The Last Unicorn

I can’t believe I bore two thespians. I couldn’t even fake spit for one scene in a 6th grade Nativity scene. Jon and I have played on many a sports field but never on a stage. I was in awe when they auditioned for small roles in Scrooge last November. They each got a role with a few lines throughout the play. I could manage that commitment. Then they auditioned for a kids-only play in March called The Last Unicorn. I had never heard of it although it was a tv show in the hey days of my youth – the 80’s. Ri and Mario had never heard of it either. 

They were like pros at the audition having just auditioned several months earlier. They felt even more emboldened because there were a lot of kids auditioning who had never acted in a play before.  We got a call later in the week from the director informing us of the kids’ roles. Maria got a lead as Molly Grue, the scurrilous maid. Mario got three roles as farmer, Culley and the Skull. I hung up with the director and informed the kids of the roles. Mario was excited because he got three different parts. He didn’t care how many lines were in each part; he was just excited that he got three different characters. Maria was upset because she didn’t get the role of unicorn and she only got one role. I told her it was a lead but she remained skeptical. 

She wasn’t skeptical after the first practice when they got their scripts. She was in most of the play and had paragraphs upon paragraphs of lines to memorize. What had we agreed to?! Both of them had substantially more lines than they had in the Christmas play.  I was both excited and extremely nervous for them. It can be hard as a mom to strike the right balance of wanting to instill responsibility and autonomy in your kids but also wanting to ensure that they are doing what is expected of them. There were many a night when they chose to watch a TV show rather than work on their lines. When I called them out on it, they would typically look at me and say “mom, it’s fine, we are good.” I gave them a night or two to respond with that answer, but then I would crack the whip and require some rehearsing. I felt for the other kids who were relying on M and M to know their lines, and I wanted them to do well in their first major play. They would rehearse once with me and then complain that they were tired and wanted to rest.

And sure enough, on the Monday before the weekend of the show, they went to their first dress rehearsal and had trouble remembering quite a few lines. I worried about how they were going to memorize the rest of their lines by Friday’s performance. That was it – no more balance! We came home and I forced them to rehearse their lines with me every chance they got. And sure enough, by Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal, they had pretty much memorized them all. Mario was still having trouble with his Skull lines, however, and was called out by the director for not knowing them. He made it very clear that he expected Mario to know them for the dry run on Thursday. Mario jumped in the car sulking and anxious the entire way home. I stayed up with him until 11 PM that night working on his lines. We got up the next morning and worked some more. I then came home early from work on Thursday and we rehearsed one more time before heading to the theatre.

It paid off. Mario nailed his Skull scene, and was so pumped. Thank goodness. I knew that he would be ok for the actual shows because he proved to himself that he could memorize and execute on his lines. Maria on the other hand, cranked out all of her lines by Thursday night and did not seem to have much of a problem at all. When she did forget a line or two, she improvised. 

We arrived home on Thursday evening at 10:30 PM. We had gotten home after 10 PM every night that week and were all exhausted. The kids were at once extremely charged to perform, and also extremely fatigued from nonstop practices as well as end of school activities. 

They had a full house on Friday night. A few of their friends came to watch them, which made their night. They both nailed all of their lines and were so impressive. One little girl approached Maria after the show and asked to get her picture with her. How precious. I worked backstage on Friday night, and was as nervous as can be. For two reasons, I’ve have never worked a show before and I wanted to see Maria and Mario do well. I had some good stagehands  who had gone through the process in the past so they barked out orders to me and I followed. The kids did not need me at all but every once in a while Mario would walk up to me and put his arms around me to watch the play for a few minutes from behind the curtain. 


Meg and dad came on Saturday night. They had another full house to watch them. Saturday nights are always the best night because you tend to get the rowdy crew who likes to clap and laugh hard. The kids got more into their characters on Saturday night, too. Maria was more animated in her speech, and Mario tried to make people laugh with all his gestures. I stayed behind stage again on Saturday night and was a little bit more comfortable with my tasks. Maria was starving that night; luckily I had brought peanut butter pretzels and a few other snacks. She gulped down a handful of pretzels and looked at me in distress. 

“i’m still so hungry, mom. I can’t think about my lines because I’m so hungry.”

I froze. Oh my gosh, What if she worked this hard and now gets out there and forgets for lines because she’s starving to death? I gave her two more handfuls of pretzels and told her that she could get through it and we would have a huge Dairy Queen blizzard afterwards. She walked away to get to her place for the next scene. About 10 minutes later, I walked over to her to see how she was holding up. She turned around and gave me a big hug and told me she was fine. As I walked away, she added “I love you, mom.” Melt. 

A few minutes later I was behind the stage trying to find a sword for one of the actors. Mario was nervous about going out as Skull. I told him he was going to do great. He wrapped his arms around me and held onto me for a minute while staring at the wall. I didn’t make a move but rather breathed in the moment. Here were both of my kids conquering their fears and going out on stage to entertain people. I was so incredibly proud – and in awe – of the both of them.

They rocked out Saturday night. They had an even better time performing due to the involvement of the audience. 

