Happy 9th birthday, Mario!

Mario turned nine yesterday. At least, he turned nine in biological years. In Mario years, he’s 21. 


If he could break free from the confines of his parent’s house, he’d do it in a heart beat. If he could head to the bar and drink a cold one, he’d be off. If he could head to the coffee shoppe and get an espresso, he would walk there in a second. If he could bike to campus to hang out with millennials, he’d grab his helmet and take off. 

This is not to say that he doesn’t still ask me to get him water or rub his back at night. It’s not to say that when he’s chillin’ on the couch he doesn’t ask me to sit next to him and snuggle. He even still let’s me squeeze and kiss him in private (he’d die if I did it around friends). 

But he has definitely hit an independence streak. I think he may deal with us until age 16 and then pack his bags for California and take off to hang with the surfer dudes and make vlogs. But he loves  money so much that if he did move out, he’d be one of those young, hip entrepreneurs who drops out of high school but makes millions.

So, how to sum up Mario’s eighth year of life? He loves you tube. He loves watching music videos. He loves playing video games with his buddies. He loves going to football games and playing on the hill with his friends and talking with the older kids. He loves wrestling and jumping all around the house. He loves sports. He enjoys biking by himself to the library or down to school. He still craves chocolate everything. He will drop all plans to go fishing. He remains a total character. He is compassionate and sweet, and loves to make people laugh.

Some highlights from his eighth year:

1. Football games with his buddies and sideline passes with his dad.


2. Halloween trick-or-treating with his two friends (and mom not standing too close to them as they went house to house)…and a boatload of candy!


3. Serving Thanksgiving meal to homeless men at the Y and chatting it up with them.


4. Christmas morning opening presents – oh, the drama and anticipation!

5. A broken arm! At 11:20 pm on NYE, you ran into my friend’s dining room  holding your arm and crying that it was broken. Your friend had fell down on it as you were playing. Sure enough, it was. We sat at the hospital as the New Year was brought in laughing at you in your “high” state from the pain meds. 


6. You took care of Grandpa Ionno’s grave in Marietta.

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7. You went to Feed the Streets with me and walked a mile passing out water and lunches to people in need.

8. You went hunting with your dad and “had the best day of your life!”


9. You watched OSU hockey with your buddies in a suite with tons of cookies, and met Brutus!


10. You got all dressed up for Easter and killed it on the volleyball court.


11. You went on Spring Break with the Webers and Muellers to Hocking Hills. You went fishing and hiked. I met you there two days into break and we explored together. You loved taking risks and climbing steep rock climbs.


12. You cranked baseball this year – one of the strongest players!


13. You fed a baby calf and named it after a girl at school (romantic, just like your dad).

14. You starred in your first talent show singing “We will rock you!”

15. You became enamored with ball pythons.

16. You started sporting sweet Panama Jack hats.


17. You won Elena’s heart by making her laugh with your silly antics.


18.You kayaked and fished on Lake Erie.


19. You went white-water rafting, zip lined, and completed a mud obstacle course in West Virginia!


20. You blobbed your sister!

21. You swam in the creek at Park of the Roses with your pup!

22. You won a poop emoji at the Ohio State Fair!


23. You started third grade – your last year at RLS!


24. You celebrated your birthday with a bunch of friends at Get Air and a sleepover!


Happy birthday our sweet Mario. I hope this year brings you lots of learning experiences and lots of adventures. And guess what?

We love you (you weren’t here to say it before me:)!).

Wait a minute 

Thanksgiving arrived abruptly this year. In years’ past, I spent a week pre-festivities getting things together and prepping the house for thanks and gratitude. After all,Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I am a big believer in gratitude and its positive effects on your life. NPR had a clip about gratitude the day before Thanksgiving. I gratefully got to take a walk with the pup before work and listened to the entire interview. Researchers conducted a study of a group of patients who recently suffered heart attacks. One group wrote in a gratitude journal for weeks after the heartatrack and the other group did not. The group who kept a journal got better more quickly. Other studies have shown that people who practice gratitude tend to be more hopeful, joyful and content. 

