Partyin’ with potato salad

Jon took over the kitchen Sunday morning; there was no stopping the man.  When Mario and I got home from our run, we found him hunched over peeling potatoes into a glass bowl.  He had spices out, jars open, and utensils scattered.  It was quite a breath-taking (and rather attractive) sight.  Patty gave him the recipes to her potato salad and her baked beans, and he would not let anyone else see them or work on them.  Once he decides to cook, everyone else must scatter away from his kitchen space.  After tasting his potato salad, I am happy to give him all the space he needs.  He is a heck of a cook.  That is how he wowed me when we were dating – he’d bring me soup while I studied for the bar.

Maria and Mario and I cleaned rooms and the kitchen, and got ready for Gracie to come over.  Maria loves to babysit that girl but Maria is a tough bird.  Gracie does something bad and Maria says “Grace Ann Wells! You should not do that!”  She is everything I am not!  Discipline, structure….  god help her children.  Grace arrived at 1 pm, and yelled “Aunt Mary!”  She was glued to my hip the rest of the day except when she took a two-hour nap in the middle of the afternoon.  Maria read her The Fly Guy before her nap and when we all left the room, she babbled for fifteen minutes and then fell asleep.  That is a foreign occurrence for Jon and me.  We would have to rock M&M to sleep, rub their backs for 20 minutes, lay with them, you name it.  All of those hurdles before any sleep would occur.  And then, 9 times out of ten, they’d be up within a half an hour anyway.  So Grace is a piece of cake. 

While the gals napped, Mario played Ben Ten games on the computer.  He had his Cheez-Its next to his side as he intently concentrated on his next move.  His concentration allowed me to get the house decorated for Maggie Jean’s party.  Of course, I had felt that we had it all under control the night before but then inevitably, the day of, I find myself scrambling to get everything together.  Maggie, our graduate, arrived to the house at 4 pm after sitting in 90 degree heat for four hours.  Julie and Liz were with her – Liz having sat through graduation on Friday in Cincinnati.  We broke out the celebratory beer and chips and dip, and let the party begin!  Maria was instantly mesmerized with Maggie’s friends Sarah and Annie.  Mario acted silly with Maggie’s dad, Denny.  Gracie stayed on my hip the entire afternoon, which I loved.  Liz kept telling me to put her down but I just couldn’t do it.  She was so happy hanging out with me that I had to soak in the love. 

My aunt Terrie and aunt Ann arrived a little later.  They had not seen the house since we bought it.  They each brought me a house-warming gift from Pottery Barn (high-class aunts, I will say…), and gave accolades galore about the house.  So sweet.  I was so excited that they came up to Columbus because I don’t get to see them often.  Terrie is in Marietta, Georgia with her hubby and three boys and Ann is in Washington DC and Dubai with her job and beau.  When I was little, Terrie and Julie used to invite me over to their apartment on the West side of Cincy for sleep overs and I remember listening to slow sappy 70’s love songs on the radio.  Time with them was a treat – hanging with the older girls.  Ann is only a year and a half older than me (the youngest of eight) and I looked up to her like a big sis.  She was into serious heavy rock when she was in high school and I used to just sit in her room and watch her get dressed to go out as she banged her head to Motley Crue.  And now here we all were standing my kitchen as adults.   Life is strange. 

At one point in the evening, we brought out Dairy Queen cake for Maggie.  We were all joking about what to sing to her, what the cake said, etc. and I all of a sudden felt a rush of gratitude and joy for having the day with my aunts and cousins.  I just wanted to lean over the table and smooch ’em all on the lips but I figured that may not have come off as I would have planned so I just smiled at them all and lit the candle for Maggie to blow out.  After cake, Julie and Terrie helped me figure out the weeds versus plants in the garden.  I have a lot of weeds but weeds look like plants to me; in fact, I think I am prone to liking weeds more than plants and flowers.  They are tough cookies – not dying for anything and growing back even stronger than before.  There is something you have to respect in the weed.  But we pulled ’em out nonetheless.  We would have been out there all night if Jon wouldn ‘t have announced that there is poison ivy in the garden.  That blasted Ter and Jul out of the garden and into the bathroom to wash off.  I would have felt like a total heel if they had gotten poison ivy.  

