just getting silly. Come on, Me. Put in a nice picture!

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There we go. Something simple and sweet.

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Something that exists just underneath it all.

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Something that is waiting, like us, to see the sun again.

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Or, even better, the rain.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Smoked pork shoulder
Cheese souffle
Buttered green beans
Blackberry peach cobbler

Writing: Unfinished Business

Whenever Kevin asks me how writing went at the end of the day, I give him a sour look. Even if I wrote a whole new scene or turned something from a disaster to a tour de force, I can almost never say I had a good day of writing. I’ve always felt weird about that. Why can’t I just say it was great? Everything’s great!

Then we experienced some plumbing issues at the Whidbey cabin, and now I know exactly why my answer is always an irritated, “I don’t know! Why do you keep asking that?!”

We went to replace faucets in the kitchen and bathroom. Should be easy. A no-brainer! We’ll have it all fixed up in no-time!

(Note: This is the same way I feel when I open up a scene to edit.)

But then things wouldn’t come unscrewed, and then leaks showed up, and then bigger leaks showed up, and then tubes wouldn’t hook up, and things broke, and things turned on when they should have been turned off, and there was black mold on the baseboards and it appears the hot water tank needs to be replaced.

We went to solve two problems and ended up with 20 more, and by then it was an hour past Kevin’s bedtime, so we just left it like this.

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Okay, so the kitchen sink doesn’t work, but don’t despair—we can wash dishes in the bathroom!

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Oh. Right.

It actually still works, so don’t freak out. If you want cold water, use the faucet above the sink and if you want hot water, use one that’s dangling upside-down in the cabinet. It works! I promise!

If we were talking about my novel, this is where I’d say, “I tried to make the beginning shorter but it got twice as long, and chapter 16 completely disappeared–I’m TOTALLY FREAKING OUT–and I realized that I have 4 denouements and all of them have to be there but I can only keep one, and I have to change all the colors in the book to numbers.”

This is also where Kevin would say, “But that’s great! You made progress!”

This, folks, is what progress looks like.

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It’s a lot messier, a lot uglier, and a lot less satisfying than I ever imagined progress could be. But it works. Kind of.

It’s also why, when Kevin asks me how writing went today, I tell him I DON’T EVEN KNOW.

Still, as much as I hate answering the question, I love that he keeps asking because it shows he’s not afraid of me, which is good because I am often very afraid of myself.

If you’ll excuse me now, I have some dishes to wash in the swimming pool, which is decidedly color #2 today.

And if you know the name of a good plumber, send it my way—I could use some help with the novel.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ginger-glazed halibut
Scalloped potatoes
Fruit
Chocolate layer cake

Summer Wrap-Up

If you ask me what I did this summer, I say, “Well, we…” then squint my eyes at the sky, knowing we did something. We had to have done something, right? “We, ah…hm.” Squint.

Fortunately, I took pictures and thusly, this whole post is just a photo dump. I dedicate it to the grandparents, who are probably the only ones that get excited about photo dumps. Winking smile

Cranberry Lake

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Denny Creek

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Coupeville

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Fort Ebey

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Brightwater

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Watershed Park

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Lake Washington

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Snoqualmie Falls

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Botanical Gardens

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Deception Pass State Park

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Our “own” Whidbey beachIMG_20200829_120845~2

I only filled my car up with gas twice in three months. Not bad, for two tanks of gas!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Yakisoba with beef
Fruit
Lemon bars

First Day of High School

I did manage to get a couple photos of Vincenzo on his first day of high school.

Here he is 20 minutes before first period:

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Here he is at PE:

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Here he is at…I don’t know. I wanna say geometry?

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For the first time in months, Vincenzo voluntarily left his room today, saying, “I need to get some fresh air.” I’m surprised he still had the energy, after all that PE!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Salmon cakes
Crab cakes
Salad
Lemon bars

First Day of School 2020

I’m not sure…am I supposed to take pictures this year? I haven’t bought the boys a single piece of new clothing since last fall. Do we put on last year’s clothes? Wear pajamas? We have no new shoes, no new backpacks, no new anything. So…no first-day pictures?

Maybe I’ll cheat and put in a summer picture instead.

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I was relieved to wake up today without the usual highly flammable emotions I usually have on the first day of school. This fall, I don’t have to have my emotional breakdown! I think I’ll skip everywhere from now on!

