What did you learn?

So just a day after I posted my last blog about giving the kids feedback on how they played during their games, I read this article. Life is about constantly growing and learning, right?
I love this approach. It isn’t off-putting like giving feedback may be to a kid who just listened to the coach drone on about the game for 15 minutes. It’s not accusatory like giving feedback about certain plays on the field. It allows the child to think through actions on the field and arrive at his or her own self-feedback. It also reinforces that we are all here to learn – in sport, in school, in relationships. We are far from perfect at any age, and need to embrace the constant quest. 

To that end, I think I will add this to my repertoire and ask myself this same question at the end of my days. 

“What did I learn in that meeting?

“What did I learn from giving that presentation?”

“What did I learn from chowing on that sheetcake at 11 pm?!”

I love to watch you play … But I also like to see you play well…!

We had a full day of sports yesterday. Ri had a double header softball game at 10 am, Mario had a two hour football game at 12:30, and Ri finished out the day with a soccer game at 3:30. I know, I know. All my friends with older kids remind me of how much I will miss these packed days when my kiddos are grown. And I know I will because I actually don’t mind watching them for hours straight on a weekend (as long as I can get my teeny workout in and I may wish they played a bit closer to Grandview but that’s about it). 

However, when I watch them play, I do expect them to give it their all. If I’m putting in the time to watch, they should put in the time to play hard. I was complaining to my girlfriend a few weeks ago about Ri not running up to the ball hard enough. I told her I felt bad because after Ri’s game I coached Ri and told her that she’s gotta concentrate on the ball ahead of her more. Ri responded flippantly “how about saying nice game, Ri?”  My girlfriend counseled me that I need to simply say after her game “I love to watch you play.”

After thinking about it more, I resolved to take my friend’s advise but add to it. I’m gonna tell my kids “I love to watch you play, and I also love to give you feedback on things I thought you did well and things to look out for next game.” That’s fair, right? Heck, that’s what I do with school work so why can’t I do it for sports? 

And so I did just that yesterday without too much negative feedback from either child. They were too high on their performances to give me any negative feedback: they both did amazing jobs in their games. Ri cranked out two strikeouts and a play at home. I got a bit of it on video for once. 

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Mario had two great runs in his football game and I scored big for getting them on video. He loved watching himself last night….


And then Ri finished the day with a shot in the goal form the right wing position. Her face was priceless after the shot went into the goal. I was too busy jumping up and down to capture it! But I did capture some smiling faces after the game.


So maybe my feedback after the “I love to watch you play” comment is working…or getting them so irritated that they take out their aggression on the field. Either way, I will take it.

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Happy 9th birthday, Mario!

Mario turned nine yesterday. At least, he turned nine in biological years. In Mario years, he’s 21. 


If he could break free from the confines of his parent’s house, he’d do it in a heart beat. If he could head to the bar and drink a cold one, he’d be off. If he could head to the coffee shoppe and get an espresso, he would walk there in a second. If he could bike to campus to hang out with millennials, he’d grab his helmet and take off. 

This is not to say that he doesn’t still ask me to get him water or rub his back at night. It’s not to say that when he’s chillin’ on the couch he doesn’t ask me to sit next to him and snuggle. He even still let’s me squeeze and kiss him in private (he’d die if I did it around friends). 

But he has definitely hit an independence streak. I think he may deal with us until age 16 and then pack his bags for California and take off to hang with the surfer dudes and make vlogs. But he loves  money so much that if he did move out, he’d be one of those young, hip entrepreneurs who drops out of high school but makes millions.

So, how to sum up Mario’s eighth year of life? He loves you tube. He loves watching music videos. He loves playing video games with his buddies. He loves going to football games and playing on the hill with his friends and talking with the older kids. He loves wrestling and jumping all around the house. He loves sports. He enjoys biking by himself to the library or down to school. He still craves chocolate everything. He will drop all plans to go fishing. He remains a total character. He is compassionate and sweet, and loves to make people laugh.

Some highlights from his eighth year:

1. Football games with his buddies and sideline passes with his dad.


2. Halloween trick-or-treating with his two friends (and mom not standing too close to them as they went house to house)…and a boatload of candy!