We hit the DQ afterwards, and Maria and her friend spent the night at our house while Mario and his friend spent the night at his friend’s house. It was probably not the best idea in hindsight since we had one last performance on Sunday afternoon but after all the practicing, the parents felt like it was well-deserved and well, why not?

Sunday’s performance came way too quick; the kids looked exhausted. My mom and Patty came up for this performance, which had a pretty packed house as well. The kids recited all their lines perfectly and added even more spunk to their performances for the final show. Mario had everyone laughing with his gestures and with his animated movements. Maria had everybody feeling for her character with the intensity of her acting. She also had Jon and I cracking up with her fairly routine yawning while standing on stage. There were quite a few scenes where she just had to stand and listen to other actors. We would catch her sporting a huge yawn followed by a tiny one. At one point, she had to say a line and she was in the middle of a yawn. She was somehow able to make it look natural. A true actor, she is!


We stuck around after the show to clean up for a couple of hours, and then ended the night with some Greater’s ice cream along with others in the cast. I am thankful that the experience allowed them to meet other kids outside of Grandview. They also got to act again with a few of the 20-something actors that were in the Christmas show. They look up to them, and Mario is fascinated with one of the male actors who is just as silly and physical as he is. 


I received quite a few compliments on how well the kids acted. One of Mario’s friends told his mom that Mario made him want to try out acting because Mario looked like he was having so much fun. At the last show, one of the actors who had a daughter in the play approached me about Maria. She told me how much she appreciated Maria taking her daughter under her wing during the show. Her daughter tends to be very shy and a little backwards around people, but Maria continued to engage with her through each play and she eventually opened up with Maria. She just could not say enough about what a huge heart Maria had and how impressed she was with her.

Recently, my colleague and I were talking about all things motherhood. At the end of the conversation, she said “you have two great kids.” It’s a remark I take for granted like hearing “your hair looks good today.”  I worry myself sick some days about whether I’m doing enough with these kids, teaching them enough, exposing them to enough. I’ve got to get better at giving myself some praise as well; patting myself on the back and confirming that I’m doing an alright job. The kids are happy; they are active and healthy; they open up their minds to different activities; they love with all their selves. Heck, they just finished a fricken play where they had to act on stage in front of strangers. I would have never done that at their ages. 

Now, if I could just get them to routinely clean their rooms….

Never slow down

I can’t help it. It comes naturally. My dad can’t sit still for more than a few minutes before thinking of the next place to go or task to complete. My mom gets antsy when she’s sitting around too long and takes the dog out for another walk. My aunt Julie does housework if she’s got a spare moment rather than relaxing with a book. So, I blame my constant motion on genetics.  And I have certainly passed it on to Ri and Mario. 

We spent our Saturday moving from one activity to the other – in constant motion and flow. We decided to hit Cincinnati on Saturday since we had not visited my mom in a while. I came home from my morning workout to Ri and Mario eating delicate plates of French toast. Ri whipped up her signature dish using hot dog buns and strawberries for a twist. I need to enter her in a kids’ chef competition.


After I showered, I found them outside – Ri on her skates and Mario thinking up an obstacle course. We spent 30 minutes running through several different courses made up by both kids. When one was doing the course, the other was playing the mean coach role pushing the other to squat down lower and jump higher. Ahhh, I’ve trained them well. 

After they had enough obstacle fun, they turned to me and said “let’s head to Cincy!” They grabbed blankets to use as sleds for grandma’s stairs and snacks to eat along the way (yep, like I said, I trained them well). We loaded up their play scripts and The Last Unicorn DVD and we were off. We didn’t even make it through the movie before we arrived at my mom’s house. She lives so close now. 

The kids jumped out of the truck and ran inside to say hi to grandma and grandpa and Lou. After the initial greeting, they ran straight up the steps for their stair sledding. Ri rocked it on her first try flying down each step. Mario, not so much. He could not get the swing of it and kept stopping at every step. Of course, he took it with stride and just kept trying. 

Not. 

He got more and more frustrated to the point of nearly giving up. But Ri remained patient and caring and continued to try new positions that may help him fly. She finally nailed a position and off he went!

She, of course, continued to engage in all sorts of crazy poses since she had the speed down pat.


My mom had sent a picture of herself in a steam tent she bought during the holidays. Maria has been obsessed with this steam tent since she saw the picture. She was so excited to try it out. I didn’t think Mario would have an interest at all. However, I think Maria’s excitement seeped through Mario’s skin and he begged to try it, too. My mom got them towels and we headed to the basement. Ri went in first. 

“Ahh, this is so relaxing. I could meditate in here.”


I knew she’d love it. We made her get out after a few minutes because the steam is taxing. She looked like a lobster as she climbed out. Mario didn’t waste a second and hopped in after her. He loved it. When he climbed out, he touched all over his face.

“All my pimples are gone and my skin is so smooth.”

It’s all about looks for him. The kids also tried mom’s facial steamer. Again, Mario did it over and over because he believed it was curing the “pimples” on his face (the boy has the clearest skin ever). 