At the same time, I am a little remorse that I won’t have long days to myself to read and write, scrapbook, garden, catch up on life, and just plain think. (Dear Lord, am I spoiled.) Then again, it was so rare for me to actually have a day like that, with all the volunteering, subbing, appointments, cooking, exercising, and other Things I Stupidly Sign Up For, so I guess it’s a wash?

Of course, all this means that I have not much to blog about today. Usually I come home from the bus stop, awkwardly balancing the thrill that I have the house to myself for six hours with the heartache that the boys will not be filling up the house for six hours. I take short, shaky breaths the whole way, cry a little bit (but never as much as I think I’m going to), then sit down to edit first-day photos and be with my thoughts and blog something dramatically emotional, full of looking-back and convincing myself this is all normal and okay.

This year, I’ll just get up and make some waffles at whenever o’ clock.  I might go for a walk. We’ll all lie around, forgetting it’s not summer. There will be a single panicky moment of trying to find passwords, getting error messages on websites, and frantically texting three sets of friends to see if the same thing is happening to them. And then maybe we’ll go to the beach for lunch.*

I can handle that. I usually panic once a day about something, anyway.

Last night I did have one heart-clutching sentiment. My baby is in high school !  I grabbed Kevin by the arms. It’s going too fast! It’s going to be over too fast and I won’t have done anything and the only thing I’ll want to do is go back and start it over again, and I’ll be sad every day for the rest of my life!

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Even without the dramatic, frenzied, emotional first-day send-off, it happened anyway.

They got a year older.

It seems like yesterday they were all waist-height and under, with their chipmunk voices bouncing off the walls, and I was wiping sticky stuff out of their fingers while they pushed away, reaching for something just over there.

It seems like tomorrow we’ll send Leo off to college (or clown school, or Honolulu, or wherever that kid ends up going) and I’ll look at Kevin and say, Welp. That was fast.

I started pressing on the brake with everything I’ve got the minute I first held Vincenzo in my arms.But the brakes aren’t holding and my foot is getting tired.

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Okay, so a little emotion showed up after all. Well, la-ti-da! It’s time to go make the waffles.

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Loaded baked potatoes
Buttered broccoliini
Chocolate cake

*School is only an hour long this week. I wish it would start like that every year. I never was one to jump in the pool feet-first—I’m a get-in-slow kind of girl.

Psst! How’s it Going?

I’ve noticed of late that people are afraid to ask me how the novel’s going. They ask it quietly, like they’re giving me the chance to pretend I didn’t hear the question if it’s best for everyone. They ask it like they are holding out an apple to a horse with very sharp teeth. They ask it like you might as a doctor, “So, how bad is it, Doc?”

But they ask it, and for that, I love my people.

So…how is the novel going, you ask?

Well, today is your lucky day because last week was a great week of writing! I’m working on the third draft and every chapter I opened turned up a handful of gems I’d stowed away and forgotten about. Editing was easy, even…enjoyable last week. Had I happened upon a meadow full of daisies, I would have slipped off my shoes and danced in it.

I can’t believe I’m saying that! Normally, writing feels a lot like punching myself in the face while also yelling, “Punch harder! Do it right this time!” I remember telling Kevin on Monday, “I don’t want to write because I’m in a good mood, and I know I won’t be after I write.”

In July I attended a virtual conference where I heard dozens of other authors say, “This is haaaaard!” One of my favorite authors (Grace Lin) said her family said she’s always in a bad mood when she’s writing a novel. Another favorite (Mac Barnett), whose books are so light and hilarious I imagined him tossing back cream sodas and laughing himself out of the chair the whole time he writes—he said he hates writing. It’s the worst. It makes him miserable. But he loves when it’s all said and done.

After hearing so many writers say that writing is hard, it often isn’t fun, that they hate what they write most days, and that they are emotional basket cases—well it made me feel so normal.

I’ve learned so much about myself in the past three years since I started writing the novel. Mostly, that it takes more than three years to write a novel. And that is hard for someone as goal-oriented and impatient as me.

I’ve been learning to throw some just-for-fun writing into my week and not berate myself for taking that time away from the novel, because that’s the stuff that keeps it fun. Until recently, if the writing was ever too fun or not hard enough, I wasn’t really counting it. Now I’m absolutely counting it.

