Snarky and sweet

I got sick two weeks ago on a Wednesday. It started as bad congestion and chest pain. I swore it was pneumonia. The doctor belied my belief and checked my lungs and nose and ears.

“It’s a virus. Nothing you can do but rest.”

Are you kidding? I can’t afford to be sick for the remainder of the week. I asked again if there were any drugs I could take. He reaffirmed the negative. I drove home giving myself a pity party. Eventually, I tried to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had needed a break from working out – my muscles were sore, my feet hurt. The universe must have known the only way I’d stop my routine would be to be taken out by a sickness. But I had no idea it would be a 10 day sickness. Yikes. I haven’t been sick for that long of a period of time in years. Again, in retrospect, the universe probably knew that I needed to have this sickness for that long of a period of time in order to give my body a rest. It is amazing now that I am feeling a bit better how rested my muscles feel. Imagine that!?

Anyway, in the thick of my sickness, probably day five, I tried to take the dog on a walk to the woods. It was a short walk – maybe 15 minutes tops. I saw a man who I see routinely in the woods with his German Shepherd. He is always friendly. He’s probably about 60 years old. He stopped me to say hello and ask how I was feeling. He could probably tell that I was not feeling the best due to my watery eyes and red nose. He proceeded to tell me how he got a really bad chest cold and major congestion. He told me that the worst of it lasted four weeks and five weeks later, he still doesn’t feel quite the best. 

“Are you kidding?!” I blurted at him. I wanted to kick him for giving me this information. I was already in a state of depression feeling like I would never get better. Five days of sitting around the house, anxious about not being able to breathe, not being able to sleep well at all, took it’s toll on me. I was fretting every night about trying to sleep. I couldn’t shake the thought that I was going to lose my breath in the middle of my sleep. Hence, not being able to sleep at all.

When the kids got home that evening, they came to check on me. Maria would provide me with tissues and Mario would take my temperature. I told Maria about my conversation with the man in the woods. She immediately responded with consoling words.

“Mom, he’s a lot older than you and he probably is not in any kind of physical shape that you are in. You work out all the time and you are healthy. It will not take you for weeks to get better. Do not listen to him about that.”

Later in the evening, Mario came in to check on me. He was hoping that I felt good enough to play a game of mini hoop. Not so much. I told him as well about my meeting with the man in the woods. He stood in front of me looking quizzically. Then he responded with sarcasm.

”Wow, mom, you only have three weeks left before you feel better, then! All right, let’s countdown these next three weeks.” He walked out of the room to grab some cheez-it’s. He came back in and bent down towards me whispering “hey mom, only three weeks!”

The difference in our kids. Maria went immediately to consoling me and making me feel better that it would not take three weeks in order for me to be alive again. Mario went immediately to taunting me and making me feel it would take an entire three weeks to recover.

Funny thing is that it could easily have been the other way around. Maria can be just as snarky as Mario (“Mom, you are seriously wearing that shirt – you look 85 in it”) and Mario can be just as caring as Maria (“Mom, you don’t need to put on makeup; you are beautiful without it”).

I adore these two so very much. Even when they’re snarky, I know they do it with love. As I laid around feeling crappy for ten days, one of the thoughts that kept me going was conversations with these two munchies. They are certainly coming into their own – be it snarky or sweet….

Tousled

Winner of the losers!

The moms got a kick out of our sons winning the championship of the losers bracket. As my mom said “you should call it the lower bracket.” Indeed, we should, but that’s not as enjoyable.

It is so fun to watch Mario play basketball now. It was cute back when he was in second or third grade and you’d watch him try to dribble the ball without stumbling over his feet. We would crack up watching them try to bring their elbow back and launch the ball into the net. Now they are like miniature NBA players with the dribbling between the legs and the cutbacks and the driving into the net. I love the athleticism. I am amazed at one of Mario’s friends who can grab a rebound and run down the court passing defenders like they are but ghosts, and then lobbing a lay up even with a defender fouling him. I watch Mario in awe as he dribbles around a defender and makes a jump shot – swoosh in the basket. These boys have been playing together for 6 years. They know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They have formed a connection. 

