Back to school

How the heck do Jon and I have a 7th grader and a 4th grader? Wasn’t Ri just laying on Jon’s forearm like a baby sloth and Mario bopping on my chest in the Snugli? How many times during those first years of life did Jon and I stare at each other in our sleep-deprived states and think “when will they grow up and be able to do things on their own?!”  

I remember heading back to work, tired as all get out from being up all night. A colleague walked into my office and laughed. She had kids that were grown and in college. 

“Up all night?” She asked already knowing the answer. 

I looked across the room at her and gave her a sneer. “When does all of the joy of having a kid come?” 

I was only half kidding. Of course, there were many amazing and joyful times when the kids were very young but it was such hard work. Both kids loved to be held every second and they were not good sleepers at all. It’s amazing how parents can get by on two hours of full sleep a night. We did it for over a year with each kid.

My colleague shook her head and smiled. “Before you know it, they will be grown up and you will miss these days.” 

I smiled thinking of my two babes who had hugged me so tightly when I dropped them off at day care that morning. I missed them as we spoke but couldn’t quite grasp how I would miss these days and nights of non-stop baby work. 

And here I am years later remembering that conversation with my colleague and understanding every word she said. I look at Maria and Mario and it’s hard to remember those days when they were just little nuggets. I miss being able to pick them up whenever I wanted to and love all over them. I miss putting them on my back and carrying them around the neighborhood to point out the different trees and to find as many squirrels as we could find in one block. I miss having them on my lap and reading picture books. I completely forget how tired I was all the time.

The morning of the first day of school, the kids woke up rarin’ to go. I made chocolate chip pancakes and eggs to celebrate the beginning of a new year where both kids go to the same school! Mario has been psyched all summer to be able to walk to school. They had their new bookbags all together, lunches packed, and hair brushed. They indulged my first day of school pictures on the porch and then headed off together to school. They wanted to walk together the first day, which warmed my heart. 


They came home after their first day of school and reported all went well. The next day, they got up late, threw on some random clothes and shuffled out the door after quickly downing a bowl of cereal. They were already out of the back to school honeymoon. When I asked for a hug goodbye, they both walked over to me and hugged me. They even told me “I love you” without any prompting. Yes, indeed, they are still my nuggets, just a little taller. 

Wait until tonight when I make them read with me before bed:)

Anniversary no. 15

At this time on August 17, 2002, I was drinking lots of wine and groovin’ on the dance floor in my gym shoes and wedding dress. 

Fifteen years later, I am making pb&j sandwiches for the kids’ school lunch and running to the pet store for another bag of crickets to feed the gecko.  

I did score a quick kiss from my hubby, however, before he ran out the door to help with Mario’s football practice. 

And I cooked him up some pasta with fresh tomatoes and olive oil at 8:30 pm after we’d picked up the kids from practice and taken out the trash and put away the dishes from the past day. We sat together for 20 minutes and caught up on our days before heading up to give the kids’ goodnight hugs. 

Yea, that’s how we roll anymore. But damn if we could imagine life any other way but than the messy, hectic, hilarious way it is right now. We are partners through it all. There have been numerous times when we were pissed at one another to the point we thought “why did I choose this jacka– to be with forever?!” but we knew – even in that frustration – that there is no one else we’d rather be with in this life.  The laughter and connection and love far outweighs any momentary pissiness. 

So, here’s to 15 more years, babe, and fifteen more after that and fifteen more…. I am grateful our lives crossed and we decided to walk through this lifetime together.

Doctor

I love when I come home from work and the kids don’t have anything going on for the evening. We can sit down together and eat dinner, review our days’ activities, and go out for a bike ride or a rollerskating adventure before we settle down for the night. It’s like a bright red bow on a shiny silver box. 

It never fails that the kids do something to crack us up. Thank God Jon and I have them in our lives to keep us grounded when we get stressed with work or bills or other nonsense. Last night, Maria decided to roller blade and Mario decided to bike. Mario was taking forever while Maria, Jon and I waited out front for him. We kept yelling back “Mario, what are you doing?” He’d answer “just a second, be right there” and we’d wait another minute before we yelled back to him again.

Finally he biked down the driveway with a backpack on his back. He pulled up to Maria and I, and stopped his bike.

“I made sure I had all of the things we may need during our trip.”

He began to pull out numerous items: bubble gum, washcloth, band aids, water bottle, and a knee guard. He explained his concern for Maria being on roller blades since she usually only used roller skates. He was ready to help if she fell. He really does have a heart. Maria gave him a hard Maria hug and was taken aback with his kindness in thinking about her safety. 