Like when I saw Mac Barnett at a (different) conference and my illustrator friend, Leanne Hatch, slid over her phone showing the sweater he was wearing on a Gucci website, listed for $$$$. I couldn’t help myself. I wrote a picture book called Mac and the $3,000 Sweater, and that same friend made a picture for it.

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(Did I include the word “incredibly” in front of “talented?” She keeps winning awards and I’m completely in awe of her.)

Even though this is not a book that would ever get published (and you should know that anytime I say that, part of my brain is saying, Yes it is. It totally could be. It absolutely should be!)—even though it’s not, I made it! Out of nothing! And my friends and I giggled and giggled about it. And one of them made something else! And I had a good week of writing.

So overall, I have a healthy, stable attitude about writing on myself lately, which is fabulous except for one little problem; with such a healthy, stable attitude, what on earth am I going to write about?!

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Goulash
Lemony garlicky beans
Fruit
PB brownies

Lovely Baby B

My hobbies and to-do’s are overwhelming me lately, so instead of writing a post about how overwhelming they are (because that sounds overwhelming), I’ll just post pictures from a photoshoot I did last week of the lovely family that let me take their pictures a couple months ago. They are so beautiful, it makes my job easy!

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Grilled rib-eye steak with chipotle butter
Harissa potatoes
Roasted broccoli
Blackberry peach cobbler

Writing Partner

My boys are very chart-driven. When I printed out the 1,000 minute library chart the first week of summer, they’d come into the kitchen, say, “Hey Google! Set timer for 5 hours!” Then they disappeared into their rooms for 5 hours. After four days of this, they had finished their charts and were asking me to print new ones.

This week, Leo decided to make a writing chart so he can write books and get them published. This, despite the fact that he claims to hate writing. This, despite the fact that he sees me struggle with writing on a daily basis and get beaten down bycold, hard rejection whenever I make an attempt to get published.

Nonetheless, there is a chart.

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(Maybe next time I’ll make him a “neatly coloring in squares” chart, as that seems more prudent at this point.)

Now we sit, laptop to laptop, and write together. It’s a dream come true. Occasionally I look over his shoulder to see what he’s working on. He’s mainly typing in all the stories/paragraphs he wrote in school last year, so it’s really just typing practice., but still. I’m no longer writing alone. There is someone else struggling right beside me (mainly because he can’t find the letter “p” or something).

Here’s my favorite line he’s written in one of his MeowMeow stories:

The fish held out a ice cream cone and a coconut. MeowMeow ate it (everything but the fish).

And here’s a favorite from his piece on brains:

Two major furrows lateral sulcus are arbitrarily used to divide each Hemisphere into four sections: the frontal lobe, occipital lobe, parietal lobe and temporal lobe.

Or, er, maybe the next chart should be for plagiarism points?

WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Ceviche fish tacos
Rice
Cumin black beans

Surprise!

We told Rocco he couldn’t have a party because of quarantine.  Instead, we’d go to the beach in the morning, then his friends could drive by and wave in the afternoon. Rocco was bummed out, but he understood, in his typical, roll-with-the-punches way.

And then, the day of his birthday, when we got to the beach…SURPRISE!

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(The actual surprise part was a lot louder and more violent than this picture shows.) Yes, his birthday present from us was a small breach of quarantine.

It was 9AM. It was cloudy and cold. But within five minutes of getting there…

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The words “relaxing” and “day at the beach” do not go together in any way when it comes to my boys and their friends..

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They really earned their Twinkies that day! (Yes, folks, instead of making a cake, I bought pre-wrapped Hostess treats. Look what you made me do, Covid!)

When I got pregnant with Rocco and realized he’d have a summer birthday, I was a bit sad for him, that he wouldn’t get to bring cupcakes to class on his birthday or to feel that he was king for a day, and that that they wouldn’t read his name over the announcements while his pals all slapped him on the back.

My lamentations were unnecessary–this kid doesn’t look like he’s missing a thing.

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Except his lower half, of course.

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Sometimes I wish I were my own kid.

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WHAT’S COOKIN’ 2NITE:
Chicken enchiladas
Rice
Refried beans
PB Rice Krispie Treats, if any of my kids can pull themselves away from video games long enough to make them