After the kids were all steamed up, we headed to the Whipdee Doo. It reminded me of the Dairy Whip we used to go to in Reading with my grandma and aunts. There were two little windows to order and a bunch of picnic tables out back. They had every topping available. Ri and I thought we’d died and gone to heaven. Waffle cone sundaes with cookie dough and hot fudge and Reese pieces….


After devouring our ice cream, and the kids scaring Grandma by telling her they were going to rearrange the letters on the Whipdee Doo sign to spell “poop”, we took off to the bike trail. Ri had her skates and Mario had his bike. The trail was magical. The river flowed to our left and pastures of bright yellow flowers undulated in the distance. We stopped at a creek and the kids played on the rocks and on the bridge.


As if it couldn’t be any more idyllic, my mom called out that deer were crossing the bike path. We scurried up the creek bed and caught a glimpse of one of the deer crossing. The kids quietly skipped down the river bank to get a closer look. 
We let them roam around in the pasture, all the while wondering whether deer can be aggressive when confronted. Oh well, if they can, the kids will learn….
After the deer viewing, the kids wanted to head back for another round of steaming. Addicted. And after the steaming came more stair sledding. They kept trying to create funnier slo-mo videos with each slide. 

We ended the day with a mini Easter egg hunt in my mom’s backyard. In typical mom-like fashion, she wanted to make sure the kids got a $5 egg if they didn’t come down for Easter. 


One more slide down the steps and we were off to Columbus. The kids were able to read a few of their lines before darkness hit and we only had the flourescent, towering highway lights to lead our way home. 

A Blink of an Eye

The other day, I was standing outside of Stauf’s talking to an older woman while Mario petted and loved on her puggle (half pug/half beagle). The woman’s 20-something son walked out of Stauf’s and she looked at him and then at Mario.

“Enjoy your time with your son because pretty soon he will look like my son. The years go by with a blink of the eye.”

If I’ve gained any wisdom in these parenting years, it is too more fully take in and appreciate these days with my young kids. They are at the perfect ages: smart and inquisitive and able to engage in full conversations but still wanting hugs and to hold hands as you walk down the street. 

The last two weekends, I have gotten full-on M&M time, and it has put me in such a good mood for back-to-work Mondays. They are both hilarious in their own right with their completely unique senses of humor and takes on life. And they get along pretty daggone well most of the time. 

Last weekend, we took a walk with Rocco to  Edison Park. He flipped out with the kids on the swings. He bites at their ankles as if he doesn’t understand they are part of their bodies. We were relegated to the jungle gym and non-swing activities so he’d stay calm. Ri came up with an obstacle course thanks to her Coach Amy, who had created a similar course for Ri’s soccer team during practice. Ri and Mario had me time them each time they ran it – each one wanting to beat the other’s newest time. 


After the park, we drove to the garden shop to buy flowers for our front door planters and seeds for the kids to plant flowers of their choosing. Mario found a Venus fly trap plant and was totally enamored with it. Ri found a dainty cactus in a pink artistic pot. It was a perfect day for gardening. I let the kids off on their own to plant their seeds while I mowed for the first time in 2017. God only knows if the kids planted the seeds far enough in the ground or far enough a part. We will find out in May, I guess. I promised them a pedicure if they helped me garden so when they were done, they begged me to go. I asked them for 20 more minutes so they decided to have a water fight in the meantime. The first water fight of the year, too!


We had to hit the doggie day spa after the water fight because Rocco rubbed his entire drenched body through the dirt lining our flower beds. 


After cleaning up the two kids and the dog, we finally made it to the salon. On the way there, Mario told me I need a new car (he tells me this every time we get in the car). I explained to him that my car is perfectly fine. He then informed me he’s getting a Lamborghini when he is 16. Yea, ok. Maria tries to talk sense into him, too, but it’s no use. He swears he’s gonna have the best of everything. I told him he better invent something that gives him millions or get in the NBA. He looks at me like “duh, not a problem. I got it.” 

Of course, with his love of luxury, he thoroughly enjoyed his pedicure. Ri and I kept looking over at him cracking up because he was fully relaxed in his massage chair reading his magazine and enjoying the foot scrub. He went for gold nail polish as well (which totally reminded me of Dennis Rodman), but he quickly asked the woman to remove it after she put it on. 


After the pedicure, we went home to roller skate and roller blade down the hills. Ri was smooth as always while Mario jerked and fell on his blades. But he kept trying. He loved the hills once he could take off his blades and use his electric scooter. He’d fly down the hill and then watch for cars so Ri could skate down. She flew, too, but I had a bit fewer heart palpitations after the Pittsburgh hill craziness. 



We wrapped up the evening watching a couple of episodes of blackish, and called it a night. 

Yesterday, it was much colder than last Saturday. Therefore, no gardening was in order. However, we did get another trip to Edison in with Rocco.