We started off on our two block adventure. Mario stopped every 100 feet to ask if we needed water. Maria answered affirmatively each time because she thought it was so precious. 

We were rounding the second block and heading towards home when Maria faked a fall in order to have Mario play doctor. Mario had no clue she had faked the fall so when Maria yelled out “Doctor Doctor” he came speeding on his bike from around the corner. 

“What happened Ri” he asked as he pulled out the washcloth. She described how she twisted her ankle on the rollerblade and fell onto the pavement. Mario examined her ankle and her knee. Maria confirmed that it was her knee that hurt most of all. Mario poured water on it to start off with, and then he sopped up the water with his washcloth. He poked around the kneecap and wiggled it to see if that hurt. Maria screamed in pain and then winked up st me to show me she wasn’t really hurt. Mario got out the knee brace and strapped it on to her knee. He told us that we would have to wait a few minutes to see if her pain calmed down before we moved. Maria kept looking up at me slyly and smiling. She loves this kind of play with her brother, and he rarely engages in it with her so she had to absorb every minute. After some more consoling and a full check of the limbs, I told Maria that I thought she could make it home. Mario asked her if she was sure she was ok, and after Maria saw my “you better get up” face, she knew she better confirm that she was fine.


Of course, I knew she would take the opportunity to fall at least one more time before we got home because she so loved this time with Mario. And so two driveways before our house, she fell onto the curb and acted like she hit her head. Mario again came to her rescue throwing down his helmet and his bike and tending to her ails.  After her treatment, she begged Mario to give her a hug to make her feel better. He was in rare form because he readily agreed. These are the nights I dream of.

Summer angst 

Every summer I tell myself that I am going to hire a sitter who will come up with a huge game plan for the kids during the summer. I interview college kids and tell them my expectations. They all respond with positive affirmations like “that sounds wonderful “or “I love that idea “or “I have done that in the past and it works well”. But then the summer begins and the new sitter comes over and nothing falls into place in the way I expected it to weeks before. 

This year, both kids fell in love with the same sitter. In the past, they have had to bargain together because one of them liked one sitter and the other liked another sitter. They would go back-and-forth on the benefits and detriments of both of their choices and eventually land on one for the summer (typically Maria’s choose with some bribery on her part).. So this year, I was excited that they both selected the same girl. She seemed very nice and grounded during our telephone interview, and she seemed upbeat and chill  when she came over to the house. She studied Chinese and finance in college, and was getting ready for a full-time job starting in September. Her references stated that she was one of the nicest people they had met. The only issue they had with her is that she was “too nice.” Their kids loved her because she would let them do anything they wanted. So there lies my dilemma. This would probably be the last year that we have a full-time summer sitter. Jon and I had been seriously contemplating letting the kids be on their own next summer and just putting them in numerous camps, etc. So as much as I dreamed of a sitter who would have detailed plans for the week and get them to do 2 hours of homework a day, I also dreamed of a sitter that would have fun with the kids and who both kids enjoyed. Hence, why I decided to go with the girl both kids liked. 

And so far, it has gone well with our current sitter this summer, as far as the kids and her  getting along. However, I have gone a bit nuts through this summer with the lack of itinerary planned for the kids. The sitter quite enjoys watching TV with the kids and caves as soon as they start begging for anything. The upside is that if I tell her certain things must be done, then she will get them done. But that means that I have to spend time in the evening or in the morning writing down all of the things I want done. This would not seem to be a huge task but when I’m dealing with work, cleaning the house, tending to the kids and to the hubby, walking the dog, working out, that one more thing may just put me over the edge. 

I had dreams of the kids waking up in the morning and taking a walk with the dog, coming home and doing some workbook pages, engaging in a cool project together, hitting the pool, coming back to a siesta and reading their books for an hour, putting a book report together of what they read, starting a nonprofit to help needy children in the world, learning Spanish fluently…. ok, a bit much but a mom can dream.

A few weeks ago, I about lost my mind over   what the kids were doing (actually not doing) through the day. I called the house and heard the TV in the background. I asked my sitter how long they had been watching it. She responded that they had only watched a few shows. Only watched a few shows, I thought?! Are you kidding me? It is 80° outside and sunny and they are in there watching tv shows for hours on end? I came home that night, ignored the dishes and clutter, and wrote down a list of things the kids needed to do the next morning – dust, water the flowers, do workbook pages, read…. The next day those things were done, and I was happy. The following day I had no time to write anything down but I was still happy from the previous day’s accomplishments. Who knows what the kids did throughout the day. I began to fret about it but then I thought about my summers. I don’t recall my parents worrying about the amount of reading I was doing or buying me any workbooks during the summer. Rather, I recall watching Famoly Feud and Three’s Company and Family Ties.  I recall jumping on my bike and trying to find a friend to play with in the morning. I recall walking down to the carry out to get snacks with my girlfriend. I recall arranging and rearranging my stuffed animals in my bedroom. One thing I don’t recall – learning multiplication or reading 300 page novel. And now look at me. I’m not a Nobel laureate but I turned out ok. My kids will do the same. 

