Packin’ It In


Maria and GracieWe headed out of Cincy on Friday night with Cheez-Its, Diet Coke, and apples.  We were set for our rush hour drive down I-71.  Half-way through the trip, I found a kids size bag of M&M’s in my side pocket so all was good.  The kids watched Tom & Jerry and Maria drew pictures as she glanced up at the tv.  We burst into my mom’s house in record time; traffic was surprisingly light on the way down.  After playing on the treadmill for a few minutes, and eating some Girl Scout cookies, we headed over to Julie’s to pick up Gracie for a park trip.  Gracie is about the cutest little thing possible.  I venture to say that she may even compare to my munchkins when they were her age.  You must want to eat her up.  She loves her “Aunt Mary” so I get big hugs and kisses when I come over. 

Liz let Gracie come to the park with us while she picked up Laura and they got pizza for dinner.  Liz warned me that Gracie would not want to ride int he stroller but I told Liz that Gracie had never seen the “Cadillac” of strollers before.  Sure enough, when Gracie saw the BOB, she hopped right in it as comfortable as can be.  Maria strolled Mario and Gracie nearly the entire way to the park (she loves playing mom).  Maria took control of the climbing wall, as she always does.  The girl may just be a professional climber one day.  She has amazing upper body strength and she scales up the wall like she’s spidergirl.  It is awesome to see.  It’s funny how she likes these “untraditional” sports like rock climbing and frisbee while Mario enjoys the more “traditional” sports like baseball and basketball. 

The kids tried to find frogs for me in the stream but had no luck.  They did get plenty wet though.  Maria likes to go off on her own and “think” as she puts it.  I keep a distant eye on her but she does enjoy her space.  Mario feels like he has to do the same so he announces that he is going off, too, but inevitably within two minutes he is calling for me to show me something.  I like how they feel comfortable enough to go out on their own (just as long as they tell me first!).

After the park, Liz and Laura graced us with LaRosa’s pizza.  The best pizza ever.  We ate at Julie’s house, and Mario ate three pieces of pizza.  I almost fainted.  He has a little appetite lately.  After dinner, the kids went downstairs (Julie’s basement is the play area for the kids and is heaven-sent).  Liz and Laura and I got some alone time to talk, which was also heaven-sent.  I love their love for family and their respect for who I am.  The two of them are a lot more strict in the discipline area and tend to lean more conservative than me, but they have a respect for how I raise M&M, and we have a healthy dose of ribbing with one another on our parenting styles (Laura is like a second parent to my kids and Grace).  

We all traveled over to my mom’s for a viewing of “Babies.”  My girlfriend had recommended it to me and I was excited to think of watching a movie that wasn’t animated or geared towards four-year-old boys.  The movie turned out to be a delight, especially with Liz and Laura’s quips here and there.  It is about four babies growing up in different parts of the world – the San Fransisco, rural Mongolia, Tokyo, and Africa.  It follows them pre-birth to age 1 or so.  The movie does a great job showing the immense differences in the cultures.  The only constant is the breast-feeding mother, and the cats.  Each house had a cat that provided pleasure in one form or another to the babes.  I found myself getting a tad annoyed at the San Fransisco mom.  She did a lot of the activities that I did with M&M but putting her up against the other mothers made the things the SF mom did look ridiculous.  In one scene, the SF mom was in a class with her baby where they were listening to African music and waving their hands back and forth overhead in a dance-like motion.  The baby stands up and makes a bee-line for the door.  “That’s right, get out little one,” quipped Laura, and we all laughed.  After seeing the African women with their babies sitting in the dirt, with flies swarming around them, with smiles on their faces talking it up amongst each other, it was hard to take seriously the group of five white parents trying to sing African songs with their babies.  However, I fully admit that it may be something that I would do with M&M to introduce them to other cultures’ songs.  The kids were intrigued with the babies.  They enjoyed certain scenes like the African baby eating mud and water from the ground, seeing the Mongolian baby taking a bath with a goat coming up from behind to drink his bath water, observing the Tokyo baby trying to put a toy together and getting upset each time she failed, and watching the American baby take a poop in her diaper (with all of those memorable “poop” faces).  They also enjoyed Laura’s and Liz’s comments throughout the film.  On the way home to Columbus, Maria and Mario made the same comments while watching the movie in the car.  What influences those girls are!