The last couple of years, I’ve created a gratitude tree for Thanksgiving. The kids have helped to cut leaves out of construction paper and I’ve had family write down what they are thankful for and hang their leaf on a twig. I tried to even have family members go around at the dinner table and pronounce something or someone that they are grateful for but Jon always gives me the look (deep down, I know he’s grateful for me and my antics nonetheless).

However, this year,Thanksgiving snuck up on me like a burglar. I barely had time to set the table much less create a tree. We had Jon’s family over this year. All of his brothers were in town for the holiday, which is a rare treat. Maria was in seventh heaven because she got to stay with Patty for three days straight and sleep over with her girl cousins, Alana and Dagmawit. Mario loved hanging with his boy cousins, too.  

The traditional Thanksgiving meal was served, and it was carb heaven. Patty’s corn casserole, potatoes, Patrick’s stuffing and rolls. We were able to get the adults around the dining room table, too, which was nice. The kids acted goofy and rambunctious in the other room. 

After the meal, I took the pup for a walk with Chris and Connie and Michael and Debbie. It felt good to move a bit. None of us were ready for all the desserts even at the end of the night. The carb overload was too much. We were ready for some music serenades though. Maria and Alana gave us a short concert.  

Amy and Zach stopped by for a bit after dinner and chatted it up with us. We commiserated over plantar fasciitis and leg aches. Rocco flipped out when he saw Zach; he recognized him immediately. Zach was our life-saver when Rocco was a pup; he let him out two times a day and tossed the stick with him all the time. 

Margie and I talked about raising these girls of ours and all the joy and heartache in that task. Michael and Debbie talked about their biking adventures. I had Connie watch the you tube clip on awareness that Meg posted on FB. I figured she’d appreciate it in her social work role. 

The girls couldn’t get out of the house quick enough to head home with Patty. They were so excited to do blind makeovers on each other. And Mario was stoked about sleeping over at Gio’s because they were gonna play video games all night.

Jon and I got a breather on Friday morning. I got in a good workout and he got in a farm auction. Then the entire crew and more joined us on Friday evening to celebrate the matriarch’s birthday. 

How is Patty 76?! The woman looks and acts half that age. She’s unbelievable.  

I loved seeing all the cousins get together and play. It reminds me of hanging out with my cousin Kerry on special occasions. And sweet Baby Harper joined us in the celebration! She is such a doll; she goes to anyone and smiles non-stop. Maria plopped her right on her hip and carried her from room to room. Mario glued on to Isaiah as soon as he walked in the house. He loves Isaiah because he is an amazing athlete. He wanted to play b-ball with him but it was raining. 

The boys went with me to pick up the pizzas for dinner. I put on some electronica jams for them and turned around to this vision.  

Heaven help me. 

We sat at the dining room table and debated whether Kevin dangling a friend from his feet out a three story window was funny or not (Kevin was a young lad at the time). Then we moved onto other childhood antics (no matter what occasion the story of Chris and Jon taking all the milk and making Patrick use water for his cereal comes up!). After the pizza was demolished and we had a break on conversation, the kids and I found candles and decided on one single one to light in the pie. We gathered around and sang happy birthday to Patty. She was overcome with emotion. “This is only the third birthday party I’ve had in my lifetime.” I’ve got my eyes on a huge one for 80.   

   
Margie and I took the girls for a walk after dessert. Ri had no desire to go but Alana and Dag wanted to go so she succumbed. Margie and I got to talk about motherhood again, and the challenges that come along with it. Both our gals are rather strong-willed, which we love but also can lead to trying times. If we can make it through those teen years though, they will be leaders with their personalities! When we got home, the girls waltzed downstairs and sang us a song in their get-ups….  

  
And, of course, I had to irritate Jon at least once during the holidays by asking everyone to gather around for a family picture. Carrie moved us towards the steps for a different pose this year and it only took fifteen minutes for all of to situate who should be where. But we did it! 

 Ionno Thanksgiving 2015!

Happy 10th Birthday to our Buddha Girl!

How is this baby ten years old already?


