Oaxaca!

Ri conquered her first out-of-the-country trip to Oaxaca, Mexico to visit her baby cousin Elena, Aunt Sarah, and Uncle Jorge. She has mastered the art of travel at age 10. When we arrived at airport security, she nagged at me to get her passport out to be prepared to show the agent. Then she schooled me about taking my laptop out of my book bag and placing it in a separate bin. Once we were through security, she wanted to get her Starbucks drink and go straight to the gate to be ready to board (Jon would have been so proud). And as I fretted about how tiny the plane was, she calmly pulled out my computer from her bag, slipped on her earbuds, and started up the movie she downloaded the night before.

Our flight arrived on time into Houston so we had three hours to chill before our flight to Oaxaca. Ri wanted some good ol’ American cuisine before we headed south so we ate at Ruby’s 50’s diner. I let her splurge on whatever she wanted. She chose a bacon cheeseburger with sweet potato fries. I have not witnessed a more gleeful girl than Ri when she took a bite out of her burger.

“Now, this is a burger, Mom! Bacon and cheese and a huge piece of meat. Yum!”  Gotta love this girl. We filled ourselves up and waited anxiously for our flight. The plane to Oaxaca was just as small as the one from Columbus. Ri calmed my nerves by holding my hand. 

 We landed in Oaxaca so excited to see our clan. Ri stood next to the conveyor belt waiting for our suitcase. It arrived quickly and we got in line to give our papers to the agent. The automatic doors opened for the person ahead of us to leave and we got a glimpse of Elena. Ri leapt in the air.

And so our epic Oaxacan adventure began. We had such a marvelous, magical time. Some highlights:

1. Bed jumping! Elena loves her some bed jumping; it was one activity that guaranteed smiles from her. It was also a mighty good incentive to get her to eat her oatmeal. She loved to strategically place Ri on the bed, and then me, and then proclaim “Jump!” We’d jump and she would fall and look up at us and smile or let out a bubbly laugh. Then we’d do it again and again and again.

During our trip, Elena did to Ri exactly what Ri did to Sarah when Ri was little – pushed her away. Ri used to shout “No, Sarah!” every time Sarah came near her when she was little. Elena just liked to use the word “No” and raise her right palm to push you away. I was worried Ri would get sad by Elena’s actions but she completely rolled with the flow after I talked with her about how most babies go through this stage. Sarah kept reiterating how much Elena would be begging to be with her when she got older. And Sarah and Ri learned to condition jumping on giving kisses. So every time Elena asked Ri to jump, Ri would demand “give me a kiss.” Elena would quickly abide to get the jumping started. 

 2. Fresh juice. I remember the juice from my last trip to Oaxaca. There is a stand that Sarah frequents with the nicest gentleman. He always carries a smile and a raucous welcome. Ri loved the strawberry mango juice, and it came in a plastic bag with a straw, which she thought was super cool.  3. The Cerra del Fortin. Could I please wake up every morning to a run on this trail? Absolutely stunning.

Ri did not want to go to the Fortin with Sarah and I but we begged and cajoled her and she broke down and agreed. She was so glad she did when she got to witness Sarah driving her Blazer up a 90 degree hillside freaking out that we were going to flip (I was too, frankly). But the Menkedick sisters pulled it together and got turned around. Sarah and Elena went running and Ri and I walked the trail. She was a bit irritable at first but then ten minutes in, she whispered “I’m glad I came.” How couldn’t she be with this view?! And Aunt Sarah persuaded Ri to run with her at the last leg of the trail so that Ri could brag that she ran the Cerra del Fortin!

4. Walks with Elena. Elena loves hanging with her mama but there were some times when Sarah would quickly hand her over to Ri before Elena knew what was happening! Ri had to do all sorts of tricks for her to keep her amused but Ri had no issues doing them in order to be able to hold her. We walked to breakfast or lunch most days and Ri would bounce Elena on one hip and then quickly move her to the other hip. Elena thought this activity was awesome. Or Ri would put her on her shoulders and Sarah and I would hold Elena’s back to make sure she stayed steady while pointing out everything and anything we could to have her forget she was on Ri’s shoulders.  