After the movie, we hit the sack.  The kids slept on the floor – Mario in a sleeping bag that he thought was awesomely cool and Maria in a regular blanket because she allows Mario to have what he wants.  She was actually burning up for some reason so did not want to be stuffed into a sleeping bag.  They slept until 7 am, which was a gift to me.  By 7:45 am, we were in the stroller heading to Marx Bagels for our bagels and cream cheese.  Heaven on earth.  Pumpernickel combo toasted burnt with cream cheese.  Maria has fallen for the strawberry bagel.  Mario eats a small bite of the raisin bagel.  After the bagel shop, we hit the pet store and found a floppy frisbee.  I was charged after looking at three different places in Columbus.  The kids have taken to frisbee but we lost our old floppy one and the plastic one I bought produces much pain when they fail to catch it and it strikes them.  Mario wailed the last time we used the plastic one, and now he is gun-shy with the floppy one. 

We headed to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in downtown Cincinnati at 11 am.  I had been looking forward to the parade for the last few days.  In all my years growing up in Cincy, I never hit the parade even though I lived in Clifton and worked downtown for years.  Also, the kids had never seen downtown since we always stop at the Blue Ash line.  I had big plans to go to Bicentennial Commons and the Riverfront but those were squashed after the long parade. 

Our Party GirlWe partied on Fountain Square for a half hour before the parade, and then found a goodLaura and me seat on Fifth Street (thanks to Laura pushing us along).  The parade brought much excitement, especially when the participants threw candy at us.  I scored a green cowboy hat, and Mario scored a fireman’s hat.  Maria got mega compliments on her green hair.  The kids loved the clown that was part of the parade.  He walked out in the middle of the road and dropped his pants.  They laughed so hard.  We loved the Irish dancers and the bagpipes. But after an hour and half (and hardly any candy), the kids got restless and we took off.  We were all exhausted.  Laura had to do round two with her girlfriends, and I had to get us home to Columbus.  So, it was definitely Energy Shot time and time to head home (only after we took a glance at our mom and mine’s old Clifton house and reminisced about our time living together).

The rockin' shirtWhen we got home, Laura surprised Maria with a rockin’ Big Time Rush home-made shirt.  It is nothin’ but cool with BTR on the front and ruffles on the bottom.  She looks too cute in it.  She got it a little muddy later in the day and she freaked out crying that her shirt was dirty (she never does that with any other shirt)!  Laura is a sewing machine and has started a blog, Finding Red Fern detailing her escapades.  Laura also has stored an inordinate amount of facts in her brain.  She has answers to anything – I mean anything.  It always amazed me when I was with her the things that she would know.   Maria has since picked up on this fact as Laura blurted out random facts during the Babies movie and then gave descriptions of things at the parade that only Laura would know.  When we were driving home, Maria questioned me from the back seat: “Why does Laura know so much and my mom doesn’t?”  Lovely. 

We played frisbee outside of my mom’s condo in the parking lot.  Then we played jump rope.  My mom bought a jump rope for her exercise kick and the kids became interested.  We twirled the rope as they tried to jump.  Again, Maria did surprisingly well.  Again,it is those random, non-traditional sports that she enjoys.  Mario did alright, too, but again, he is much more proficient at picking up a ball and bat.  We had to take the dogs for a walk before we left so we dropped by Julie’s to pick them up.  Maria always takes Butters because he is heavier and pulls harder.  Mario takes Willie because he is a piece of cake to walk and he allows Mario to do anything he wants. M&M love dogs, that is for sure.  They are very gentle with them and always patient. 

We finished up the day with a bath (and the duckies that the kids remember from times past) so they smelled fresh for the ride home (I almost passed out on the ride down to Cincy because Maria took off her shoes and her feet reeked!).  We arrived home to beautiful skies (it had called for rain).  We played outside the rest of the night.  Maria and Mario built a rock wall for me in the front yard and brought blankets and pillows out in order to be able to lay down.  I love that they engage in these activities. Anything outdoors makes me giddy.  When it got dark, I laid with them on the blankets and we found stars in the dark blue sky.  Not an easy task with the immense amount of clouds.  It was idyllic for about 5 seconds and then Mario shot up and jumped on me and acted like a monkey.  He could not sit still.  We lasted another 10 minutes before we packed it up and moved it inside for nighties and a book. 

As I unpacked our clothes (I pack as if I will be gone for a week for an overnight stay), I grinned.  Then I smiled, Then I smiled wide.  What a jam-packed St. Patrick’s Day full of new adventures and old ones.  The kids built a rock garden.  We ate bagels and cream cheese.  Gracie warmed us up.  We saw clowns and bagpipers. Butters and Willie let us walk them.  We learned to jump rope.  What a wondeful life we have.

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