And since I’ve let go of my angst and worry about summer activities for the kids, I am able to appreciate all they’ve done.

1. Created their own lunches and made videos of the preparation.


2. Thought about activities they could do to earn money (babysitting, dog-walking and dog-sitting).

3. Started a backpack drive to get backpacks for kids in need. 

4. Went to play practice Tuesday through Thursday each week.



5. Dusted the house.

6. Watered the flowers. 

7. Completed workbook pages.

8. Read their books.

9. Started reading a book with me in the evenings (The Giver).

10. Babysat their cousin.



11. Cleaned their rooms.

12. Played with friends.



13. Swam and dove at the pool.


14. Visited the pet shelter and gave kittens love.


15. Coached a K-6 soccer camp with high school girls (Maria).

16. Got tutored (Maria).

17. Played in a basketball league (Mario).

18. Completed swim team (Maria).



19. Played in GBSA baseball and fast-pitch softball.


20. Went to basketball and football camp (Mario).

21. Went to Akita camp.


22. Visited their grandmas.


23. Watched a deer play with Rocco.


24. Learned how to fake fight each other. 


25. Played Clue and Monopoly.

26. Hit a neighbor’s pool party and Ri baked a killer 4th of July cake.


27. Watched fireworks in the car.


28. Played with cousins.


29. Biked to Tim Horton’s for donuts.


30. Drank lots of Starbucks.


31. Went to a church festival.


32. Tried out modeling (Ri).


33. Fell in love with Jake Paul (Mario).

34. Enjoyed Jeni’s.


35. Visited The Wilds and became mesmerized with an ostrich. 

36. Visited my work and played at the Barnes & Noble. 


37. Visited the Boathouse in Marietta on the River and ate ribs and pulled pork.

38. Ate at Skyline (one too many times)!


39. Rocked some heels at Robert’s lakeside wedding.


40. Learmed how to play Balckjack (his counselors taught him at camp)!


41. Hit The Beach water park and braved the slides and zip line with Ri.


42. Partied together at Lia’s wedding.

43. Ate s’mores and held baby chicks at the farm.


44. Made family meals together and ate on the patio.


45. Held family meetings to discuss the week ahead.

Not bad, and we still have a month to go. The kids are hoping we can add Kings Island to our list; I’m hoping we can add two more completed books:).

Mario heads off to camp

Mario went on his first three-night camp adventure two weeks ago. He heard Maria talking excitedly about the camp last year and wanted to go this year. It was the first year that he was eligible since you have to be going into fourth grade. I signed him up late; he was waitlisted at about number 50 when I checked on it in late May. The topic came up at the dinner table one night and I let him know that I was not sure he would be able to get into the camp. This fact led to many tears and anger and sadness, which led me to many phone calls and pleading and begging. I found out two other mothers were in my boat and had switched their sons to a different time – over the July 4 holiday. There were not a lot of kids signed up so I was able to get Mario in. I told him that I had worked some magic, and he was so excited.

As the time I got near, Mario seemed to have a bit of trepidation about the trip. He was not so much concerned about spending the night at the camp, but about his two buddies and how he would fit in. His two buddies are very close, and he was worried that they would partner up the entire time and he would be left with no one. I tried to explain to him that the reason for camp is to make new friends and that he would make new friends in his cabin. His response “I can’t make new friends because I will never see them again after we leave camp.” I told him that we could easily drive around Columbus to have a play date with a new friend. He looked at me like I was crazy. We let it be at that. I didn’t really mention anything more about the trip and he didn’t either prior to it arriving on a Friday morning. 

The night before he was to leave, he and I packed up his things. Actually, I should say I packed up his things while he shot baskets in his room. Yeah, another moment when I should have made him help me out but I was enjoying him in his element making slam dunks and trying to impress me. He found a flashlight, which was really the only item he was concerned about being packed.  I kept hugging him through the evening and teasing him that I did not want him to leave me.

I came home from work early on Friday and took Mario to camp. As we drove over together, he kept asking me if I wanted him to stay. I think it was his way of being nervous but putting it on me. I told him that he would be just fine at camp as long as he let himself have a good time and not worry about who was hanging with who. The drop off seemed easier with Maria – maybe because more of her girlfriends were going – but I think also because Maria just tends to have a different attitude with these things. She’s more able to go and make new friends or just find fun herself. Mario needs to know his buddies are there and worries more about being cool and wanting to impress. 