 5. Nuevo Mundo. Jorge’s brother owns this coffee shop close to the Zocolo and it is scrumptious. Ri fell head over heels for the strawberry cream crepes and I looked forward to their double cappuccinos. 

 Ri also found a treasure at the coffee shoppe. They had little pamphlets organized in different compartments on a wooden box on the wall. Elena loved to take the pamphlets out and put them back in the different compartments. So Ri would scoop up Elena and stand in front of the wooden box to allow Elena to play.

6. Village parade. Jorge found a parade for us to see in a small village about 45 minutes away. We had planned on a different parade the night before but Elena was still not feeling the best so we waited a day to take her out. And this parade was worth the wait. It was a parade to celebrate being gay, and there were many cross dressing males,  including the queen of the parade. We followed the music to an area containing many homes in a small camp. A man was passed out in front of the first home. We knew it was gonna be a good party.

Jorge spoke to a man at the entrance and the man invited us into the area. There were men dressed up in animal costumes and dressed up in extravagant dresses and sparkling heels. Kids ran around after a puppy. Ducks waddled around us. Ri, a bit taken aback at first, eventually soaked it up and watched the scene unfold. After a few minutes, the crew was ready to start the parade. The music started up and everyone went out to the street. Jorge shot a ton of pictures and we danced in the street with our new friends. 

     The parade ended at a stage with folding chairs set out around it. We sat down and a short, hunched-over old woman walked over to sit next to us. She wore a strawberry shortcake winter cap on top of her head and wore an interminable smile. After a while, we rose out of our seats to look around at the village church and square. Then we spotted them – the little devils.  The boys dress up in these colorful costumes and wear masks, and turn into little devils. They hold wooden sticks with flour-filled eggs on top of them and run around looking for girls to “flour.” Ri was a chosen one and before she could know what was happening – BOOM – a dust of flour fell on her shoulder and face. It was awesome.   One of the local men kept prodding Ri to climb the metal pole next to the church because she could grab prizes on top. They have a metal ring at the top of the pole that holds a bike, backpacks, and toys. If someone makes it up there, they untwist the string holding the object, it falls to the ground, and they get to keep it. If it’s not hard enough to climb a 40 foot metal pole, they grease it so its impossible to grip. I really want to try this at Mario’s 9th birthday party.   7. Hierve el Agua. Jorge and Sarah took Ri and I to Hierve el Agua, a spectacular site with springs and petrified waterfalls. It was a 90 minute drive from their apartment  through the countryside. We planned the car trip around Elena’s nap at noon – which she never took (but she was pleasant as can be holding her mama’s hand in the backseat). I think the reason she never took her nap was because Ri was jammin’ it out to Taylor Swift in the front seat with Jorge. And jammin’ to Maroon 5. And some other artists who Jorge had never listened to in his lifetime. Ri enjoyed uizzing him and singing the lyrics to him (Jorge, you will be sainted).

We arrived to a windy plateau. Sarah put the cutest bathing suit ever on Elena. Ri and I had to stick to shorts and t-shirts. Ri didn’t care at all, though; she just wanted to plunge into water. She had been dealing with over 80 degree days for three straight days and she wanted relief! The springs were nestled in the mountains, and the views were magnificent. We walked down to the first pool of water. Ri was the first one down and rushed into the water. She didn’t get two steps into the water when she went BAM – feet in the air and butt landing hard on the concrete. My sweet girl; everywhere we go she seems to find a way to go down. Sarah and I laughed so hard our sides hurt. Ri, as always, laughed it off with us and dove headfirst into the deeper part of the water.   She begged me to go under with her; I refused.  But I did get in to the water up to chest level, and it was freezing. We played around in the pool with Elena who loved the water as much as Ri. After a while, Maria wanted to try out the water down the hill. We gathered our things and traveled down to that pool of water. It was a bit warmer and Ri and Sarah walked in together. Elena and I followed. Jorge snapped pictures and we enjoyed the views. But if you stood up with your body out of the water, watch out. Freezing wind. Baby Elena started to get cold so Sarah went back on land with her while Maria and I braved it for a few more minutes. The landscape was beautiful as you looked out on it from the edge of the water.