3. Serving Thanksgiving meal to homeless men at the Y and chatting it up with them.


4. Christmas morning opening presents – oh, the drama and anticipation!

5. A broken arm! At 11:20 pm on NYE, you ran into my friend’s dining room  holding your arm and crying that it was broken. Your friend had fell down on it as you were playing. Sure enough, it was. We sat at the hospital as the New Year was brought in laughing at you in your “high” state from the pain meds. 


6. You took care of Grandpa Ionno’s grave in Marietta.

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7. You went to Feed the Streets with me and walked a mile passing out water and lunches to people in need.

8. You went hunting with your dad and “had the best day of your life!”


9. You watched OSU hockey with your buddies in a suite with tons of cookies, and met Brutus!


10. You got all dressed up for Easter and killed it on the volleyball court.


11. You went on Spring Break with the Webers and Muellers to Hocking Hills. You went fishing and hiked. I met you there two days into break and we explored together. You loved taking risks and climbing steep rock climbs.


12. You cranked baseball this year – one of the strongest players!


13. You fed a baby calf and named it after a girl at school (romantic, just like your dad).

14. You starred in your first talent show singing “We will rock you!”

15. You became enamored with ball pythons.

16. You started sporting sweet Panama Jack hats.


17. You won Elena’s heart by making her laugh with your silly antics.


18.You kayaked and fished on Lake Erie.


19. You went white-water rafting, zip lined, and completed a mud obstacle course in West Virginia!


20. You blobbed your sister!

21. You swam in the creek at Park of the Roses with your pup!

22. You won a poop emoji at the Ohio State Fair!


23. You started third grade – your last year at RLS!


24. You celebrated your birthday with a bunch of friends at Get Air and a sleepover!


Happy birthday our sweet Mario. I hope this year brings you lots of learning experiences and lots of adventures. And guess what?

We love you (you weren’t here to say it before me:)!).

Independence 

It has been a bit of a struggle this school year in dealing with Mario and his voracious streak of independence. Actually, let me strike the word “struggle” and change it to the word “battle.”

We never had this issue with Ri. She begged to be driven to school every day and enjoyed if Rocco and I walked with her on the other days. She had zero desire to trek 1.3 miles to school.

Since the end of last year’s school year, Mario has been pleading with us to allow him to bike or walk by himself to school. Jon and I would discuss it here or there but never arrived at a decision (yes, we are the ultimate procrastinators). Then, the school season arrived. And there stood Mario, at our sides, begging to bike by himself to school.

The bike ride is a simple one. Straight down the main strip with one small downhill at the end. There are three crossing guards spaced out at different sections of the strip. Kids are walking and biking along the strip from 7:30 until 8:15. 

But they are typically with an adult.  

“Typically with an adult.” These words scorched Mario’s ears. He did not hear anything more. Then came the persuasive arguing.

“You let me bike to the library by myself. You’ve biked with me to school and back and told me I did a great job. I am responsible and call you every time I should.” And so on and so forth…. On and on…. 

So, in a fit of whining fatigue and  unbridled trust, we let Mario bike to school two days straight. The first day, Jon followed Mario on his bike. When Mario got to the hill to go down towards school, Jon stopped him and told him he did a great job. Mario had no clue he had been following him and he broke down in tears.

“Why did you follow me, dad? I thought I rode by myself.”

Jon apologized and took off down the street. Mario thought that Jon was upset with him, so he biked towards where Jon drove. He couldn’t find Jon. One of our friends approached Mario and saw that he was sobbing. Mario called Jon from the friend’s phone and told him he was sorry for yelling at him. Jon felt horrible. He reiterated that he just wanted to see how well Mario biked to school, and he waited to give Mario a hug at the end of the hill.  The next day, we let Mario bike all by himself. He did great, policeman waved at him as he went by, and he called and said that he got home after school.

But that night I talked to my mom and a couple of girlfriends and all of them thought that having Mario bike to school at age 8 was a bad idea. I had been questioning in my own head whether I should continue to allow it. On the one hand, Mario craves independence and loves achieving physical feats. He was so excited to go to school those mornings. He felt awesome. 