The moms have formed a connection as well. We get excited for each other’s kids when a great shot is made and cringe together when one of our boys hits the ground hard. I receive videos from moms of Mario making a three, and I send out videos of other boys making a shot. It makes it all the more enjoyable to have a posse sitting with you and watching the games. It also gives us a chance to connect about what the boys are up to, whether we signed up for activities in time, what camps are popular for the summer….

Jon has been helping coach for the last few years. He loves the time with Mario and the other boys. He’s a natural coach and mentor. The boys look up to him and actually listen to what he has to say. I’m sure some of that is due to Jon’s stature – he can be viewed as the hulk – but some is definitely due to his attitude and playfulness with the boys. While my mom and I watched them play yesterday, there was a moment when the boys had huddled for a time out. Jon and another coach went out on the floor to talk to the boys and as Mario turned to go back out to the court, Jon placed his hand on Mario’s head and tousled his hair. Mario turned and smiled at him. The moment filled me with joy. I could feel the bond between those two in that simple gesture and I was so grateful for Jon in that moment. He is an awesome dad to our kids, and they feel his love for them.

This tournament was the last hoorah for these boys. They move onto 7th grade basketball with a school coach rather than coaching by their dads. Mario talks about how ready he is for middle school basketball because he thinks it will be more competitive. He is excited to ride a bus to games. But I think he will carry a tinge of sadness when it starts up next year because he will miss Jon on the coaches’ bench. A hair tousle from another coach just won’t be the same.

Making the meatballs

The past two Sundays have been marvelous. Both children home with Jon and me all day long. Of course, both children want to be locked away in their respective rooms watching you tube or playing NBA video games – but they are at home. I feel whole with them in the house – like the package is complete. And when they actually choose (or sometimes are forced) to be in the same room with us, my heart comes close to exploding.

Jon spent nearly all Sunday afternoon cooking. He made homemade meatballs and ricotta and pesto shells. He relies on his Italian daughter to taste test. She does not hold back on the accolades or the criticism. Jon knows if he asks me or Mario, he will get a “they taste good” answer every time. We don’t have a refined palette. He yelled for Ri to come up from the basement to try his sauce. She took a taste off the wooden spoon and pinched her lips together while staring at the remnants of sauce on the spoon.

“It needs more garlic and salt.”

Next came the meatballs. Ri had complained last time that Jon’s meatballs were too dry. Jon was offended. The funny thing is that Jon does the same thing to his mom. He is brutally honest when it comes to her cooking – now he has a mini-him doing the same.

He asked her if she wanted to help him make the meatballs this time so they wouldn’t be too dry. She poured in the breadcrumbs as he mixed the meats and eggs together with his hands. Then they stood side by side and rolled the meatballs. It was straight out of an Italian Renaissance painting (or not). It did make me swoon watching them roll and chat. She loves time with him and she loves meatballs so I knew we’d keep her in the same room with us for a while. She even talked with Jon about her friends and gave him insight on who liked who – more than I’ve ever gotten out of her:) Them again, doesn’t surprise me, they do love them some gossip….

Bring on the commercial

I usually don’t mind when Jon heads to his cousin’s house on Sunday. However, when the Sunday happens to be Super Bowl Sunday, and we have watched the commercials as a family for the past few years, I mind. I don’t mind enough to argue they shouldn’t go (after all, it was his cousin’s birthday and there was going to be a smorgasbord of Italian foods) but I just got sad. I have to fight to find time where the four of us are together anymore between sports, robotics, work, friends, homework….

So, I struggled with whether to go with them or not. It was going to be a gorgeous day and I could use the time to sit outside and get work accomplished. I could also get a much-needed massage and clean up the house. But then I thought about all my self-help books and how they advised to forget about the dirty house and just experience life. This back-and-forth in my head was processed further in a conversation with my mom. It is comical getting her and I together. We are two of the most indecisive people on this planet so we just play off each other with “well, take this into account; oh, but what about this….”

I still hasn’t decided whether to go or not (although I was pulling in favor of going so I could be with my clan even if it would be driving for four hours in a crammed car) when my hubby got a text from his cousin informing him the matriarch was sick so they likely wouldn’t have Sunday dinner.