 Then we decided on a trip to Worthington pool. I used to take the kids there when they were toddlers. The memories came flooding in as we entered the pool area and I saw the baby slide. Mario was always nervous to go down it. Now, he was Mr. Cool unable to remember ever being scared of that slide. He and Ri went on the big slide and we all braved the cyclone pool where they used to get sucked in and it would take all my might to pull them out. Now, they handled it with ease and didn’t need my assistance. Although they still wanted me by their side to experience it with them. I remember when they were younger and they’d pull on me every second in the pool. They wanted me to constantly play with them or watch them or catch them. Exhausting. I’d think about how great it would be when they’d play in their own. But yesterday, I let myself enjoy their constant need for my presence. I soaked up every breakdance Mario asked me to watch. I waved at Ri and clapped as she did her trick off the slide. As Ri states, I was being mind-ful rather than mind-full. 

After some Air Hockey and Sun Chips, we left for home. 


We all needed to shower before going to the Escape Room that Ri recommended for our evening adventure. I was hesitant about it and was hoping they may want to do it without me. But they wanted us all to enjoy. I had no idea what to expect – I was picturing the zombie-type escape room where you are scared too death constantly. Thank god it was nothing like that. It was a 1920’s set-up in a Speakeasy, and we had to find all the clues to get out before the police arrived. We had a blast. We were in the room with four others – early 20 somethings – who were great with Ri and Mario. 

We had 60 minutes to try and escape. We got three hints. It was intense. Every time we’d get exhausted, someone would pull through and find a clue to help us progress. We were so close to escaping – probably needed 3 more minutes. Mario was bummed we didn’t escape but felt better when the owner said a majority of folks don’t escape. 


We were pretty beat after that escapade so we decided on Subway and home to watch The Middle. Ri was nearly passed out by the end of the show and Mario and I weren’t far behind. 

And with a blink of an eye, I woke up to Rocco jumping on the bed and Ri yelling “time to get up and get to Stauf’s!” Another blink, and she will be driving to Stauf’s from her own apartment and Mario will be pulling up to the curb in his Lamborghini. 

I’m soaking it all in now before I blink again.

It’s fun to be crazy!

Maria wanted to go to Disney world for spring break this year. Mario wanted to go to Hollywood. Both of them did not get their wishes because Jon and I decided to stay low-key for spring break and do something big over the summer. As soon as Maria learned we were not going to Disney World, she immediately begged for us to go to Pittsburgh. Elena should be happy to know that she only ranks second to Disney World!

Mario decided to stay home with Jon for the four days we went to Pittsburgh. He knew that he would be able to do whatever he wanted with his dad, i.e., no mandatory reading, watching movies at anytime of day, going outside and shooting his bow in the backyard…. Maria persuaded him not to go to Pittsburgh by simply informing him that Aunt Sarah does not own a tv (Ri likes her alone time with her cousin). 

We left for Pittsburgh after Maria’s game on Saturday. She sprinted off the field and grabbed my arm.

“Come on mom, we have to get to Pittsburgh. I promised Aunt Sarah we would be there by 5:30 tonight.”

We hopped in the car and did not stop until we hit Pittsburgh traffic. Maria proceeded to tell me how the traffic was not as bad as it could he on a Saturday afternoon. It’s as though she’s been driving in Pittsburgh for years. Gotta love this girl.

As soon as we arrived, Maria jumped out of the car while I was still parking it. She ran up to the house and knocked on the door. Aunt Sarah answered with Elena by her side. Elena hugged Maria and immediately took her up to her room to play. I was quickly beckoned by the both of them to play, also. We started on a barnyard puzzle and within three minutes moved to the art table, and within four minutes moved to Elena’s bed to play airplane. She had to get all of her animals in the bed with us, including a live animal, Sarah’s dog, Little Dude. We acted like we were flying in the sky. She has such an imagination. At one point, she looked at Maria and me, and pointed her finger out the window yelling “there’s a woodpecker!” And this is how we spent many an hour over the next four days in Pittsburgh.

I forgot how draining it can be to watch a toddler all day long. It took me back to weekends with Maria at age 3 and Mario at age one. Jon and I would look at each other at 9 am, after being up for 3 hours, and wonder how it was not 5 pm. It was so conflicting – at once, you are overcome with amazement at how this toddler can find joy in an ant crawling along the sidewalk but you are also overcome with frustration at how slow this toddler is moving. You need coffee! 

However, since going through that conflict with Ri and Mario, and growing in my mindfulness practice, I am better able to appreciate the 20 minute venture with the ant. Or maybe it’s the realization that the 20 minute venture with the ant will be over in three days and I will be back to having my own time when I want it. Kinda like the grandma thing. You spoil the heck out of the grandchildren because you can send them back home at the end of the day. 

But when you’re in the thick of it, it’s draining – nothing else can be said about it. Pure drainage of energy. But would you have it any other way? It makes you strong, like you weathered a toddler war and survived intact. You got a notch on the parenting belt. And you recall those trying moments when the kid did something so sweet or hilarious or daring.  

Ri and I got plenty of those moments with Elena. Like putting together the barnyard puzzle. Maria found the head of acow that   matched the bottom of the cow piece Elena was holding. She was so excited to put the two pieces together. She exclaimed: “look Meemaw, we have a cow!” The thrill she felt in putting a puzzle together automatically translated into a thrill for Maria and me. You can’t help but smile and feel good when you are around her. Everything is amazing; everything is new; everything is worthy of attention.