On the other hand, he’s only eight. Other kids likely crave independence from their parents too, but they arent allowed to bike all the way to school. Jon and I have always given a lot of leeway in raising Ri and Mario. But what is the limit? If something happened to him on the way to school, I knew I would never forgive myself. Yes, something could happen to him when he’s in fourth grade and riding by himself but that feels different than allowing him in third grade at age 8. Besides, the fourth grade school is much closer to us. But he’s also a responsible 8 year old about to turn 9 year old. And he craves the independence so why not continue to give it a chance? It is a safe neighborhood, there are crossing guards, there are police. Parenting is ping-pong in the head. 

In the end, Jon and I pulled the plug. We sat with Mario the night before school and told him that for the time being we did not feel comfortable with him biking by himself. We discussed our concern for his safety at his age. We told him that we believed in him and we believed he was responsible but that he was just too young to go to school by himself. 

He was absolutely deflated. He cried. He gave us his case as to why he felt he was responsible and able to bike down to school. He begged for us to change our minds. It broke my heart. I was still so torn but I could not go back on my position at that point. 

The next morning, he did not want to get out of bed. He did not want to eat cereal. He did not want to go to school. I was sick to my stomach. Why had I allowed him to bike to school in the first place only to take it away. Why would I give him a tiny taste of it only to pull it back? I was beating myself up all day long.

After school that day, we allowed Mario to have a friend over to spend the night. When I got home from work after fretting all day, Mario and his friend were having a blast together. They were playing basketball and video games. Mario had nothing to say about not being able to bike to school. As it is many times with kids, the worry we put on ourselves is lost on them after a few hours. Over the weekend, at random times, Mario continued to bring up his wish to bike by himself. He made his case on how responsible he was and how he stayed on the sidewalk and how he would never let a stranger take him. We listened and continued to mull over what to do with him. My “all or nothing” personality was shining bright in my thought process. Either he can bike everyday by himself or nothing at all…either I eat an entire sleeve of cookies or none… either I win the race or don’t run at all. Maybe I needed to learn to loosen the reins of that  personality trait a bit.

On Monday morning, as I made his waffles and talked with him about his day ahead, I flexed my rigid trait and told him that we would just see how things go throughout the fall and the spring. I also told him that I had arranged for him to be able to walk with a couple of friends once or twice a week (I didn’t include the fact that I or another mom would be walking behind him).

Sure enough, this past week, he got to walk with his buddy (and yes, I walked far behind them to make sure they got to school on time). He also got dropped off  by Jon and picked up by our sitter. And he biked to school with me a couple of days. Jon and I allowed him to bike home by himself those days since our babysitter was waiting for him and she could call us to let us know he made it back to the homestead. 

And with each day, all ended up being just fine. 

School’s back 

We got the haircuts, the school clothes (braved Polaris Mall and wanted to poke my eyes out), the book bags, the lunch boxes, the notebooks, and even managed to get a couple of showers in prior to the first day of school. The kids were so excited – they both couldn’t fall asleep. It was like Christmas Eve. I was taken aback at how charged up they were to head back to school although I know in a few weeks they will be dragging out of bed…. 

Maria set her alarm for 5:30 am. Yes, 5:30. Why? Because she needed to spend 45 minutes on her hair. How is she my child?! She borrowed the “beach wave” curling iron from my girlfriend to assist with the do she wanted for her first day. My girlfriend had styled Ri’s hair a few weeks ago with the iron and Ri loved it. We laugh because my girlfriend’s daughter is a replica of me – athletic clothes, sports watch, hair in a ponytail and Ri is like my girlfriend with her sweet hair styles and trendy clothes. But I digress…. 

Jon and I shook our heads as we laid in bed listening to Ri bumble around in the bathroom. At around 6:15, Ri came into our room and tapped my shoulder.

“Mom, the curling iron is really hot. Could you do my waves in my hair?”

Are you kidding? Did she really ask me, the woman who puts her hair in a pony every day, to do her hair?! 

I rose out of bed determined to curl her hair and curl it well. Ri had straightened most of her hair but put a small section on each side in a ponytail on top of her head. She just wanted the hair in the pony to be wavy. Not so hard, heh?!

Yea, well, for someone that never uses curling irons, it was torture. I curled the first strand and when it came out, the hair was kined in every direction. Ri took one look in the mirror and bawled. Then she hyperventilated. Then she sobbed. I grabbed another strand determined to do it right. More kinks. What the he–?! More hyper-ventilating. I tried again. No luck. Ri bolted into her room crying. I walked in and made the executive decision.  