My heart rests atop the knot in the middle of a tug-o-war rope. One side wants you to stay my little Buddha baby and one side wants to witness you continue to grow and learn and feel and experience. The above picture is your daycare school picture at 6 months old. I dressed you up in your maroon turtleneck and little wool skirt and you sat up perfectly straight for the camera. But there was no smile happening for that cameraman. He tried and tried – wiggling funny animals your direction and making ridiculous faces – but you’d have none of that action. You were probably contemplating the meaning of his existence as he engaged in those antics (and thinking “keep acting crazy, I’m not cracking a smile!”).

Grandma Meg’s friend had this comment when looking at your sweet face: “if you want to draw Maria’s face, you just draw a perfect circle.” She was dead on. We called you our Buddha because of that perfectly round head, those eyes in full contemplation, and that full belly.  I remember how you would lay in your crib and suck on your binky while rubbing the satin part of your pink bunny against your face. Just rubbing and staring at the ceiling.

And you used to lay your head on my shoulder with your arms draped over my arms.  Mouth open and drool coming out of the side.  I would find any mirror I could find and look at you sleeping against me.  How strange it was to have this little being completely dependent on me but how much I completely and totally loved it like I could have never imagined.  I couldn’t wait to come home from work to play with you, hold you, rock you, read to you.  And you must have felt the same way because you stayed up off and on throughout the entire night until you were 20 months old!  You clearly wanted as much time with me and dad as possible. And now look at you – 10 years old and just as contemplative as you were at 6 months.

You’ve also inherited a bit of feistiness and fearlessness in your ten years, which makes you quite the handful at times.  But you always engage people with compassion and love and understanding, which is not something exhibited by a lot of people your age – or any age – for that matter.

Example: Mario was not listening when I told him it was time for bed. He kept playing around and jumping on the bed and I had enough. I yelled at him and told him I was sick of him not listening to me. He began crying and ran to his room. You approached me as I washed my face and began your diatribe: “Mom, I really don’t think it’s fair that you yelled at Mario. He is used to you allowing him to jump around on the bed and act silly because you usually let him get away with it each night. I know you are probably tired tonight because you had a bad work day but I think you could have been a little nicer to Mario and he would have listened.”

You were at once standing up for your little brother and being gentle to the one you were up against (me). I think you are a born lawyer and would be able to sway a jury to your side in a heartbeat.

Another example: You were listening to Mario beg to get his ears pierced because he thinks it’s cool and dad continued to refuse his request. You sat quietly for a bit and then started in on dad: “why can I get ears pierced and Mario can’t? What’s the difference? Is it because he’s a boy and I’m a girl? Is that fair?”

You are thoughtful about your arguments and are fairly quick at responses to your “opponent.” I’m telling you, Judge Maria would be a judge I’d vote for….

You continue to embody a most caring heart; you are always concerned about people’s feelings and love to see folks’ smile. We were getting ready for a city-wide garage sale and you wanted to donate all monies you got from the sale of your items to a local shelter. When your little brother is dying for a new toy, you are the first to try and buy it for him with your piggy bank fund.

We’ve struggled a bit this year with self-doubt and worries that you aren’t good enough. You can tend to give up on something and then dive into negative thinking.  These pre-teen years will continue to bring on those doubts and worry and I will work my hardest to talk you through them and listen to you. I have seen you do a good job the past few months talking things out more with me and your grandmas and your aunts, and we promise to continue to encourage open dialogue as you navigate these lovely pre-teen years.

But this year has also been a huge turning point year for you, sweet RiRi.

You have enjoyed a diverse group of friends. You do not have one best friend that you can’t live without; rather, you have a lot of friends who you feel comfortable hanging with for a play date. You are perfectly content doing a range of activities depending on the friend: playing barbies, climbing trees, jumping on a trampoline, drawing pictures, riding your bike, doing science experiments or watching tv.

You decided to play soccer! And now claim it as your favorite sport! This is the girl who absolutely detested it in years’ past and refused to give it a thought. It does not come particularly natural to you but you try hard and usually give it your best at practice and at games. And, you even ended up as the top scorer for your soccer team this Spring with two goals! I was so proud of you that I leapt off the bleachers screaming “that’s my girl!” Not embarrassing at all for you, I’m sure.

