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. 

Summer of sports

Isn’t summer supposed to bring rest and relaxation? If not for parents who are working year round, at least for kids? I feel like Jon and I and the kids have been running around like chickens with our heads cut off more so in the last few weeks since school has been let out then throughout the entire school year. 

Mario shot straight into basketball camp a week after school was out. He went there from 9 AM until noon every day, came home and ate lunch, and headed to the pool for a few hours with his buddies. Then, he would return home to eat a sandwich and head off to the baseball field for a game. The entire family has been living on hot dogs, KitKats and Gatorade through the month of June. 

Mario is pitching this year; all last year, he could not wait to move out of coach pitch and into player pitch. He had Jon and I out back with him every night catching his pitches. He’s got a nice throw on him. His first game he struck out quite a few batters. He ran into the dugout after he pitched with a serious, intense look on his face not showing any emotion relating to his performance. He was super cool. Although, Jon and I both knew his heart was thumping and he was pumped. 


He’s been getting his bat around, too. He had a beauty of a hit to right field one game but the only player that can catch from the other team was playing right that night. He loves baseball; Jon and I agree that may be his long-term sport. 


He’s off to football camp this week from 9 am to noon again. This week is a scorcher with temps in the 90s. I made him wear sunscreen this morning and he was less than happy. 

“Nobody wears the stuff, mom. That is how I have my bronzed look.”

This comment was made after he gelled his hair into a perfect wave on his head. 


Meanwhile, our other child barely manages to gather her thick, tussled hair in a ponytail for her practices. Maria decided to do swim team this summer. I still don’t know the real reason why. I have begged her to join swim team for the last four years and she always declined. And when I say “declined”, I mean she was adamant that she had no desire to join swim team. But her friend Evelyn seemed to convince her this winter while they were playing basketball (another sport she always refused to play until recently) that she should come out to swim team. She talked about how much fun it was with the other girls and how they all just played around and had a great time together. Something that Ev said resonated with Maria and she informed me in late winter that she wanted to sign up. I didn’t hesitate; I went to the Gators website and signed her up. I thought it would be good for her to get up early in the summer and start her day. I think she romanticized about how nice it would be to do the same. As of late last week, I think she was second guessing her decision. When I went to wake her up at 6:50 AM, she kicked the covers off of her nearly kickinh me in the thigh and huffed and puffed around her room as she looked for her bathing suit.  

There is a whole other blog post waiting to be written about how proud I am of Maria going out for swim team. Most tweens, I believe, would never try out for a team where they have never practiced in that sport before and knew that they would be far behind other kids. But that did not deter Maria, who is in it for the comraderie and for the laughs. However, Maria is not superhuman and she did suffer a bit of anxiety and nerves prior to her first meet. She was unable to dive off the diving board because she was concerned about hitting her head in the water. The concussion she got in soccer last spring still messes with her at times. She also was concerned about not being fast at all and losing to a bunch of third-graders. Luckily, my girlfriend was at one of our softball games and talked with her about how these meets were all about beating your personal time and not worrying about whether you beat the person in the next lane. I also reiterated that Jon and I did not expect her to win at any meet – swim team was more of a conditioning to get her ready for soccer and to make her a better swimmer. I was up all night wondering whether I should give her an out and let her get off the team, wondering if I had put too much on her this Summer. I decided to have her do the one meet and see how it went. 

When I arrived at the pool for the meet, she had “eat my bubbles” written on her back and came running up to me with a couple of her friends smiling. I was relieved. She made it across the pool and back for each of her swims, and I was proud as heck of her. She has now gotten to the point of wanting to beat her time from the last meet – she does have her mom’s competitive spirit in her! 


Maria is also playing softball. She is in the same boat as Mario – coming home from swim, doing homework, playing with a friend, making slime, choking down some pasta, and then warming up with me prior to heading to her game. 

I decided to coach one more year since Maria will be on the middle school team next year. I think overall Maria enjoys me being her coach although there are many a times when we get on each other’s last nerve. She refuses to allow me to root for her when she is up to bat. She is doing great with her pitching – thank god – because she is one of only two pitcher for our team this year. I think she embraces that responsibility and has taken it on herself to be a leader for the girls, which means she yells at them to cheer and talk in the field! She is a mini-me in that way. 

So there we have it; evidence as to why there have been a lack of posts in June – busy, busy, busy!

Happy 12th Ri!

Our baby girl turned 12 on May 2. It’s hard to believe that 12 years ago, I was walking around the hospital halls trying to break my water so that I could finally meet her face-to-face. What would she look like? How would she act? Would she cry a lot or be chill? 

I had worked out the morning Ri was born – a 3 mile run and then weight-lifting and squats. I drove down to the doctor’s office for my 9 am appointment fully expecting to hear that all was going smoothly and take care until my next weekly visit. After all, I was still two weeks away from my due date. But surprise! As I laid on the table with legs spread and hands resting on my belly trying to feel Ri kick at me, the doctor peeked up from behind the sheet to calmly pronounce “you are dilated and effaced – you are going to have a baby today.”

Shit!

My stomach ached with fear of the pain of birth, joy at finally meeting my daughter, anxiety about the contractions, excitement about this change in our lives. But mostly, fear of the pain I was going to go through since I was adamant to “go natural” with no drugs. My Aunt Terrie had given me her birth video from the 1990s and listening to it would make you believe that she was being tortured by every person in the room. I laughed while watching it at my 6 month mark but it was not funny any longer. This was the real deal! 