“We are gonna have to straighten the hair in the pony and try waves another time. I can’t do waves right now.”

She gave an affirmative nod and cried a few more tears. I told her again I was sorry. She stood still in the bathroom as I tried to straighten the kinks. She finally spoke:

“It’s ok, mom. I should have known you couldn’t curl hair.”

Well, at least she’s honest in her downtrodden moments. She actually looked just as adorable with the straightened ponytail look and I think she felt half way decent about it, too. Mom came through in a half-assed way….

Mario, meanwhile, slipped on a pair of athletic shorts and a t-shirt and was ready to hit the road. Thank goodness. 

I made Ri and Mario take obligatory pictures out front prior to heading off for their first day. One of these days, I will gather all of these “first day of school” pictures and do something with them….


Ri left at 7:30 to walk up the street and meet her two girlfriends. Mario and I biked up to meet them so I could get pictures. They all looked so mature! I can’t imagine how taken aback I will be when they hit high school.


Mario and I then biked to RLS. We got there early so we walked around and talked. Mario eventually spotted his buddies and bolted from my side to see them. I caught up and asked for a picture. What was I thinking? They dashed away from me as soon as they saw the camera. Where the girls were mature, the boys were 3rd grade crazy.


A few other moms and I were able to direct our sons over for a picture eventually but it took some muscle. 


And then the bell rang. Mario did not ask me or Jon to go in with him. He didn’t even wave goodbye. He just disappeared into the masses. 

Wrapping up Summer

So if the beginning of Sumner was all baseball fields and intense competition, the end of summer was all fun and games. A list of the activities we crammed in prior to an August 16 back to school date:

1. A dunk tank party – we hosted an end of the season dunk tank party for Ri’s softball team complete with lobster and steak (as promised by Jon and Stephen). Mario got to invite some of his buddies, too. However, the boys stayed away from the tank and engaged in Nerf battles for most of the night while the girls dunked each other non-stop. When the girls finally tired of the tank and decided to play barbies, the boys entered the picture and enjoyed the tank. Ri and the girls got their wish to dunk their coaches – I welcomed the water on the hot summer day but it is quite the jolt to drop down. My body cannot handle those quick motions anymore.


2. Akita! Ri headed off for her second year of Akita camp in Logan, Ohio. She loves this camp (compared to Camp “sucky” Laumann). They have a soap slide and a lake and crafts. She loves the counselors and has a group of local buddies she bunks with for five days. I wrote her a letter for each day she was there so that she’d have something to read each night (I’m sure she will remember that sweet gesture at some point when she’s a mother…).  She has absolutely no qualms with leaving for five whole days and being away from home. Good thing or terrifying?!


Ri also loved the fact that she got a big ol’ hug from Mario (and she snuck in a kiss) before she left on her adventure. 


Only after the fact did I learn that our sitter had ordered Mario to hug Ri before she left. Makes it a bit less sentimental but….

3. The Ohio State Fair! While Ri was off on her camp adventure, Mario and I hit the Fair. He was so excited to go with me. He had gone the day before with his friend and loved it (mainly because of the rides). He kept telling me about the pig races and how much I’d love them. The night before we were heading there, he came in the bathroom while I washed my face.

“Mom, are you excited to go to the Fair tomorrow?”

His blue eyes stared up at me. I knew he wanted me to be excited. I toweled off the water from my face and leaned down to him.

“I cannot wait to go with you, and I can’t wait to see those pigs!”

He beamed. 

We took off at 11:15 am. We didn’t return until 6 pm – in time for a sleepover party at his friend’s house at 6:30. He had us walking all around the rides’ area. We went on the Ferris wheel a few times much to my dismay. I still dislike that ride from my childhood horrific experience (stuck on top in a thinderstorm). 

Plus I hate heights. But I love Mario. 


The giant slide was much more up my alley.