    But the departure from the water was brutal! It was freezing with the wind, and we had no towel to wrap around ourselves. So we sprawled our bodies out to get maximum sun exposure and waited to bake.

 We eventually warmed up enough to be able to conquer the trail to the petrified waterfall. Ri and I ate Chex Mix as we climbed over boulders. We arrived at a sharp precipice and Ri immediately gravitated to the edge. Daredevil. I made her stay 15 feet back and I stayed 30.       Sarah, Jorge and Elena met up with us on the way down the trail and Elena was all dried off and back in her darling toddler attire. We walked past the pool of water but Ri couldn’t resist jumping in one more time. She’s insane. I refused to follow suit but I did walk Ms. Elena around the perimeter of the water. She held my hand and talked away.

Love.

She also got a kick out of watching Ri kick her legs up out of the water. The little things in life.  At the entrance to the springs, there were a handful of fruit and food stands. Sarah swore by the coconut water so we decided to try it. Ri was not convinced so she went with the tried and true pineapple. It did not disappoint.     On our way home, we got a taste of the countryside. A weathered older gentleman walked his goats on the side of the road.    Two minutes later, we witnessed donkeys carrying sticks up the path.   Pretty surreal to catch this site while listening to Taylor Swift and eating coconut wedges with spices drizzled on them.

8.The Tree of Tule. On our way home, Jorge steered us to Santa Maria del Tule to visit one of the widest and oldest trees around the world. It is a Montezuma’s Cypress and it’s over 2000 years old. Beautiful.    8. Espresso! Ri tried her first espresso at Nuevo Mundo.   She looks sophisticated in this picture but this is the “before sipping espresso” picture. I didn’t get an “after” shot because she spit it out so quickly.

9. Fried grasshoppers. We almost left Oaxaca without Ri tasting them but luckily the restaurant we went to on the last night served them. Ri was so happy to hear that! This girl is game for most anything, god love her, so she readily tried one. She didn’t spit this out so it beat espresso! Jorge and I devoured a few in comraderie with Ri. Not bad.

 10. Moments with Elena. Let’s face it. The overwhelming reason for this trip was to be with Elena! We love Sarah and Jorge tremendously but we wanted some quality time with the munchie-munch. Elena had a bit of a different idea of our purpose for vacationing in Oaxaca. At 20 months old, she is just learning the thrill of using the word “no.” She mastered it by the time we left. Ri loves to tell people about Elena’s four hand gestures to articulate “no.” She saw each one of them scores of times. Sarah, Ri and I would laugh hysterically at Elena’s dogmatic hand gestures to us as we approached her. Despite Elena being in her new phase, Ri was still able to spend some quiet, sweet moments with her, like this one when Maria was explaining to Elena how to have fun with water (Elena got to see a second slip and fall by Maria when she slipped on the stone and her leg fell into the water; the girl keeps us laughing).  Or this one when Ri carried Elena in the backpack at the Cerra del Fortin.  Or when Elena was fascinated watching Ri climb a tree and wanted to follow suit.

 11. Spicy Medicine. Aunt Sarah bought Cocoa Krispies cereal for Ri at my request. I knew that if all else failed she would live on Cocoa Krispies. The first morning we woke up, Sarah was feeding Elena berries and oatmeal. As soon as Elena saw Ri sit down with her Cocoa Krispies, she pointed and begged for some. So, we had to come up with a reason she couldn’t have them. Hence, the creation of Spicy Medicine!  Ri would say “you won’t like this, Elena, it’s spicy medicine!” I can’t wait until Elena stays with us and gets a taste of that “spicy medicine!” The oatmeal days may be long gone….

12. Hot Stone massage. Ri got her first massage while in Oaxaca, and even better, a hot stone massage. Spoiled. Sarah and I dropped her off for a 30 minute massage and got a coffee with Elena. We told the masseuse to go lightly on Maria because I did not want anything to happen on this first massage. Meanwhile, I got to spend some quality time with my niece and spoil her with tastes of cappuccino foam. We went to pick up Maria, and she came out of the room crying. At first I was scared half to death that something had gone really wrong but then she sniffled “they didn’t give me a hot stone massage.” The masseuse explained that she thought we meant no hot stones when we said “go lightly.”  So being the sweet mama I am, I gave up 30 minutes of my massage to Maria so that she could get her much anticipated hot stone massage. She loved it.