You got in the geography bee! There were only five fourth graders and five fifth graders to qualify based on high test scores and you were one of the fourth graders; and there was only one other girl in the bee (a fifth grader). You studied for it fairly routinely (a little nudging from me at times) and ended up one question away from being the student who moved ahead to the regionals. You got all of the first ten questions correct without batting an eye. You were poised and collected while the question was read and when you answered. Others shifted in their seats or twisted their hair but you remained super cool (this is you looking super cool heading off to school)!

You participated in Girls on the Run! Now this was another mind blowing occurrence. You hate, and I mean hate, to run. So if the program had been just about running, there is no way you would have agreed. But in reading about it, it focused on leadership skills and building self-esteem. I really wanted you to participate because you are at an age when it is so important to learn about self esteem and positive thinking.  But I still knew it would be a hurdle to get you to participate because of your hatred for running. So I talked with you about it numerous times and explained to you that it wasn’t focused on the running and that you could run as fast or as slow as you wanted. Plus, it would give you time with your girlfriends.  I knew that part would help win you over as you are always up for social hour.  You hesitantly agreed and I am so proud of you for continuing through it this Spring. The first few weeks you begged to not go – you were bored and you dreaded the running – but I made you go and you always ended up saying “it wasn’t too bad.”  And then, holy cow!  You had a practice 5K to get you prepared for the race at the end of May.  You dreaded it. You went to sleep on the eve of the practice run and cried about having to get up the next day and do it.  I kept encouraging you and thought of you throughout the day you ran it.  When I finally got hold of you after practice, you sounded exhilarated.  I asked how it went and you exclaimed “it was good!”  You ended up finishing it in 35 minutes and you even asked if you and I could take a little run on Saturday mornings.  I about fell out of my chair at work, and the rest of the day I beamed about you and your perseverance (but don’t worry, I know you’d rather bike any day of the week!).

You learned the violin and performed wonderfully at the Spring concert! I am so proud of you sticking with it through the year even though there were days you did not want to practice. Learning an instrument and understanding melodies and comprehending notes will benefit you in many ways; one benefit is being able to Skype with Uncle Jack and play music with him!)


And you continued to teach me to take risks and push myself out of my comfort zone.  I still can’t believe you got me to parasail with you this Summer. This is an activity I would have never accomplished absent my daring daughter taunting me and making me feel wimpy for not trying something a nine-year old had no fear doing. So thank you, Ri, for keeping me adventurous and daring!

Dad and I are constantly amazed by you and know that you will only amaze us more in this tenth year of life. We love you a gazillion times over and are overjoyed to be your parents!

Happy 10th Birthday, Ri!

43 for 43!

On my birthday… Top 43 things I’ve done in my 43 years:

1. Given birth without any drugs. Some of the most excruciating pain I’ve experienced but the miracle and grace of both childbirths cannot be described.

2. Rode the Beast at Kings Island without completely soaking myself.

3. Married my hubby. Some of the most excruciating pain at times (ha) but his humor and love for family surpasses anyone’s on the planet. He is my number one supporter and I’m so glad I get to share this life with him.

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4. Swam with a shark! Yes, only a three foot shark but still, a shark!

5. Traveled with my dad and Meg on family vacations to Michigan and Washington. I would pout up a storm as a teenager about having to go and now I am so grateful for those memories and for instilling a deep appreciation of nature the outdoors in me.

6. Parasailing! I would never do it with Jon in Cancun but Ri convinced me in Florida. I was scared sh–less but I did it.DSC03900

7. Watched my sister give birth to my niece. It was one if the most tender, intimate, amazing experiences of my life, and it was kinda nice not to have to push and struggle in order to see the birth!

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8. Walked with Ri and Mario as infants in the Baby Bjorn. I still can feel their tiny head resting on my chest and their baby feet cupped in my hands.

9. Finished a marathon! I would have never done it without Sarah asking me to run it with her. Hell from mile 15 on but it was like childbirth: hell going through it and within ten minutes afterwards, you are ready to do it again!