Maria and I got into a routine every morning. We would hear Elena wake up, usually at 7 am, and ask Sarah “where is Aunt Mary? Where is Meemaw?” She would open the door to the guest room and climb into bed with us. No snuggling time though; instead, it was straight to jumping. Ri and I pulled ourselves up out of the covers and watched her jump and land on her butt. She’d yell “I landed on my butt!” 


Then she would direct us to jump with her. Meemaw would hem and haw but Elena would not back down (when we were driving to Pittsburgh, Maria was comparing Elena to recent dictators and confirming those dictators were weak compared to her cousin). After jumping, we’d move on to Elena’s room to play airplane and draw. Maria gave her about 15 minutes of play time in the am before Ri would push her to head to Starbucks with us. Maria needed her morning treat and I needed my coffee. Elena was happy to join us because she got treated to a tiny vanilla bean scone, which became her staple breakfast item (in addition to the spinach wrap Sarah made sure I fed her).

Elena loved Meemaw’s Strawberry Acai drink. She kept staring at her with those chestnut eyes and giving her that shy grin, and Meemaw couldn’t resist. You know you are loved by Meemaw if she shares her drink with you. 


After our Starbucks’ adventure, we’d head to Frick Park. The first day kicked our butts; Ri and I are not used to those hills! I am a former Cincinnati girl so I should be able to handle it, but I was pooped. We always had a good time at Frick. Maria loves the concrete slide. She found card board in one of the trash cans before we even got to the park. It was a tiny piece of board but she was able to still fly down the slide. She even got Elena to slide down with her.
But Elena enjoyed the ropes most of all. Sarah told me she had never really gone on the ropes before we took her. She did an amazing job maneuvering in and out of them, and was so proud of herself. She must’ve stayed on those ropes for 45 minutes one morning. She would counsel Meemaw and I as we climbed to the top of the rope tower. 

“Be careful to not knock your head”, she’d yell up to us. 



Elena especially loved tricking Meemaw on the slide. Ri would sit at the end and pronounce “I hope no one runs into me on this slide. I’m trying to sleep!” Elena would giggle up the steps and run across the bridge to slide into Ri. She laughed hysterically. Then she’d promise not to do it again and run up to do it again. Meemaw has much patience.


We also engaged in Operation Bunny Watch each time we went for a walk. We were determined to find a bunny. We never did. Of course, as soon as Maria and I returned to Columbus, we spotted a bunny. Next time we head to Pittsburgh, they better be out. 

After an hour or two at the park, we’d head home to have some lunch and to draw. Meemaw and I would get a little break to eat some soup and sandwich and Elena would get to see her mama. But, after about an hour, we’d hit the road again. We went to the Science Museum on Sunday afternoon and spent about four hours there.  I was thrilled to see Elena so happy with us. In the past, she has missed her mama but not this time. Finally! She loved looking around and watching Meemaw climb the space station. 


We went over to the Sports Center, and almost had her on one of the bars that you hold onto and get lifted up. She watched other kids and waited in line but when it was her turn, she backed out. Ri took her turn. Then Ri led us to a little bullet. You sit in the bullet and you get taken through the entire body. It shakes when you go through the stomach and gets really dark when you get into the intestines. However we don’t know anything more than that because Elena started screaming at the top of her lungs pretty much as soon as the ride began. I was ready to strangle Maria since my aunt intuition told me that Elena would probably not like the ride. I started banging on the door with the hopes that the attendant would open up the bullet. After banging for what seemed like minutes, he finally opened it up. The family of three sitting behind us were still holding their ears when we exited. Lovely.

Elena’s favorite part of our Science Museum trip was the submarine. She loved moving through the “holes.” These were the tiny doors that we had to go through during our trip down the submarine. She thought it was so fun to get picked up and put through the door to Meemaw, and then to run through the submarine to the next door. She could have cared less about the dining or sleeping areas or even all the gadgets. She just wanted holes!

But even more than the sub’s holes, she loved the M&M’s we bought her at the end of our tour.  I swear I felt like my 80-year old grandma throughout the trip because Elena knew that her aunt Mary would always get her chocolate – just like my grandma would always give me chocolate when I came to her house. 

Sarah and Jorge took us to a crazy good hamburger joint Sunday night. The joint also had amazing milkshakes. Maria could not wait to order hers after our meal, and Sarah accidentally ordered one for Elena as well. That girl was in seventh heaven (as was Maria!). 


On Monday, we hit our Starbucks and the park. We laughed hysterically at Starbucks because we got subjected to the “Elena poop time.” This is where Elena goes to a corner of the room and squats and pushes out a poop in her diaper. If that’s not good enough, while she is squatting, she yells out “Get away! I’m pooping!” Men and women would walk by her and squat down to say hello. She would turn her head and demand that they go away because “I’m pooping!” How precious. 

After we changed a massively poop-filled diaper, we left for the park. Elena made Maria so happy by going down the slide with her.