13. Crossy Road. Maria is addicted to an iPhone game called Crossy Road. It is very similar to the game Frogger I used to play as a kid. She and I had intense battles in the afternoon when Elena would nap or in the evenings before bed. I think I beat her three times out of 150. Jorge played it for the first time when we were at a restaurant and he started screaming as he tried to move the little chicken across  the road. It was hysterical.

14. Gourmet cooking. On our last nightt, we went to a very fancy restaurant. It was the same restaurant we went to with a group of people when Sarah and Jorge got married. They have the most delicious food. Sarah and Jorge and I split three different dinners (scallops, ribeye and duck) that were all scrumptious. Maria ordered  something out of the blue: a rice dish covered with feta cheese and onions. She devoured it in seconds. The girl is up for anything.   15. Playing with balloons as tall as a telephone pole. While Sarah and I got massages, Jorge took Ri and Elena to the Zocalo and bought two tall balloons for Ri. Jorge said the people in the square loved her because she was having so much fun with the balloons. She even managed to endear the folks she accidentally whacked on the heads with the balloons. And Elena loved watching Ri try to manage those giant characters.


 16. Pulling the wooden pup around the terrace. On our second morning in Oaxaca, we bribed Elena to eat oatmeal and then we would go on the terrace. She has a little wooden puppy that she likes to pull around with her. We took the puppy out with us for Elena to pull. But the joke was on us. She directed Maria to pull the pup the entire time. Maria gladly obliged, nonetheless, and we spent 20 minutes watching Maria pull the  wooden puppy while Elena followed her pointing to where Ri should go. It was golden.


17. The Zocalo. I walked down to theZocalo  nearly every day when Elena would nap. I loved it. There were always musicians playing music and people selling vibrantly colored balloons. We all walked down after dinner one night to let Ri see the scene. It is a wonderous refuge to read a book, take a rest, and people watch.  

    18. Kefir. My dad gave me a piece of advice before Ri and I left for Oaxaca. Drink some kefir while you are there. Kefir is cultured milk with lots of good gut bacteria. Yep, good gut bacteria. Jorge made Ri and I some after we ate fish at a local restaurant and felt a little queasy. I had been warned by dad and Sarah that kefir can be rather disgusting tasting.  But I guzzled down a half of a glass, and Ri got a few sips in before she gave up. And, dad was right (or else Ri and I just have iron stomachs) – we left Oaxaca with absolutely no sickness!

19. Mid-afternoon cafe lunches. We went to a little cafe close to Sarah’s apartment for lunch one afternoon and it was so good. The salad was phenomenal – we had one with turkey and chesses and avocado with  an out-of-this-world dressing. And the sandwiches were scrumptious, too. Ri stuck with her German roots and ordered sausage and potatoes!  20. Belly laughs. We had some serious belly laughs together on this trip. Ri falling in the spring water was a good one. Or Elena standing on the side of the bed and demanding Ri to stand on one side of her and me on the other and jump up and down incessantly. Or, the greatest one, listening to Ri call out songs on Sarah’s iPod and quizzically call out “Sarah Menkedick, Goats? You have a song, Aunt Sarah?” It was Sarah’s audiotape of an essay, and we all laughed for ten minutes straight while listening to Sarah read “Goats.”

But best of all was just the ability to spend a good chunk of time with my sister and brother-in-law and niece without work interruptions or errands or other daily pokes. Sarah and I have not gotten that in quite some time.

I’m thrilled we got to visit Jorge’s birthplace. Mexico provided us with wonderous contradictions: rugged yet tender; vibrant yet muted; raucous yet serene. It calls out to you: I remember the morning Ri and I were hiking and we kept hearing what sounded like a cow in the distance. I asked her if she heard the cows.  She laughed and corrected me. “That is the sound of a gas truck, mom!” Uncle Jorge had taught her that the day before.

Give me the money!