Decision made – not by me – by an outside force – but made.

And made in my favor. My Sunday rocked. I’m not sure if it was because I spent the 48 hours coming up to it thinking about how nice it would be to just have family time and lamenting the thought of having to sit in a car for four of the hours or whether the universe just bestowed a much needed family day on me, but whatever it was, I’m grateful.

I took a walk with Rocco when I woke up. Ri walked a loop with me on her way home from her friend’s house, which made me smile. Any time I get a walk in with my teenage, you tube, phone-addicted daughter, I’m happy. I made pancakes for Mario when I got home, and played Monopoly with both kids (although it ended poorly with Maria quitting based on Mario’s insensitive comments to her about not looking like she could wear Air Force Ones – it got better when Mario apologized and told her he’d buy her a pair).

Mario, Jon and I spent the afternoon working on Mario’s basketball hoop – we had started it weeks ago and then realized they gave us the wrong parts. It is always hysterical to work on a project together. Lots of laughs and lots of cursing. I took a break to get Maria out on a walk/run with me and Rocco in Tarpy. She did not want to go but was a good sport about it once we left the house. She talked about school and how excited she was for Florida. At one point in the walk, as we lunged up the steps towards the old Tarpy home, I felt a wave of gratitude. The sun poking through the massive oaks, the robins perched on empty branches, and my daughter by my side chatting away about life – it really doesn’t get any better. I halted her in her steps and made her take notice of it all. We breathed together. I photographed the moment into my brain.

When we got home, I took Mario to get his haircut. He got spoiled with a shampoo and head massage at Aveda. He thinks these pampered cuts will continue but he is sorely misunderstood….

We came home to the start of the Super Bowl. Maria came upstairs to watch with us. I had my wish – we were all together in the same room for two straight hours watching the game and the commercials. Mario ate pretzels and dip, Jon ate chicken and potatoes, Ri ate a chocolate chip cannoli, and I ate Hershey bars. To each his own….

Even if Mario expressed his frustration with me massaging Ri’s feet or Jon barked at Mario to stop flopping around – it was all good because we were all together while we barked and sighed. And the being together grounded me. This was my clan – my tribe – and we were all safe in our nest.

I woke up with a positive, ready-to-go attitude on Monday morning. This has not happened in a while:) I attributed it to the time together on Sunday. Funny how Jon and I used to dream of the day when the kids did their own things and we had the freedom to do whatever we desired. We would sit in the living room of our old house as they showed off their dance moves or sang a new song. It would be 9:30 am and we would have been up for three hours already. We were exhausted and it wasn’t even noon. It’s a reminder to absorb those moments – even when they feel everlasting and you just want one more hour of rest – because they fade away and you find yourself excited about getting to watch a commercial because your babes will be next to you.

Guilt

Every moment of mindfulness changes a moment of conditioning.

I felt horrible for skipping out on a Friday gathering with my girlfriends. They had come up from Cincinnati and gotten a hotel room for two nights in order for all of to hang out together. It’s a once or twice a year event with my four girlfriends from grade school and high school. I knew I’d be tired as hell on Friday evening, and I knew they would not. They would want to head out late and drink wine. I’d want to slip on pjs and decompress. Friday nights are rough for me after a week of work. I need downtime. I made the executive decision to tell them I would meet up with them on Saturday morning.

I felt horrible about it – very guilty that they had come to my city and I was not even going to meet up with them until the next day. This was not out of the ordinary. I live in guilt. Be it that I was raised Catholic, or that I’m the oldest child, I often feel guilt about decisions I make. I fretted about it throughout work on Friday playing each scenario in my head.

“If I go, I will be tired and pissy and will want to go to bed at 10.”

“But if I don’t go, I will feel bad and worry they are mad.”