Elena also learned to jump off the swing since Meemaw did it. Her face lit up when she realized she accomplished it. We had to book it home that morning because Elena had a gymnastics session at 11 am. Whoa, that took me back to watching Maria and Mario at Wendy’s Gymnastics. Those little feet and little fingers grabbing the bars and tumbling over. So cute! I was so mad that I forgot my camera because I would’ve taken 100 pictures. 

We came home to broccoli soup and pork sandwiches. After our hour of rest, we decided to go to the children’s museum. Maria loves this museum with all of her heart, especially the art room. We got in another full afternoon at the museum with our muncho. Last time we went to the museum, Elana was scared to death to climb in the climbing area. But this time, she was a pro with Maria. She likes her space, however, so when a kid came up to try to crawl with her, she started to cry. Maria handled it beautifully – being her bodyguard – and telling the kid to shoo away. 


Elena was hilarious in the art room. Maria wanted to stay in the silk screen station to make a collage for Elena’s room so she was parked there for 45 minutes. Elena sat there for the entire time making newspaper bracelets for me. She would tape a piece of newspaper around my wrist, draw on it, and then cut it off. This process was repeated several times over but with the same glee as the first time.

Maria moved over to the painting station next. I thought this would be a lot of fun for Elenda. It was at first, but then she dripped a dot of paint on her shoes. She looked down at them and then back up at me, and began to cry. By this time, Maria and I were experts at how to calm her down. I whipped her shoe off and told her that I would wash the paint off. She calmed down and began painting again. Meemaw and she created masterpieces together. 


Next, we went up to the water play area. Maria was so excited to get in her bathing suit with Elena. At first, Elena was hesitant to go into the sprinklers with Maria but then she warmed up to it and began to allow Maria to run through the sprinklers holding her. Maria allowed Elena to dump a bucket of water on her head. The more water she can pour on herself, the better. Elena hung in with the water-loving Ri for a while but then went from loving the water play to “let’s go home!” We had a trying time getting dry because we didn’t bring towels. We may have killed a couple of trees in the process of drying off. 


We cranked out some more art to warm us up after the water play. Elena cut out circles, triangles and squares for her silk screen. The girl is so smart for her age, and picks up on everything. She definitely takes after her aunt Mary….


We headed home to get in some roller skating and bike riding down the hill n at Sarah’s house. Maria loved the hill. She about gave me a coronary arrest her first time on it because she let go of my arm and went flying down the hill by herself. She was either hitting the guard rail and flipping down a hill of brush to the highway or she was veering right to even out on a flat surface. I ran after her as hard as I could when she let go – about ripped both hamstrings – but she was way too fast. I just stood and prayed to whoever or whatever would listen. She veered right and I fell to the ground and nearly cried. She rolled back up towards me in pure exhilaration. 

“That was great!”

Yea, I’m gonna be popping anti-anxiety pills during her teen years.  Elena joined up with us riding her red bicycle. The two of them looked hysterical together. 

We sat up in the evening with Sarah and Jorge talking politics, school, living arrangements (Ri wants them to move to Columbus so badly), publishing, Oaxaca. I enjoyed downloading from the day and spending a couple of hours just talking about random things before bed. Back at home, I always feel pressure to get some work done, fold the laundry, dishes washed, and by the time all of that is done there’s no time to talk. 

We hit Starbucks and Frick Park again on Tuesday morning. Elena gave those irrisistable eyes to Ri again and got many sips of her refresher drink. We walked our normal path to the park and spotted our two balloons flying from a gate post. There was a yellow one and a blue one. However, the yellow one had burst. Elena kept questioning why the yellow one was little,  and not like the blue one. I explained that it burst, which she found hysterical. She had to examine it before we moved on to the park. Another moment where us adults look at a burst balloon as nothing more than a piece of garbage hanging off a fence post but this little munch sees it as a fascinating question to be solved. 

We spent nearly two hours at the park sliding and playing on the ropes. Ri and I are convinced she’s going to climb the Alps.

We had our afternoon planned out with an exciting trip to the Aviary and then to the children’s museum if we had time. We stole Sarah’s license so that we could get in free to the museum. Ri took my hair out of my ponytail and tried to give me bangs and glasses so that I could look like Sarah. Elena freaked. I quickly put my hair back up in a pony and she calmed down. It was no hope anyway – Sarah looks 15 in her picture and I’m lucky to look 40! 

We parked near the Aviary and hopped our way over to it (Elena’s new favorite move is to hold our hands and hop between us). We walked up to the doors of the Aviary and saw a sign that announced the Aviary was closed for the day. Are you kidding? Of all days….Well, if Peepaw taught us anything, it’s to make lemonade out of lemons. We trekked over to the museum and got in without a glitch. I was lamenting on the way over about missing out on the Aviary and Ri reminded me that it was a “first world problem” and “who cares, we get a second day at the museum!”

It was as if we’d never gone to the museum. They both played at all the same displays and had a blast. More newspaper bracelets, more ball throwing, more clay houses, more meditating in the egg chair. 


And what did we do with the extra time by not hitting the Aviary? We walked to Mike’s Ice Cream and got giant scoops of ice cream for $2! The owner informed us he was retiring soon so we were lucky to get the last bit of ice cream. It was delicious, especially eating it under the big oak tree.