Mario is in love with his beyblades lately. He’s dying to buy Japanese ones on eBay. But he has little to no money in his wallet. So he decides to clean his room, Maria’s room and the bathroom to earn some money. Granted however, he does not tell Jon or me about this  decision so we did not set any price we’d pay for him to do these chores. And Maria never did either. 

He finishes “cleaning” Ri’s room, which entails throwing her clothes in random drawers and tossing random objects on the ground onto her bed. I think his mantra is “if the floor is clean, the room is clean.” He walks downstairs and informs Ri that he cleaned her room and she needed to pay him. She casually finds her wallet and whips out a $20 bill to give him. This all happens while Jon and I are at work.

When we come home, we hear what happened. Mario now assumes because of Ri’s ridiculous generosity that he is going to score serious cash from me and Jon for cleaning two rooms. Wrong. He’s deflated when we tell him we may give him $1 for his efforts. Ri comes to his side advocating about what a thorough cleaning job he did.  

Patty came in town to watch M&M while we went to Cancun last week. She lost her phone the day before her arrival and she was upset she’d have to buy a new one. While she was taking Ri to school one morning, Ri found Patty’s phone hidden in the car seat. Patty was so relieved. She offered Ri $5 for finding it. Ri’s response: “you keep it Grandma for when we go to the lake this Summer.” Mario later found out Patty offered $5 to Ri. His response: “What?! I didn’t have a chance to try to find it in Grandma’s car and get $5. Not fair!”

Jon and I arrived home from Cancun. We had bought a couple of drinks at the airport and I had gotten two Mexican coins back from the cashier. I slipped them in my pocket without looking at them. As Ri and Mario opened the last of their souvenir gifts, I remembered the coins. I took them out and handed one to Ri and one to Mario. Ri looked at it and said “cool, a $5 coin.” Mario looked at his and said “wait, mine is only $1.” Ri looked at me with a concerned look. She immediately handed her $5 coin to Mario and told him she’d trade. I stopped her arm from reaching his hand. But he had already rejected her offer. It’s like he innately knew there wasn’t anything he was going to do with pesos here in the US so why use his good will on that exchange with Ri. Or, for all I know, he innately knew that $5 pesos wasn’t even worth $1 in US currency so why bother. It would not surprise me a bit.



Cancun 2014

I never thought I’d complain about the heat after the Winter we have had this year. But I returned from my morning run in Cancun sweating and feeling nauseous because of the sun beaming down on me. I think my body was in shock after running in 5 degree weather the last two months. But that was the only hot weather complaint I had while on our annual Cancun vacation with Jon’s work folks.
We left on Wednesday morning at 4:30 am (I braved 10 degree weather in shorts with the excitement of landing in 80 degree weather). We arrived at the hotel at 11 am, did our Chevy Chase Vacation head bobbing on the balcony of our room while taking in the ocean, and headed down to swim. We had a blast playing in the waves. Meanwhile, Ri called us four times in a row to tell us how much she missed us. Mario was perfectly content with Grandma Ionno but Ri missed having us around her. We better take that in while we can because I have a feeling that may not continue in a couple of years.
We hung out a good deal with Jon’s friend Craig and his wife Julie. Julie and I tease Jon and Craig about their bromance but it is quite darling. They told Julie and me that they take care of one another – when one is having a bad day, the other lifts him up. And when Craig heard Jon ordering a coke at McDonald’s one morning, he counseled him on making better choices. Precious. Julie talked to me about Pure Barre and how much she loved it. I think that will be my new adventure in exercise…. They are a sweet couple and we all laughed a lot when we were together.