I took a walk in Tarpy with Rocco as soon as I got home Friday evening. This is my go-to refuge after long workdays. I kept my phone in my pocket so it was easier to resist the urge to look at Facebook as I walked the same trail I walk every day with my pup. I asked myself why I felt guilty. What brought that emotion up in me so strongly. My mind traveled back to childhood, and my need to please. I wanted others to feel good. I remember going to the movies with my dad and not paying much attention to the movie itself. Rather, I focused on glancing over at my dad every few minutes to see if he was laughing and enjoying himself. If I had girlfriends over, I’d make up plans of everything we could do so they’d have fun – even if it wasn’t my idea of fun.

I looked up at the changing leaves on the trees. One hosted leaves colored a dull red on the bottom with yellow on their tips. Rocco rushed by me with a large stick in his mouth. I took a deep breath and let it out. Repeat.

One of my girlfriends texted me when I got home. She sent a picture of all the girls eating cheese and bread and said “can’t wait to see you tomorrow!” I texted them back to tell them I could not wait to meet up. They texted me back some inappropriate responses due to their drinking state…. made me laugh.

I glanced up from looking at my phone. Rocco licked my hand. It soaked in how useless my hours of guilt had been. They were having a raucous time together. They weren’t talking about what a schmuck I was for not coming Friday night. Get out of your thoughts, Mary.

I woke up Saturday morning, took a long run, and ended up having a most fabulous day and evening with my gals.

Peace sign, sure…

Last Sunday morning, I had ornate plans in my head involving Maria and Mario. I would wake up Sunday morning and take the dog for a run. When I came home, Maria and Mario would be waiting by the door with jackets on ready to take a walk up to Stauf’s. We would eat bagels and play cards and then walk up the street to the old playground we used to go to on Sunday mornings. We would all bunch up together and slide down the slide, laughing and playfully kissing one another until we got to the bottom. We would swing each other on the swings….

OK, now maybe I was going a tad too far with my imagination, but I did have a plan to at least spend some time with the kids in the morning.

I went downstairs to let Rocco outside and Maria was already on the couch playing on her phone. It was 7:30 AM. I glanced over at her and smiled.

“Awesome, you are up! I thought me and you and Mario would go to Stauf’s in a bit.”

She sighed and gave me a frown.

“What? I just thought we could stay home this morning and chill.”

I chose to ignore her comment and walked upstairs to check in on Mario. I figured if I could get Mario to go, Maria would follow. She likes hanging out with her little brother. When I got up the stairs, I heard the video game. Mario had already gotten on the Xbox.

“Hey dude, how about we head to Stauf’s with your sister?”

“Do we have to? Can’t we just hang here and chill?”

I could feel my irritation growing stronger. I told him I really wanted to take a walk because it was so beautiful out and we don’t get much time together – the three of us. He shrugged his shoulders, and kept playing his game. Grrrrr. I took my frustration out the way I know best – telling him he’s not gonna be on x-box all day and he’s got chores. He replied exasperated and a bit snotty “I know, mom.”

We proceeded to continue this banter with me getting more and more angry at him for not just excitedly agreeing to a walk. After my last quip, he pushed his chair back into the blinds. With the sound of the blinds hitting against the window, I went off. I shot him the middle finger for a quick second. I immediately hoped he had not caught it but he was staring right at me.

I left the scene and darted into my bedroom. I passed Jon along the way – he had heard the commotion and was coming in to check up on us.

”What’s going on”, he asked Mario.

“Mom just gave me the finger, that is what is going on.”

Jon told Mario to clean his room, and then came into our room to chastise me. “Seriously, babe?!”

“I was trying not to cuss him out so I thought I would do a finger gesture instead. I was hoping he wouldn’t catch it..”

I was fully aware I had overreacted, and let my anger get the best of me. My brood has some quick tempers so I get it honestly. We never get violent, but we can cuss with the best of them! Lovely. I could already picture Mario in the therapist chair with a box of tissues detailing that morning his mom flipped him off.

I knocked on his door and gently opened it. He turned around from cleaning his dresser to look at me. I sat on his bed and patted the area beside me motioning him to sit. He walked over and sat down. I placed my hand on his shoulder, and began to cry as I apologized. I told him how hard it is to see him grow up, and not be interested in all of the routine activities we did when he was younger – like going to the coffee shop and throwing the ball and playing board games. When I looked up at him, his eyes were as wide as if he had just seen a ghost. I think he was completely taken aback – first his mom is enraged and now she is crying her eyes out. Actually, he was probably just thinking “what a freak!”