On a side note, Mario also gets freaked out when it is dark outside (because we have let him watch way too many horror films). He always needs me to come upstairs with him in the evening so I was a bit concerned that he may freak out in the cabin once night hit, and everyone would make fun of him.

When we arrived at our destination he grabbed his sleeping bag and slung his mesh bag over his shoulders. Two teenage boys greeted us under a tent. One of the kids’ names was Mario. Mario told him his name and the high school Mario didn’t react. I thought “come on, at least give him a high-five or something to make him feel more at ease.” My mama antennae were shooting up. We moved inside to the nurse’s line next and one of the high school boys saw Mario’s name tag. He put out his fist to Mario and said “I’m one of your counselors, Matt.” Mario fist bumped him and I felt better. 

We found Mario’s two buddies and they hung out looking all cool while us moms talked about how we thought they’d do at camp. Mario seemed to be relaxed and they were all talking together so I felt good. 


Then we started to see people walk out the front door. We grabbed the boys and told them we thought it was time for the departure. They moved outside with us still looking pretty cool. We made them take an obligatory photo for us. 


Then we moved them towards the buses. They still remained calm and collected, even giving me a wave when I told them to look back at me. 


They finally got on their bus; I saw Mario’s two friends sit together. My heart dropped. I saw Mario slide into the seat across from them. Dammit.

Then, I saw Mario jump up and lean over the two boys out their window. He yelled “bye mom” and waved to me. Thank goodness. He sat back down and chatted with his buddies across the aisle. The two other moms left but I waited until the bus took off. I moved to the side of the bus where Mario sat. I waited for him to look out the window at me but he was busy talking with his friends. So when I saw some buses ahead starting to move, I yelled “bye Mario, I love you.” He looked out the window at me and for the first time I saw a bit of trepidation in his eyes. He yelled back “bye mom, I love you too!” He usually would be embarrassed to say such a thing but I think the nervousness got to him and he wanted to let me know that he loved me before I left. And then he was off.


I only checked the camp website every 45 seconds to see if a picture was posted of him. Thank goodness there was the first night – he was smiling and running to the lake. Ahhhh.

There were more in the following days – not as many as I would have liked – but enough to make me feel at ease that he was alive and having a good time. 


Jon picked Mario up from camp three days later and brought him and Ri to my work for lunch. We peppered him with questions about his time at camp and we got one or two word responses. He talked about the soap slide and the lake and the hike. He thought the food was ok. He liked most boys in his cabin. It wasn’t until me and Jon were playing cards this weekend that we truly had some insight into what he did at camp.

“What are you guys playing?”

We told him we were playing Gin Rummy.

“How about we all play some blackjack?” 

Jon and I looked at him with mouths agape. 

“My counselors taught me how to play at camp. We would play for food each night. We can play for money if you want.”

And so there you go – no need for me to worry about him having a good time at camp.

Softball/baseball Wrap Up!

We officially hit the end of baseball and softball season last night. Four weeks straight of pretty much a game every evening, if not two. Four weeks straight of hot dogs, chips, famous Amos cookies, and orange pop. Four weeks straight of up and down moods based on how much sleep the night before, how much activity the day of, how much irritation at the thought of homework the following day.

Maria ended with a bang. Who would’ve thought that this ragtag group of girls would make it to the championship game? I was busy just getting them to talk to one another and cheer for each other during the game. But something clicked midway through the season and I heard girls that I had never heard before rooting for their teammates. I had girls that had never caught a ball catching flies in the outfield. It was amazing. Maria rocked out pitching for us this year – I basically had her and a fifth grader to get us through the season. She stepped up. She also got her bat around well this year. And last but not least, she was the voice of the team, as always. I think that’s why the shy, quiet girls on the team finally began to speak – they were worried of the wrath of Maria! Ri possesses the ability to get people to smile and to engage and maybe get out of their comfort zone for a while. That is because she can so easily act silly and goofy and wild without a care about what anyone thinks. 

She riled up the girls for the semi championship game, which led to a decisive win over the opposing team. The girls were so excited. 


However, me and my assistant coach were a bit less excited just because we were playing a team that can bring a bit of drama to the game. I learned a great deal about my personality over the two day period between winning the semi-championship and playing in the championship. I could not believe how sick to my stomach I was in that 48 hour period – second-guessing myself, worrying I hurt people’s feelings, concerned that people may be upset with me. Just throw me back to my childhood because that’s where all this crap began. I had at least 50 come to Jesus talks with myself over that short time period but it wasn’t until after the game that I began to feel less stressed. A huge lesson for me for the future – I am allowed to take a stance and I am allowed to have people be upset by it. Not all of my viewpoints are going to be loved. 