I was doing ok ride-wise until we hit the scrambler. You sit in a two-person seat and buckle in. Then the cart goes zipping in all different directions at warp speed for what seems like a year. I cannot believe I was able to hold back my puke. I got off of it and could barely walk to the exit. Mario couldn’t understand why I felt so sick because “the ride was so awesome!” I had to lie on the concrete while fair-goers passed me, and try to get a grip. Holy heaven. I had even survived the Alien Spaceship where you stand against a wall and get thrown up and down with the magnetic force keeping you on your standing pad. That one through me for a loop when we stopped but I recovered after a few minutes. There was no recovering from the scrambler. Mario, on the other hand went back a half dozen more times. 


We hit the games like noone’s business. I brought extra cash because I knew he’d want to play and I knew I’d be suckered into playing – takes me back to my childhood at King’s Island when Beth and I would spend 50 cents over and over to win a stuffed animal. Except now it’s $5 a try. Mario was infatuated with the stuffed animal poop emoji (or the “terd” as I call it). His friend had won it the night before and he had his heart set on it. I think in the end we spent $50 for his terd. Lovely.


He also won a weinerman. Yes, “weinerman”is stitched on the belly of this stuffed animal. 

I loved one of the games at the fair: wipeout. It was a mini wipeout course where you had to jump over a rotating arm and duck under another. I took Mario on in it and beat him! Yea, I still got it…


Mario had to buy a spray paint cap to be a true fair-goer. He chose a “Team Mystic” hat because that’s his Pokemon Go team name (although he never plays anymore). He looked smooth.


But the best part of the day was, you guessed it, the pig races. We hit the tail end of one and they announced they had one more left – the pot-bellied pig race. The announcer looked for three volunteers in the crowd who had pot bellies. Two men were selected so he had to pick a lady, he said. I stuck my belly out and Mario and I cheered and I got chosen to represent Pig No. 3. 


Don’t you know my sweet No. 3 won the race?! I screamed with joy and Mario hugged me. You would think we both won a trip to Paris. But even better, I won a stuffed animal pig. It sits on my nightstand to this day.


I was sweaty, exhausted and stinky when we returned home but Mario and I had some awesome memories from the day that outweighed any stink (and a stuffed animal piggie)!

4. Grandma Ionno time. Both of the kids got to spend some time with Grandma Ionno and their cousins for a week. Mario is in seventh heaven when he stays with Patty because she makes cinnamon rolls and has mini donuts. She watches his you tube clips non-stop. She rubs his back all night long. He gets to stay up late playing with Gio. She lets them build forts and battle. 

Ri loves Patty’s spaghetti and meatballs. She loves playing water volleyball with Patty and her friends and chatting it up with all of them. She and Alana play barbies and roller skate and play on their phones. 

I am convinced Patty has super powers – how she can handle these kids for days straight without needing a break is beyond me. And it’s not as though she sits around and they play by themselves. She is running around with them, swimming with them, listening to all their stories, racing them down the street. They are lucky to have her in their lives, and have the opportunity to hang out together for days in a row.


5. Strength class. I signed the kids up for two months of strength class at my gym. I wanted them both to learn good form when lifting weights and running. They enjoyed it for the most part – they told me it’s hard to be motivated at 9 am on a Summer morning – but it woke them up and it was only two days a week. They missed quite a few since they were at camp and grandma’s house. But Mario accomplished his goal of rope climbing and deadlifting and Ri accomplished a 45 second plank. 


It was hilarious to see them squat and lift weights. Little bodybuilders in training. 

6. Elena time! Ri headed out to Pittsburgh with Sarah for a couple of days and then I met her out there on a Saturday. She learned how difficult and tiring it was to take care of a toddler. And I remembered how difficult and tiring it was when I got out there…! But it’s also a lot of fun to hang with the little muncho and listen to her talk and watch her act. She’s getting closer to her Aunt Mary and cousin Ri. She will be spending the night in no time.

We played with play-doh non-stop. I brought a baby doll for Elena when I came on Saturday and she squeezed that doll to death when we took it out of the package. We all sat around cooing over how cute she was with her doll as she cradled it and laid it on the ground, hovered over it and kissed it over and over.  We left the doll to take a bath and when we got back to play with the doll – all cleaned up – Elena took a different approach to care for the baby. She tossed the baby to the floor over and over and cracked up. Ri did, too. The cooing was replaced with some concern…! I have heard she’s back to loving the baby at times (but still chucking it at other times)!