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Jon and I engaged in our normal routine: I get up and workout, we meet for the killer breakfast buffet (Ri would adore it), we jump in the ocean and swim, we get massages, we jump back in the ocean, we eat dinner, we crash. Not a bad life. I even swam with a shark this year! I didn’t mean to by any means…. I was looking for shells a ways down the beach and stood up to find a three foot shark swimming by me. I froze and let him continue to circle me and when he moved away a third time, I darted onto the beach. I couldn’t wait to tell Jon and Mario! And Jon experienced a first at the beach, too. He got a pedicure! His feet were baby soft and he had to admit he loved it. I imagine he will be sneaking away at lunch to get one every three weeks. He did have to endure his guy friends giving him grief about his robe though. The front desk lady gave him a super short one to wear even after he asked for another. When he walked into the waiting area, his buddy Phil shook his head and said “Jon, you just made my day.” His other friend told him that the robe looked like it would fit his twelve year old daughter. Nothin’ like guy friends to calm your anxiety. When we got up to the room, there was a present laying there for Jon – a toddler-size robe compliments of “The Guys”. We laughed for ten minutes straight.
Jon’s boss, Jim tried to teach us to body surf to no avail. The man is like balsa wood the way he rides a wave nearly into shore. Jon and I made it about five feet from where the wave crested.
We missed hanging with Dave and Jen and Joe and Lydia – our Michigan buddies. Our schedules never lined up except when Jen and I got to dance to our Violent Femmes song in the pool Friday night. We are gonna need some time on Dave’s boat this Summer….

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Patty cranked out four straight days with the kiddos, god love her! Maria got strept throat on Thursday. She called us up barely able to speak but mustering up the words to tell us that “this is the time when she most needs her parents near her.” Talk about knowing how to give a guilt trip…! When we arrived home on Saturday night (a day early between Ri’s strept and the snowmageddon predicted for Sunday), these posters were hanging:

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I love how this one has our ages.

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And this one poses questions to us (answers: I’d rather eat with Michael Jackson and Jon would rather eat a snail).
We got the most warm and welcoming hugs from the munchos when we stepped in the door (we need to leave more often).
And Rocco was in heaven with his doggy pals at the farm. As Jorge commented “Rocco likes Winter.”

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All is back to normal again: kids, Rocco, 48 year old dad and 42 year old mom are back at home together waiting for Spring to come.

Pittsburgh weekend

It started with a German Shepherd and a little mutt jumping in the back of the Volvo. Our trip to Pittsburgh to visit Aunt Sarah and Jorge was awesome on so many levels including the hysterical ride in the Volvo with the kids in the back seat nuzzling up to Stella and Mona until Stella tried to jump over the seat and Sarah jumped in the back to school her. Ri and I laughed so hard.

We made it to Sar’s apartment in one piece. We decided to forego the kids museum because we got in later than we expected and because the kids were much more into hanging out with Sarah. We decided to head to the animal shelter because the kids were wanting to hold a dog and Sar and I were each secretly thinking maybe we would take one home (Jon, meanwhile made me swear that I would not engage in such activity).
The shelter was clean and did not contain the usual musty-dog smell of a shelter. It had to be privately owned. We looked at all the doggies in their kennels and quickly decided we wanted to hold Paquita, a chihuahua. We approached the front desk attendant and asked to get him out.

“You have to fill out this paperwork first.”

It was two pages of questions. The lady read over my responses and quickly pushed the paper to the side.

“We don’t allow adoptions farther than 75 miles away.”

Sarah and I looked at each exasperated. We just wanted to hold Paquita. We knew what to do. Sarah filled out the paperwork as if she was going to buy a dog. The attendant knew exactly what we were doing. She started to grill us with questions and then chirped “we don’t have anyone to show you a dog until later.” Sar and I would not be stopped. Sar filled out another piece of paper to see a kitten. After ten minutes, we were in a room with a grey-colored kitty. The kids fought over who could hold her. Sar and I cracked up over the paranoid attendant checking in on us every three minutes. Not exactly what we expected but it was all worth it when we headed to the door and found big ol’ plump bunnies. They were too cute with their double chins and short legs.

The kids were dying to see the hotel after that so Sar dropped us off while she got the dogs. They knew exactly what to do once we checked in – they got on the elevator, found the room, opened the door, scoped out the room and put on their bathing suits. We took a quick swim and met Sar downstairs for a trip to the downtown fountain.

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The kids took turns holding Mona as we walked from Market Square to the fountain. Market Square is a quaint little dining area with a center courtyard. I really liked downtown Pittsburgh. You could see the inside of the baseball stadium from our walk. The hills were magnificent with houses peppered all over them. Trains clamored past us. I love old downtowns.
Sar told the kids they could wade in the fountains and they wasted no time. Mario went in up to his chin and Ri quickly followed. They had many admirers, including the dogs.