We ended up losing the championship game. I was surprisingly relieved after all the tension leading up to it. I would usually be madly disappointed but I wasn’t this year because of all the angst prior to the game and because I was mindful of my group of girls who gained experience and skill and had a most wonderful season together. They knew how to have fun. You would have thought we won the championship by the way they were laughing and playing and goofing around. 


Mario’s team got to the championships, too. They played a nail-biter of a game against the number one team in the league to win the semi-championship. Mario played his heart along with the rest of the kids. He had a killer nab at shortstop with a bullet of a throw to first. He also pitched like a rock star. I was so proud of him and so happy for him and his teammates. They were on cloud 9. 


They did not catch a break in the championship game; they hit line drives but they went straight to an opposing player. The other team hit line drives on the gaps in the field. There was nothing to do about that; it’s simply a matter of luck. Mario was upset as were his teammates. There were tears. There was anger. But they still got second place trophies and within twenty minutes were all feeling better and ready to move on. I told Mario over and over that no matter if he won or lost, he’d forget about it twenty minutes later. I think there’s a study that confirms you bask in your glory for about 15 minutes and then you are back to usual. 


We had Gio with us that night so I told the boys we could take a bike ride to Jeni’s and Mario was fine. 

What will I do next year now that Maria will play for the middle school team and I can’t coach her? Watch out Mario…:)

Why I wrestle

Lately, I have been so excited to head home from work. Ok, you are thinking, who isn’t happy to leave the workplace behind? It is more than just calling it a day from meetings, memos, conference calls, however. It is the thrill of knowing I get to spend time with the kiddos – take a walk with them, throw the ball, watch their game. My time with them in this place is limited. I can imagine in a few years that Ri is not going to ask me to go roller skating on the hills with her and Mario is not going to beg me to watch Modern Family with him. A girlfriend posted this blog on Facebook; I saw it as I took my afternoon power walk around campus. I usually save such posts for another time (which typically doesn’t come – 50 “saves” waiting for me) and continue to scroll looking at posts from friends playing at the beach or hiking the mountains. Keep my mind busy with busy pictures. 

But I chose to open her post and read it. I was transported back to yesterday morning as I poured Maria’s Crispix and Mario’s Krave in separate blue bowls. I stopped the Krave mid-way rather than three-fourths of the way up the bowl because Mario complains if I give him too much cereal. I poured a bit of sugar on Ri’s Crispix and heated up her hot tea and honey to calm her sore throat. They both kept their eyes fixated on the tv as I handed them their cereal, shifting their outreached arms to find the bowl in front of them. I watch Ri bring spoon to mouth mesmerized by the girl talking on the tv. I watched Mario continue to stare at the picture and not begin to eat. I get on him like I do every morning.

“Mario, you have to eat breakfast.”

I repeat this two more times and he finally takes a bite. He will later leave one-fourth of the cereal sopping in the bowl and complain the cereal was too soggy. I repeat for the hundredth time that he needs to eat faster and then he won’t have that problem but he isn’t listening. 

I leave the house for work and I wish I was home with them. And then I’m home with them and sometimes wish I was at work. I’m sure they feel the same at times – want me there but also wish I’d leave so they could go into their reclusive worlds and play Sims or watch You Tube. That distance for a few hours hurls me back into their arms and wanting more of them. Eat their faces, squeeze their middles, kiss their shoulders. I’ve been doing a much better job over the years of soaking in that overt adoration and affection that only kids can give and take. 

We go upstairs to get ready for bed. I’ve called Ri five different times to come upstairs as she watches a final episode of Dance Moms. I’ve given two M&M yogurts to Mario who is starving because he only ate two bites of dinner.  They wrestle on the kitchen floor and swing each other around as I put Rocco in his kennel with a broken off piece of dog biscuit. I laugh at them and bark “come on” at least three times before Ri darts upstairs and Mario jumps on me to be carried to his room. They jump on the bed, beg me to wrestle. I tell them is it too late to wrestle. They beg me again. I say no again. They beg one more time. I give in…but put my foot down to  “only five minutes.”

I give in most of the time. I used to beat myself up about it and think “you have got to lay down the rules and be done.” But the blog post this morning reminded me of why I give in. They will be gone shortly. They will be living their lives outside of our family home. Hopefully, I will see them on a regular basis. But I may not. 

That is why I wrestle.