10. Trips to my Grandma Menkedick’s house. She never disappointed. Always had chips and cookies to share and hilarious stories about card games with her friends or vacations she took. She was a true grandma in the sense of the word and we loved each other dearly. As I laid with her in her final days, she continued to whisper “you were a good granddaughter, Mary.” And I made sure she knew she was a beautiful grandmother.IMG_0351

11. Danced with a turkey in Mexico. That’s right. At Sarah’s and Jorge’s wedding. Mexican tradition we were told. My dad and I had drank enough Mezcal to not care whether it was tradition or not.

12. Taught aerobics. I was no Jane Fonda but I taught a mean class for a while.

13. Traveled to New York with my mom in my early 20’s. What a hoot we had between seeing Phil Donahue in person and getting hit on by New York construction workers.

14. Spent a lot of time with my Heile aunts. These women showed me love, let me watch inappropriate movies and listen to disco music, played card games with me, fed me junk food, let me spend the night, and listened to me ramble on and on about my superball collection and my stuffed animals. They will all be sainted for that.

IMG_9012 15. Took a 40th birthday vacation with my long-time girlfriends to Italy. Nothing like connecting with old friends over wine, the Italian countryside, and home-cooked meals.IMG_0250

 

 

16. Coached girls’ softball. I love watching these girls gain confidence in themselves and support one another. And it’s awesome spending time with my girl.IMG_9407
17. Hosted a surprise 60th birthday party for my mama. She is the last person to ask for pampering and I was thrilled to give her some.

18. Biked 100 miles in Pelotonia to support cancer research. On a mountain bike even!

19. Took an 8th grade class trip on a bus to Washington DC. Everyone has got to partake in that experience once in their lives.

20. Kissed a dolphin. One of Jon and I’s favorite excursions in Cancun.

21. Watched my brother act in a play at Ohio State and jam it out with his musical band on stage. He is an artist in every sense of the word and I marvel at his talent. I love how Ri proudly brags “my Uncle Jack is famous because he has a CD.”

22. Bought a gorgeous home in Grandview that is already filed with hundreds of memories of times with kids and family and friends (Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations are the best!).IMG_6905

23. Had a super short 80’s spiked-on-one-side haircut that I will never ever have again.

24. Stood front row in a field in Ireland and watched Michael Jackson perform a full two hour long concert.

25. Caught a baseball thrown to me by my favorite Reds player of all time, Dave Parker, and completed a 5K that ended in the Reds Stadium (and won first place in my division!).IMG_3718

26. Wrote to Anna Quindlen after the birth of Maria telling her how much that her article in Newsweek about her daughter, Maria, deeply affected me. She wrote me a thoughtful letter in return. Cherish.

27. Went sled riding down Wyman Woods hill with Maria and Mario nearly every Winter – even when there was barely any snow and a lot of molehills that had my butt bone aching for days.IMG_7550

28. Hunted turkeys with Jon at 5 am in the morning. Nothing like spacing out to a gorgeous tangerine sunrise only to be awakened by rifle shots and turkeys squawking.

29. Entered a hot legs contest but came in second. Allegedly it was rigged for the girl who won first to win it – that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

30. Took in the Grand Canyon with Jon and the kids.  One day we will head back and hike to the bottom and back up.  IMG_2524
31. Got my law degree. I wish I could change careers every three years but this degree has done me well.

32. Participated in the Day of the Dead celebration in Oaxaca with my mom and sis and Jorge. The reverence and beauty in the celebrations of their deceased is beautiful.

33. Flew right next to the pilot in a tiny airplane from Key West to some city in Florida I cannot recall. But I can recall the amazing sunset that occurred before my eyes. Both terrified of the flight and mesmerized by the beauty of the falling sun.

34. Dipped my legs into the Arctic Ocean. Jon dipped his entire body and shivered for four hours afterwards (even with 30 minutes in a steam room).

35. Petted an alligator. The kids got a kick out of this adventure – where else but off the highway in Florida.

36. Nursed my babies. It didn’t last long and pumping was a bit– but the experience while it lasted created such a peaceful intensity.