We made one last stop before heading home on Tuesday since we knew we were leaving the next day. We had to go out with a blast! We stopped at Schendley Park and took a mini hike to the creek. Elena asked me to find rocks for her and then she’d chuck them into the stream. Hilarious. She let Meemaw hug all over her, which made Meemaw’s day. 


We arrived home a bit exhausted but proud of our day full of adventures! And god love Elena – we dragged her in the car 20 minutes away for a fancy dinner. She hit the wall as soon as we ordered and Sarah took her out to nurse her. She immediately crashed but woke up when Sarah carried her back in the restaurant. We were going to get our food to go but Jorge convinced us to wait and see how she did. And don’t you know the girl rebounded and hung in there with us throughout our entire dinner? As we were leaving, she looked at Sarah and pleaded “can we go home and play all night?” She has the partying gene in her, for sure.

We came home and jumped off the back of the couch for a bit, played puzzle, and took an airplane ride before Sarah called it a night on behalf of Elena. 


Sarah, Jorge, Ri and I played Bananagrams after Elena fell asleep. Sarah whooped on us but I got her the last game! Jorge let Ri join her team and they were cracking us up with their word choices and dialogue back and forth. 

We stayed up too late and 6:50 am came real quick…. Jorge laughed at us later in the day and said he knew Ri and I broke that morning because we could barely keep up with Elena when she pulled us out of bed. The other mornings we were energized and raring to go! I actually think it was just sadness, knowing that we had to leave. After all, as Elena stated at one point during our stay “it’s fun to be crazy!” We had crazy fun and with this girl for three straight days, and it was pure magic. 

Mario time

Last weekend, Maria and Alana went to Grandma Patty’s house, which left Jon and I alone with our boy. We had such a fabulous weekend hanging out with him. It’s nice to  only have one of your children for a day or two because it allows you to give your full concentration to that child and not be pulled in different directions. When the both of them are together you don’t get that intimate conversation that you do with just one. Not as though Mario was too intimate with Jon and I about his every day activities but we were able to get some information out of him. For example, I learned that he really likes a girl in his class because she’s “super cool and funny and always nice to him.” I also learned that he always talks in front of classes during his leadership session because his co-leader is too nervous to do so. That’s my boy.

On Saturday morning, I went on my run. I promised Mario I’d be back within two hours so he and I could take Rocco to the woods. He left with Jon and they did their car ride together where they get Starbucks and breakfast. Mario was ready to go when I got home. We bundled up and got Rocco ready. We ran to the woods, and Mario decided to look for Pokémon. He spotted one but it was through the trees across the tracks and over a busy road. We decided to go for it. I kept Rocco on the leash and we traveled through the trees, across the tracks, through more trees, and over to the main strip. It was exhilarating! Mario thought it was super cool to go the Illegal” way (yes, a bit disturbing). By the time we reached the strip, the Pokémon disappeared. We both just laughed about it because the thrill was in in the journey. As we headed back to the woods, we saw a train – yet another cool moment for Mario. Rack two up for mom.

When we got home, Jon was ready to take Mario to the archery/fishing store on the south side of Columbus. I was ready to clean the house and relax a bit. But Mario wanted all of us to go to the store together. After a bit of cajoling, I agreed to head down with the boys. I am so glad I did. What an experience to watch Mario in his element. He was so excited to show me how he shot his bow. The guys at the shop were mighty impressed with his archery skills. We went back-and-forth three times to adjust the tension level on his bow – I think he just wanted to adjust it each time so that it would give him another time to practice his shot in the store. I would typically be antsy but I loved to see him having such a great time. I would’ve stayed in the store all day with him just to see the joy on that face of his as he pointed out different things. He absolutely had a blast.


When we got home, we made sandwiches and hung out until I decided to get a 15 minute neck massage at Yi’s . Mario agreed I could leave for that time. But he made me promise when I got home we’d see the new Kong movie. 

Holy crap movie prices have skyrocketed! Granted, the boys only wanted to see Kong in IMAX 3-D, so the ticket prices were a bit higher because of that. It cost nearly $50 for the three of us to go see a movie and then another $25 just for a large popcorn and drinks. Insanity! I’m just going to ask for a movie gift cards for Christmas next year. But being together and watching that movie was worth it. Mario was so excited to have us by his side. At every scary scene, he would tell me that I could hold his hand and squeeze it if I got scared. Precious. And after the movie, we went home and chilled out together: watching a few YouTube videos, drawing a little, and watching some TV before bed. All things that make Mario very happy.


Leave it to the boys in my life to get me to relax a bit and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – ya know, like shooting a bow, looking at fishing gear, watching a Kong movie, and eating buttery popcorn. Loved this day with all my heart.

Shopping and eating…

Maria begged me to take her and her girlfriend to the mall on Friday night. Mario stayed with Patty this weekend – loving his time with his grandma before she moves from Marion. 