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After soaking themselves, we walked over to the Reflective Pool for more “wading.” Sar and I were chatting when Mario came out with his fist balled up. He opened it to reveal a load of change (mostly pennies) that he had gathered. “This is awesome, mom!” Soon after that, a policeman stopped on his bike and chastised Sar and I for letting M&M in the pool (it’s not allowed; I told the kids that they had one cool mom letting them engage in illegal activities). As soon as they got out, Mario started whining about being cold. I knew it.
I carried him back to the car while Ri walked without one complaint (she could last in the Arctic with no issues). We were almost to the car when Ri noticed a horse-drawn carriage. She begged for us to take a ride and I could not say no. Sar stood back with the dogs and we hopped in. The lady waved Sar over and yelled “you can get in with your dogs!” We couldn’t believe it. There we all were in a carriage riding through downtown.

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Ri was in heaven and kept repeating “this is the best!” After the ride, we traveled back to Shadyside, changed at Sarah’s, and headed up the street for Mexican. Sar ordered fish tacos much to my concern but I found out that I love them. They were delicious. Mario took two bites of his quesadilla and passed out on my lap.

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Sar and I got some quality sister time in at the restaurant which was my heaven. Then she got to try out Mario’s scooter on the way home. She cranked it with Ri even doing a jump! When we got home, Ri begged to stay with Sar. We explained to her there would be no breakfast buffet or swimming. She decided to go with me. On the way home, Sar called complaining that she missed the Ri-ster. I asked Ri if she wanted to go back and she jumped up in her seat and shouted “yes!” So I drove her back to Sarah’s and Mario and I went to our room and slept soundly together all night.
We woke up the next morning at 8 (beautiful) and went swimming. He raced me in the pool (swam four laps like it was nothing) and performed “magic” in the hot tub (he waved his hands underwater and made ripples). We were both starved by 9:30 and devoured some waffles and bacon at the buffet (Mario commented “Ri is going to be so mad she missed this.”).
We said goodbye to the hotel and booked it over to Sarah’s. The whole crew was there. Ri loved spending the night with Sar; she slept with the dogs and then with Sarah and Jorge in their full size bed. There is no way Jon and I would have slept.
The family drove to Frick Park for a Sunday hike with the dogs. It was a typical Menkedick hike full of inclines and great finds – touch-me-nots for the kids to squeeze, daddy long legs, beetles, and a snake in the porta potty.

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We were famished when we left the park and darted straight to a quaint brunch restaurant in the Point Break? neighborhood. It had ridiculously yummy food – frittatas, pork and slaw omelette, salmon watermelon salad, and chocolate waffles. We ate and laughed and guessed who sang songs that Ri named.
We took a walk around Sar’s neighborhood after brunch and found a darling street with shops. I loved a card shop called Kards Unlimited. It had New Yorker cards and a ton of others. I could have sat in there for two hours.
Dad attempted to ride Mario’s scooter, which provided much laughter. Actually, I think his nickname should now be Speed Racer. He moved on that thing.

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We left Pittsburgh at 4 and got home by 7:20 (with a stop at the gas station for ice cream and potato chips even). Exhausted and spent, we walked in the house to hugs from Jon and Patty.

Another weekend well spent – goodbye Pittsburgh and Spahr Road – we are lobbying hard for a Sarah and Jorge move to Columbus!

Bears and sushi

Sarah and Jorge returned from Yellowstone and Glacier with limbs intact – even after walking right by a grizzly! Oh, the stories they had to intrigue Maria and Mario.

Mario drags Jorge everywhere as he does with any male that comes to the house. Jorge is a very good sport playing basketball one minute and fighting with Ben Ten figures the next. Maria waits for Sarah to talk about her adventures and most importantly, to open up Sarah’s Mac computer photo shop. The photo shop lets you contort your face in all sorts of lovely ways. This was a beauty of a picture from the shop last night when we chose “Alien.”

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Sarah had an awesome slide show of their trip full of pictures of the mountainsides, sunsets, gorgeous wildflowers, moose and bears. God love ’em, they go for it when they decide to hike and they take great pictures. The bear pictures obviously peaked the kids’ interests but I think they fell more in love with the little chunky chipmunk peeking over a rock because he was “so adorable.”