He leaned over and gave me a hug. My boy has empathy even when he’s freaked out. His gesture made me cry harder. I eventually got my act together, and told him the memory I had of when he was a little boy. He would hear me walking down the stairs and would cry out my name. He would beg me not to run. I would have to rub his back and tell him that I would be back in less than an hour to play. I’d stand up and he’d say “can you rub my back for a few more minutes?” He didn’t want me to leave his side.

He smiled. I then told him how there were days when I’d leave the house and think to myself “I can’t wait until he gets up and doesn’t care if I leave.” It hurt to hear him cry my name every morning and beg for me to stay. I then told him that those days are here and now I miss the days he was a little boy.

Life is crazy.

I reiterated how normal it is for parents to have these moments of temporary insanity and how much he should know I never mean to cuss at him or give him an explicit gesture. They don’t mean for one minute I don’t love him with every piece of my being and think he’s the epitome of cool. He’s more and more self-reliant, as he should be. Dad and I have done something right since he’s not crying out my name when I leave.

I called my mom later that evening and told her about the incident. I relayed how bad I felt but how quickly I went in to apologize to Mario with the hopes that he would see that people can mess up, but can also admit to their errs and seek forgiveness. My mom, always ready to find a way to make me feel better, asked if I really meant to give Mario the Peace sign but instead my index finger simply didn’t raise up with my middle finger?

Yes! Yes, that is what happened.

I hung up the phone with my mom and walked into the family room. Mario was watching TV. I sat down next to him and said “hey, you know that incident earlier, I was actually trying to give you the peace sign but you didn’t see my index finger.” He cocked his head to one side and gave me an unbelievable stare.

He laughed, but didn’t call bullshit.



Dinner time

It is pretty pathetic when your 14-year-old daughter makes better meals than you do. Maria has been in the kitchen since she was eight years old – making pancakes, frying eggs, and creating cupcakes.

Our family has been on a staple diet of random, minute-made dinners for months. Tacos, pork and potatoes, lean cuisines, crackers and cheese, and hot pockets. Granted, the last couple of months have entailed Maria or Mario at practice until 7 or 8 PM so it was hard to coordinate family dinners… But who am I kidding, we probably would’ve had a similar selection even if they didn’t have practices. Neither Jon nor I have any desire to slave away in the kitchen after a long day at work so the microwave is our trusted companion.

Maria, on the other hand, quite enjoys alone-time in the kitchen. The thought of spending a couple of hours alone baking in the kitchen excites her. Trying out new foods and recipes does as well. Jon and I are all game for new recipes but it’s the time in the kitchen piece that kills any excitement.

Maria was obviously getting sick of lean cuisines because this weekend she tossed out the idea of her making a couple of meals a week. She was diplomatic in her proposal – she stated she’d love to cook two meals and have Jon and I could cook two meals as well. She’s always up for getting everyone involved in the process so she asked Mario, Jon, and me to give her two recipes each and we would then vote on all of the recipes submitted. Maria sat us down in the living room on Sunday afternoon so that we could conduct the vote.  Each of us ended up getting one of our meals selected.

Maria made my selection on Monday night. Sloppy Joe sandwiches, baked potatoes and broccoli. Mario ate four sandwiches – that is unheard of for him. He had his friend Owen over that night and Owen devoured four as well. Maria felt on top of the world. On Tuesday, she made her selection. Paprika-baked chicken, parmesan cauliflower rice, peas and corn. Again, it did not disappoint. She and I loved it. Jon loved all but the cauliflower rice – he’s more inclined to have the real stuff. Mario, of course, had devoured food prior to dinner while over at his friend’s house but nibbled on some chicken and rice. Mario tends to shy away from anything too healthy….

I’m up tonight with Mario’s selection – spaghetti and meatballs. Yes, the meatballs will be purchased from the local pizza shoppe…. I readily admit to not having the cooking skills or patience of my part-Italian daughter.