It was a cold night on Friday so I knew that we would not be able to play outside. This was pretty much the only reason I agreed to the mall – that, and it allowed for me to at least walk around and get some exercise while they looked at clothes. It also brings back fond memories of my girlfriend Beth and I going to Kenwood Mall on the weekends. We would spend hours up there just walking around, eating lunch, looking to see if any other friends or boys were around. We inevitably would find other friends hanging out because that is what we did in the 1980s. Nowadays, kids actually go there just to shop. How strange is that?

 I couldn’t believe how long Maria and her friend could remain in one store. I waited out on the couches for them, catching up on emails, but after 25 minutes I thought maybe they had been held hostage in there. I went to check on them and, sure enough, they were trying on there seventh shirt in the dressing room – just as happy as can be. 


Ri walked out with this snazzy top and I told her there was no way her father would allow her to wear that outside the house. She loved it though, and of course, I caved in and got it for her – but required her to agree that she would only wear it this summer, not beforeehand. I’m a real stickler aren’t I?!

They finally decided to move to a different store. They chose Bare Minerals. I watched a video of how to put on make up, and realized how little I know about proper application of that stuff. I was tempted to buy everything that was on the video because the older lady starring in it transformed from wrinkles and blemishes to a supermodel. But the  practical part of me, along with many generations of women who have never been consumed by that stuff, overpowered any remaining desire I had. I grabbed the girls and told them we needed to move on to another store. But this was not before they both applied some funky pink lipstick.

We moved on to Lush. I actually liked the store – all organic bath products. The bath bombs smelled delicious. I caved in and bought each girl one of them. These are the times that I wish we had a huge bathtub – I could get into using one of those bath bombs every night to relax me.

We hit a few more clothing stores, including the newly designed Abercrombie and Fitch store, which the girls geeked over. Finally, 2 1/2 hours later, they were starving and ready to go. Everyone was craving Mexican food so we decided to head to El Vaquero. Not a smart move when you are starving and they feed you nonstop chips and salsa. 


We were ill or by the time our food came but how can you reject fish tacos and enchiladas? And to top it off and make us truly stuffed, we had to get the fried ice cream for dessert!  I was positive we would all have stomachaches at 2 am.


Surprisingly, we all slept like logs. In fact, we woke up the next morning and decided to top off our Mexican grub from the previous evening with some timbits from Tim Hortons. If you are gonna splurge, splurge big!

Mario’s b-ball tourney

Mario can be intense. I think he got both my competitive nature and Jon’s desire to win, which creates a firestorm of emotion when he does not do as well he likes. 

He had tournaments all weekend for basketball. When we worked at the tournament, he was outside shooting hoops. At times, he was swishing them. At other times, he couldn’t shoot a basket to save his life. Unfortunately, the latter occurred right before we were leaving for his next tournament game. We got in the car upset as could be – slamming the car door as he plopped in his seat. Jon and I were frustrated at his attitude, and then proceeded to get irritated with one another about something stupid. We all sat in the car on the way to the tournament in cold stone silence. About 15 minutes into the trip, Mario whispered “A my name is Alan, my wife’s name is Addie…” 

Whenever it’s quiet in the car or I want the kids to stop looking at their tablets, I tell them we are going to play the alphabet game. They usually roll their eyes but go along with me. I wanted to keep the frown on my face when Mario spoke up with “A my name is” but I couldn’t. I immediately smiled, and was touched that he would break free from his anger and engage with us. It was quite impressive that the nine-year old could speak up but the 45 year-olds could not….

We arrived at the tournament in good spirits. He had a possibility of three games – all one and out. We thought it was a long shot that his team would advance since they didn’t have the best record but low and behold, they won the first game! Ri recorded it for the coach while rooting on her brother. Mario had to attend her tournament games so Maria was forced to attend his.


The boys got icees after their game. They waited around for another hour before their next game, wrestling around and being insane nine-year-old boys. We all questioned again whether we’d get through the second game or not. But these boys believed in themselves, and sure enough they won. Mario played another great game getting a couple of shots and playing magnificent defense. I think my talk earlier in the morning helped. I talked with him about trying to get his head out of the game. This seems like an oxymoron but I’ve been reading a book called “The inner game of tennis.” Jackson recommended it to me and said that it helped him a lot with his music. I immediately thought of Mario when I began to read it. He gets very upset with himself when he makes a poor shot or let’s an opponent get a shot on him and then he continues to do poorly because he is so upset. The book tries to help you understand that you need to simply play the game – get your head out of the judgment of whether you are playing good or bad – and just play. It also talks about letting go of the words “good” and “bad” and just letting the experience be what it is while moving onto the next one.  

We had a two hour wait between the second game and the championship game. Of course, they played on a day that it was 60° outside and sunny. I get a mom-of-the-year award for sticking around in that dark, dank gymnasium to watch my son play instead of being outside….

And they almost pulled out the championship game. They lost by four measly points. But they were really good sports about it, even cheering for the other team when they won their awards. It helped that they also got recognized for being a runner-up in the championship game; they all got medals. I was so proud of Mario for trying so hard in each game. 


And after sitting in a gymnasium all day long, we got to sit around a restaurant for the next two hours trying to calm down nine insane boys as they got balloon animals and grilled cheeses. Ahhh, what we endure as parents.