37. Strollered my babies everywhere the first five years of their lives. God, I loved that BOB. It took us to the river to throw rocks, up to Giant Eagle for donuts, all around Grandview for me to get my run in, through Blue Ash to get Marx Bagels, to the parks. I was depressed for a good month when Mario would no longer ride in it.20141106-213506.jpg

38. Saw Prince in concert twice. Once in 6th grade with my mom – dressed in all purple and sat at the top of the coliseum and once with Jon and sat in the first 20 rows of the arena. Prince was sexy and amazing both times – total crush on him.

39. Witnessed Jorge get sworn in as a US citizen, and witnessed the joy and determination in the scores of immigrants’ faces who were joining Jorge in the process.  There was no way to not feel immense joy for the entire rest of the day.IMG_0633

40. Climbed the steps of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh with Sarah and Ri.

41. Ate a fried grasshopper.

42. Jogged the 7 hills of Cincy race and ran up every hill.

43. Kept a blog so I can remember all these things. With each year, I forget more and more!

I by all means know how blessed I am to have been able to experience all I have in these past 43 years, and to possess such a richness of both family and friends. There’s no stopping me at 43 – can’t wait to see what’s on my list of things I’ve done at 86!

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Party Girl

I do believe that if Ri could spend every weekend at a friend’s house, she’d do it. She would not long to be home with us or cry for Jon or me in the middle of the night. She is a party gal.

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She had to go to the Ox a Roast festival on the opening night – Thursday. She completely forgot that it was her brother’s birthday. I called the mom she was with over and over with no luck and then finally drove down to get her. And I see the two of them “hanging out” with plastic cups of lemonade (can we keep that beverage in those cups at age 18, please?). They were giggling and running around and loving life. I will give Ri credit – when I reminded her it was Mario’s birthday, she felt bad and wanted to run home. She continued to party it up for Mario’s birthday – getting all of his gifts lined up for him and singing as he opened them. >

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She stole a big ol’ hug from Mario after he opened her present and demanded a smooch from him.
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She made sure we placed seven candles in his chocolate donuts (she wanted to give him seven donuts) and brought him in to sing to him.
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She got invited to a sleepover at Anna’s house on Friday night. Anna was under the weather a bit so they stayed home and skipped the Ox Roast. I texted Anna’s mom on Saturday to see how things were and she informed me that Ri didn’t want to come home. Lovely. Eventually, Anna and Ri came to our house and begged to go to the Ox Roast. I packed us up and we headed down for a wild and crazy night.
Mario ran around trying to find Quinn. He’s at the age where I don’t quite need to watch over his every move but I also am not comfortable just letting him go on his own all night. Ri, on the other hand, is at the age where the thought of me walking with her absolutely makes her quiver in embarrassment. I am slowly coming around to the idea that she can walk around on her own as long as it is a small area and I am present somewhere in that small area (it also took a couple of weeks to feel comfortable about her walking up the street alone to meet friends to walk to school – ugh!). So Ri and Anna took off on their own while I kept an eye on Mario.
And what’s the first thing he did? Win a goldfish. Petco has got to love the Ox Roast because every kid wins a fish and therefore needs a tank and food and accessories. Mario showed his fish off and then moved on to the rides. He found Quinn and rode a few with him.

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He loves the wheel at the end of the Wacky House because he can run with all his might and not go anywhere. He thinks it’s hilarious. The guy running the House thought Mario was hilarious and let him stay in it for a long time.
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As he was running nowhere, Anna came rushing over to me screaming “Maria’s in the dunk tank!” Huh? I didn’t even know there was one. I grabbed her hand and ran over to the tank. There Ri was – all in pink, arms crossed, ready to get dunked.
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A couple of boys from her grade tried to get her (Will and Danny) but the quarterback of the football team achieved success. She loved it and got right back in line to do it again. Party animal.
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Mario wanted to dunk her so badly and got her on his first try.
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He then moved into line with Ri. Now, Mario loves to party, too but he hates getting wet. This is the kid who flipped out when his shorts got wet on the log flume at Kings Island. But he kept swearing to me that he’d be fine. He eventually got up on the seat and waited to be dunked.
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I believe the quarterback got him, too. As soon as he walked over to me afterwards, I saw him soaked and shivering.
“Mom, I wish I could reverse time and have listened to you.”
That is a rare admission and I soaked it up. I called Jon to come get him as we continued to watch Ri and her girlfriends get dunked over and over again.
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I eventually made Ri and Anna leave with me at 9 pm since Jon was at home watching the football game and I wanted to relax a bit with him. They sulked for a second but then dragged their feet to the car. Ri partied it up for a bit when we got home while Mario conked out on the couch immediately (that running to nowhere wore him out). Ri passed out after a bit on the chair.
The next morning, she came into my bedroom a bit bleary-eyed and stood next to me.
“Mom, can we go to the new MarketPlace and get some muffins. I need food in my stomach.”
Spoken like a true party girl. >