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We splurged on sushi for dinner. Spicy tuna, dragon, and spicy salmon rolls – yum. Maria braved a bite but promptly spit it out. “I will stick with macaroni and cheese” she declared. We sat around the kitchen table and talked about our trip to Michigan and the sand dunes Sar and I used to tackle when we vacationed as kids. It was a treat having my sis and Jorge over for dinner. M&M did not want the night to end begging to spend the night with them at the apartment. Sar and Jorge weren’t quite prepared for that action yet but they better get ready for Jon and me to send them to Pittsburgh for a weekend sometime soon ( if they can handle bears they can handle M&M!).

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Partyin’ in Kentucky

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Mario lived his dream of being a superstar last night. He danced all by himself on the dance floor with the entire wedding party and guests watching and cheering his every move. The DJ asked me Mario’s name and I told him. He went back to his stand and yelled in the microphone “Let’s hear it for Mario!” Mario turned to me in disbelief. He was charged!

The DJ challenged the guests to a dance-off with Mario and this gorgeous southern belle took him on. She kicked and punched the air like Mario, did the robot like him, and jiggled her hips. But he pulled out a cartwheel on her and she gave up and bowed down to him.

“Did I win, mom?” he asked me later in the evening. The kid never fails to find competition.

Maria, meanwhile was persevering through pain. She wore “high heels” with her dress and they were killing her feet (like all heels do!). I kept telling her to take them off but she’d reply “mom, it’s a wedding and I’m in a dress; I can’t take off my heels.” She certainly doesn’t take after her mom who wears gym shoes with her dress! It scares me that she was willing to deal with the pain of heels in order to remain in high fashion – god help us.

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We also got in some quality hotel pool and hot tub time – Maria stood on Peepaw’s shoulders in the pool and Mario acted like a fighting superhero in the hot tub jumping from side to side with his fist outstretched. We also got our money’s worth at the breakfast buffet filling up on waffles, eggs, sausage and fruit loops. Massive carbs – just what I needed for a four hour drive home.

We stopped over at Aunt Kathy’s condo before we headed home – Maria got to see the married couple before they took off to Jamaica (she’s still blushing over Miles’ comment that he’d save her a dance at the reception ( when he asked her later she was too embarrassed)). Kathy had Krispy Kreme donuts and chick-a-filet sandwiches – who can resist that action?! I felt like I was in a coma after taking those down and would have paid top dollar for a chauffeured ride home.

But thank goodness for five-hour energy drinks – I was back to normal in no time flying up I-71 to Columbus and listening to M&M interchange between begging to go back to the hotel and ask ing how much longer to home every ten minutes. I knew I should have gotten some Advil with my five-hour energy drink.

Driving the Munches

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Does this crew crack me up or what?!

My sis is back in town with her hubby, Jorge, and her cuddly monster of a dog, Stella, and they agreed to take my two darling children to the farm for the next couple of days since our sitter threw up all day while babysitting them yesterday. Poor guy must have gotten Maria’s bug last week – he barely made it out of the car after he picked up Mario from school and had the pleasure of throwing up all over our sidewalk while the kids screeched with depraved excitement.

So, I had an afternoon full of frantic phone calls trying to find child care for the rest of the week. Luckily, Meg and dad came through – this will be a test for Maria Grace – it is supposed to be in the 90’s the next couple of days and there is no AC at the farm. I’m quite sure she will be naked through the afternoons!

So back to that retro sis of mine (Maria told her she looked like she was living in the 80’s and Sar told her that her look was “retro” – not 80’s). She arrived promptly at 8:30 am to pick up the munches (Sar’s endearing name for them) who had been begging for her to arrive since 6:25 am. They were excited to spend two hours with her in the car and did not even ask for a movie on the way. Sarah should be honored.

She called me half way into the trip and let me know she was teaching them the names of colors in Spanish. She also was laughing hysterically at the stories coming out of the munches’ mouths. Maria told her about a news clip where a man was naked on a street in Florida and they had to blur his privates. Mario chimed in and added: “that was me!”

Yeah, I am quite sure she was kept amused the entire ride and I am quite sure the munches were in seventh heaven.