7. Park of the Roses. Mario had quite a few sleepovers with his buddy Zach this summer. I like Zach because he’s always up for an adventure. We decided we’d hit Park of the Roses with Rocco one Sunday afternoon. The boys wanted to find crawdads. While we didn’t find crawdads, we did find an owl. The owl was perched on a branch above the creek staring at us with those huge wise eyes. I spotted him but the owl flew away before the boys caught a glimpse. Luckily, it didn’t fly far and the boys were able to run over and see it on another branch. It stared at us the entire time we stood before it. 


It was a hot day so the boys decided to take off their shirts and dive into a pool of water in the creek. They sprung up after going under head first yelling about how cold it felt. But they did it again and again. Rocco joined them. 


We ended the walk finding a snake skin that impressed the boys, and one happy pup soaked from his jaunts in the water. 

8. Celebrated Rocco’s 3rd birthday! We took advantage of having Lou around to celebrate Rocco’s 3rd birthday. The kids bought two birthday cookies and a few extra treats for Rocco and Lou to celebrate. We sang happy birthday to the birthday pup and he went to town on his cookie. He’s such a good boy – he didn’t even go after Lou’s treat when we set down a treat in front of him.. He’s so mature at three:)!


So there you have it! Summer break is officially over and the kiddos are back in school for another year. I’ve been waiting for this for the last couple of weeks – feeling like we needed structure back in our lives again. But now that we have it, I miss the spontaneity and casualness of Summer. I take refuge in the coziness of Autumn, however, and evenings sipping hot chocolate and playing board games.

COTA trip

Bus fare has risen to $2 a trip. Am I showing my age when I complain that it used to be 50 cents? The kids and I decided to take the COTA bus downtown to visit Columbus Commons last Friday. I had one more day of vacation left so I wanted to do something different. I’ve always wondered what their Fun Fridays were like (I had read that they had inflatables and carousel rides).  

We walked (without much complaining for once!) up to the bus stop a few blocks away and waited for the No. 5. We timed it pretty good with only a 10 minute wait in the 90 degree heat. The kids said hi to the driver and deposited their cash. They chose where they always have chosen – the back of the bus. While we rode, we guessed the years on the pennies in my purse and created different faces for each other on some crazy app Maria had on her phone. 

The kids pulled the cord to signal our stop on Town and High. We hurried across the street to the Commons only to find scores of young kids waiting in line for the inflatables. I sighed on behalf of Ri and Mario but they were good sports. We walked over to the carousel since it didn’t have a long line. Ri and Mario chose their horses and asked me to stand with them (that was unexpected). After the carousel, we walked over to the police and fire stations. The kids shook the two policemens’ hands and walked towards the fire trailer. The one policeman stopped me and asked if Mario was my kid. I said yes. He shook his head and laughed. 

“That kid is gonna be famous some day; mark my words. He came towards me and I stepped back like whoa, he’s strong and good-lookin’ as heck!”  

I chuckled and told him to keep his voice down – Mario doesn’t need a bigger head…. I then winked and told him Mario’s got good genes….

The fireman gave us a demonstration on fire safety and then had us crawl through a small smokey room. Ri and Mario had done it at school, and were strangely excited. We left the trailer and visited the football station where you throw a football through the hole in the placard. Mario impressed the young volunteer manning the station and threw it in the hole. Meanwhile, Ri helped a little girl hit a baseball. Her mom commented on how sweet Ri was. All sorts of compliments about the kids that morning!

We hit up Subway for Mario and went to Zoup for Ri. We had to head back to Subway to get Mario a second sandwich and Ri a cookie. We sat there awhile and people watched. 


After lunch, the kids decided the lines at the Commons were too long and they would rather head home and clean with me. Yea, right. They just wanted to get back to the AC. I didn’t mind though – this 90 degree weather is nasty. 

On our bus ride home, we chatted it up with a tall African American kid. He talked about visiting Senegal where some of his family lives. He described how hot it was, and the huge snakes he saw there. Mario was enthralled while Ri asked question after question. 

We pulled up to our stop and descended back into the heat. The kids forgot we’d have to walk back from the bus stop. Mario got a piggy back ride while Ri hoofed it out with me. We chilled the rest of the afternoon, cleaned some (very little) and played some, and I enjoyed one last day of vacation with my munchos before it was back to work.