Happy 7th birthday Mario!

Happy 7th Birthday Mario!

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Of course, we started it off right with a chocolate iced donut in hand. You have adored donuts since the womb when you used to kick each time I devoured one. You get your sweet tooth honestly. And you grew up loving to stroll to Tim Horton’s on Sunday mornings and eat ten timbits.

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What have you been up to over this past year?
1. You dove off the high dive like it was nobody’s business. You just walked to the end of the board and dropped off. Last year, you would rarely make it up all the steps and if you did, you’d never get to the end of the board. This year, you acted like you had been doing it for years! My brave guy.

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2. You learned how to play a mean Minecraft and Animal Jam computer game. I cannot get over how technology savvy you are. Your sis has assisted you with developing this talent. You can navigate the heck out of the World Wide Web and create worlds left and right on Minecraft.

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3. You continued to master your fishing skills! You fished at Uncle Mario’s, Grandma Ionno’s and Peepaw’s houses and always somehow caught larger fishes than them (at least that’s your story and you’re sticking to it!).

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4. You completed Kindergarten and started 1st grade! The beginning of Kindergarten was rough with lots of tears and pleas for dad and me to stay but you finished with a bang and now go to visit Mrs. Page every chance you get (you also wrote her a note at the beginning of this year that said “I miss you Mrs. Page.”). You are going into school all by yourself this year! We drop you off in front of the building, you jump out with your bookbag on your back, and wave goodbye. However, you are a little more ambivalent about school this year and would much rather stay home than head in each morning. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this may not go away in the next 12 years…

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5. You have found a best buddy in Rocco. We got him two days after your 6th birthday last year and you have loved on him and wrestled him ever since. You continue to fret about him every time we let him out back without his shock collar on him. You yell at the top of your lungs “don’t let Rocco out without his collar; he may run away!” And when dad pulls up in the driveway, you stop Rocco in the yard and hold him until dad stops the car. As much as dad and I tell you to not wrestle Rocco, you can’t stop yourself. You hide under the blanket and let Rocco pull on you and hop on you and then you wrestle with him all over the family room. But you also love to cuddle with him and give him smooches.

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6. You are playing tackle football! What the he–?! You look like a miniature pro in those pads. It’s strange how young you look in pictures from flag and how old you look just a year later. Not sure I dig that action….And you are no joke buddy. You love to tackle and you have taken your share of hits and popped back up smiling away. You are really loving it this year.

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7. You have dissed the stroller! You are now completely embarrassed about riding in it and refuse to do it. This didn’t happen until the Summer but it was a quick transition. One day you were letting me stroller you to Giant Eagle and the next, you were hopping out of it as soon as you saw a friend walking down the street – and swearing to never go in it again. I understand why you’d be over it but it still breaks my heart that the BOB is relegated to the dump.

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8. Not only did you go to your first Reds game, but you got your first professional autograph from Billy Hamilton and got a ball tossed to you from Billy Hatcher!

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9. You participated in your first Boy Scout Day Camp and loved it! Dad took you a couple of days and Grandma Ionno took you for a couple and I met up with you one afternoon. Your favorite activities were shooting with a bow and arrow, fishing, and creeking. You were so excited to accomplish the different activities.