The contractions came on the way to the hospital  with Jon (I drove home from my doctor’s appointment in order to take the dog for a quick walk and gather my things – Jon thought I was insane). They weren’t bad at all – just strange. Then they came every three minutes once we were in a hospital room. Still, they were tolerable. After an hour, the doctor recommended that they break my water and see what happens. They broke it at 12:30 PM and just over two hours later – at 2:41 – I got to make face-to-face contact with Maria Grace. I did not know what to think about those little black eyes staring up at me. 

Was she actually going to call me “mom” someday? How did this come about? How was I, a “mom?!”

When I was pregnant with Maria, I read an essay by Anna Quindlen in Newsweek titled I’ll Never Stop Saying Maria. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I must’ve read it 20 times over and cried each time harder than the last. I had a rough relationship with my mom as a teenager. She and I would fight – and fight hard – over the dumbest things.  Harsh words thrown like grenades at one another. Slamming doors. Screaming and tears. I had similar fights with my stepmom as a teen. In looking back, you can reason it – you can see why it was all happening. I had a lot of emotions swirling around my teen body with my parents’ divorce, my move from my community, being apart from my baby sister. I didn’t process how I was acting, why I was acting the way I was, how I may be hurting people who had dedicated themselves to raise me. Was this how it would be with me and this girl growing in me?

 At one point in my pregnancy, the fear of having a daughter was so great that I thought “I don’t think I will love her as much as I love my dog!” My dog wouldn’t scream at me and fight me to the death. 

But then my daughter arrived. 

The first few weeks, I would wake up terrified she was suffocating or choking on throw-up (too many 80’s horror movies). I would run into her room and jostle her to make sure I could see that she was breathing (I completely relate to Shirley McClane’s character in Terms of Endearment when she would pinch Deborah Winger, hear her cry, and then leave the room with a sigh of relief)!

In Quindlen’s essay, she argues that raising a daughter is a “complex matter.” She states:

Despite those who burble about someone to shop and chat with, the truth is that in their search for self, girls challenge their mothers in a way that boys rarely do. The ruling principle of burgeoning female identity seems to be a variation on Descartes: I am not my mom, therefore I am. Prudence Quindlen’s revenge, my father once called our youngest child, figuring she would give me the agita that I had given my own gentle mother. Certainly that has sometimes been the case. But Maria has done something for me that I never anticipated. She made me want to be a better woman.

Ri is just starting to test me and exhibit a bit of lip. It’s bearable for the moment. Typically, after a squabble, she will come give me a hug and apologize or I will do the same. We don’t stay angry for long. I want to think it will stay this way when she’s 16 – how much can she really change? My friends with teens laugh hysterically at my question. And then I think back to me at 16. Holy hell….

I am a Type A personality – I want control over things and I want them executed, NOW. I cannot sit still for more than three minutes, and I am prone to the extremes. I could hike for 10 hours straight. I thrive on constant action. Maria loves to savor her time. She could sit down to an amazing meal for five hours and simply enjoy the company and the deliciousness of the food. I would scarf mine down in 10 minutes and say “where are we off to next?!” Ri loves to rollerskate and rock climb; she could skip intense competition altogether. Ri is a daredevil. She would skydive or bungee jump in a heartbeat; I would rather have my eyes poked out. Ri listens and feels down to her core. She knows how to be in the moment. I barely savor a bite of my double chocolate chip scone on Sunday morning. These personality differences – along with raging hormones – are bound to cause some strife, but I am still confident, as Ri turns 12, that we can weather it. After all, I have the two women who weathered it with me giving me advice and solace during these times.

Ri is a fun kid – rarely in a foul mood – and she loves to have a good time. Even a ride to Target ends up amusing with her. She throws herself into the world – not caring if people look at her funny or think she’s weird. One of her mottos could be: “This is me – take it or leave it.” I’ve commented on numerous occasions that she may want to re-think wearing pj’s and roller skates to the coffee shop. Her response: “you tell me not to care what people think, so I don’t. Let’s go!” She would rather spend a day with her cousin Elena than go to a friend’s party. She is loyal to family, and chooses time with them over anything else. She’s non- judgmental and gets along with most everyone no matter if they are a star athlete or grunge. The other day I rolled my eyes at a lady wearing spiked heel and a crop top in the library. Maria counseled me: “you don’t know where she’s from or what she’s like so don’t judge her, mom.”

I imagined having a daughter would be exciting – getting to raise a female to conquer the world! I would teach her how to play softball, read books about strong women, take her to inspiring events. And it has been all that and more so far. But what I didn’t realize was how much Ri would influence me. I recall reading one of Shirley MacLaine’s books before I even contemplated kids. She talked about her daughter and believed that her daughter was her mother in a past life (love Shirley and her belief in reincarnation). I often think the same about Ri. How many times has Ri corrected me or reminded me of how to act?! I cuss and she gives me the glare. I’m inpatient and sighing, she tells me to calm down. 

She makes me consider what is important in life. She gets me thinking about new experiences. She pushes me to try new foods and relax for her homemade facial. She makes me jump off the inflatable when I’m scared to death. She sprays me with the hose while I’m in my work clothes and has me laughing about it minutes later. She has me question why I feel I have to wash the floor when I could be playing Yahtzee instead. 

She quashes my ego; it’s no longer about me, me, me but about her, her, her forging a life that is spontaneous, joyful, genuine, and open-minded.  It is such a gift to watch her grow up. Happy 12th Ri!  I am eternally grateful you are my daughter.



 

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.