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10. You got a bee bee gun and love to shoot it. You are begging for a bow and arrow from dad next…. You are a little outdoorsmen and if you could spend all day with your dad hunting, it would be an awesome day in your eyes.

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But most of all what I remember about this past year is your zaniness and fierceness and curiosity and desire to make people laugh. You are an incredible kid, Mario Joseph, and you bring joy to so many people. Dad and I marvel at your grit and perseverance and at how much you’ve grown in a year’s time (you finally got to 55 pounds for football!).
I hope you continue to find humor in yourself and life in general. I hope you continue to love making people smile. I hope you continue to want to learn new things (not just computer games!). I hope you have a great school year and challenge yourself. I hope you continue to want me to read to you before bed. I hope you are grateful for all you have and share with others. I hope you get to go hunting with your dad this season. And I hope you know deep down inside how much you are loved. We are so glad that you are our son and that you grace our world every single day. Happy Birthday (and yes we ended the day with more sugar – chocolate donuts and ice cream!)!

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Football and cake = an August weekend

We made it out to the farm on Saturday with enough time to eat lunch, eat cake and play one badminton game. But Ri got to soak it up a bit longer out there with her friend Henley. Jon, Mario and I had to head back to Columbus for his Meet the Team night in the Grandview Stadium.
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Ri and Henley had a good time holding Elena and riding the horses and playing yoga kickball with Peepaw and Jorge. Poor Henley took a hike with me and Ri and fell on her back as she tried to swing on a vine. Then she got stung by a bee. I’m not sure a trip back to the farm will be happening soon for her…!
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I always forget how self sufficient Ri is on the farm. She’s completely able to traverse the farm without any issues, and when she falls she just picks herself up and keeps truckin’. A true farm gal. But we gave kudos to Henley for not giving up and trying that vine again. She succeeded at swinging on it the second time.
Meanwhile, Mario, Jon and I went to Meet the Team night. Mario was in his element with his guys. He soaks up that testosterone and jumps right into all the boy antics.

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The high school boys came out last and all the younger boys get to form a line on each side of them to cheer them on. We watched Mario smile as he slapped the high school boys’ hands. The high school boys got to introduce themselves and name their favorite breakfast food. Mario will fit right into this football group based on the answers we were hearing. I believe 80% of the boys answered that their favorite breakfast food was donuts or pancakes.
After the stadium event, the Touchdown Club held a gathering at the Italian Club down the street. We weren’t going to attend but after sitting around the house for an hour, we decided to head down. Mario was again in his element. He partied it up with his football buddies tossing the football and running around the place. He even jumped on stage without hesitation when Gangum Style came out of the speakers.
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We had to drag him out of the building at 9:30 to head home.
While Ri and Henley were trying to read to Elena Sunday morning, Mario was chowing on eggs and waffles preparing for his first football game.
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Jon headed up to the field with Mario at 11 am. He had to get weighed in and practice before the noon game. I gasped when I saw him – big ol’ shoulder pads and jersey with his name on it. He looked like a miniature pro football player.
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He was ready to play. He has no desire to throw or catch the ball; he just loves to tackle. He’s not scared of the big boys either. I thought I’d be scared half to death watching him but I wasn’t. I saw him hold his own play after play and felt surprisingly calm. Now, I’m sure the day will come where I will exhibit nerves and fear (especially if he is catching the ball and getting tackled) but I’ll enjoy watching him play for now. He’s also quite the nut of the team.
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They ended up tying the game. Mario looked like me after a long run – completely drenched in sweat. He got a celebratory hot dog and walked out with the love of his life, Grandma Ionno.
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Of course, he had to take off his shirt and strut it out back to the car. I used to not be able to picture my little guy as a teenager but as I snapped this picture, all I could see was Mario at age 16.
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Hence why I agreed to read Dracula to him for a half hour last night at bedtime – I’ve got to get the snuggle time in with him while I am able.
And Ms. Maria is heading right up that path, too. I go to say goodnight to her and find her in her pjs, wet hair combed from a shower, looking up iPhones on her iPad. But just when I was about to leave her room, she noticed me and sang “mom, can you scratch my back and bring me water.” There’s my baby girl.
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