The aunts left a while later – all three of them heading to Starbucks to get a coffee for the road.  Little do they know how much I think of them and appreciate their generosity in traveling up north to see me.  And Julie constantly opening her house to me and the kids when we are in Cincy.  It is a rare gift to receive.  With their departure, we just had Maggie and her friends left at the house.  Maria and Mario were in heaven – Mario danced to I’m Sexy and I Know It and played ball with the boys, and Maria brushed the boys’ hair so that they could “pick up rich girls.” I am sure they were wondering what they had done to deserve a night at our house. 

Everyone hit the road around 9:30 and the kids hit the sack pretty quickly.  I got to watch my HBO show, Girls, and eat the rest of the DQ ice cream cake.  What a great life.

Dancin’ the Night Away

Maggie came over tonight and we jammed it out to Call Me Baby.  Maggie introduced me to this song a couple of weeks ago and I can’t get it out of my head.  I sing it while heading to meetings and picking up the kids and mowing the lawn.  I just wish I could dance like any of the youngins’ in the video.  Maggie jammed out a move to try to teach me but I looked like I was having a major chest spasm. 

Dancing awayLater in the evening, we found Now 7 and Now 41 CDs in Maria’s room.  This discovery set off a round of dancing sessions with Maria and Mario (and Jon even got a wild hair when Nelly sang).  Maria is thoughtful when she dances because she is busy trying to hear what the words are to the song while she dances.  This causes her to look like she has no rhythm.  And because she has my genes, she is already one step in the hole when it comes to rhythm.  Mario, on the other hand, has some moves in him.  He could care less about the words to the song; he just moves to the beat and lets the words go as they may.  The two of them together are a hysterical live show.  At one point, Maria started jumping up and down and throwing her arms up to put bunny ears behind her own head.  Maggie and I thought we should try her move at the bar next time we went out. 

Mario aka Rico SuaveMario began to move like Rico Suave and gently hold his fingers to my mouth as he stared at me.  Jon commented that he has a career as a Chippendale.   Twenty seconds after he said that, Mario sprang out from behind the chair with his robe and shirt tore off.  Bare-chested with his pj bottoms dancing to “I’m Sexy and I know it.”  What a shame. 

Who created these two!?

From Rocks to Waltzes

One aspect of my upbringing that I most cherish is the fact that my parents gave me such a breadth of experiences and viewpoints.  My dad took inner city kids out on hikes in the Ohio forests, my mom appreciated beautiful artwork and running; my step mom harbored a passion for writing and funky music.  I am committed to providing that same breadth of experience to my kids.  

Maria and Mario debating which rocks can be thrown in the river versus taken home

Our Sunday morning began with a trip to the river to throw rocks and a jaunt to the woods to play amongst the trees and our Monday night ended with a bike ride to the dance studio to watch professional dancers waltz across the newly polished hardwood floor. 

Sunday morning is our donut morning. I pack up the kids in their pj’s and we stroll down to Tim Horton’s.  You know you eat at a place too much when all of the staff members know your name and what you want to eat.  Maria inevitably gets her rainbow sprinkled vanilla donut and Mario chows down on five chocolate timbits.  This Sunday we got a special treat.  There was a half marathon course running right past the Tim Horton’s.  We got to watch men and women run by us as we stuffed our faces with dough and sugar.  Nice. 

I told the kids about how much I relied on cheering by-standers when I ran my races.  That struck a chord in Maria and she started yelling “girls beat the boys” as the runners raced by.  Unfortunately, all of the runners passing by were men.  Mario, of course, had to point this fact out to her with the quip “he was not a girl, Maria, he was a boy.”  However, within two minutes of Mario’s statement, we saw a woman pass by and Maria chimed in again “Girls beat the boys!”  Mario got her back by shoving her and Maria got him back by kicking him.  Lovely.  Luckily, their attentions got diverted by a stray cat walking outside in the parking lot.  

After the donut shop, we drug our tired selves out to the stroller (watching those runners whooped us up (or maybe it was the massive sugar infiltration!))  and headed down the street to a bike path that led to the river.  

Maria being the good sport and watching Mario's 25th toss in the river

The little bank we stopped at is perfect for the kids.  Maria can pick up rocks to take home to our garden and Mario can throw a zillion rocks in the river.  I had yet another moment at the river where I thanked the stars above for giving me Maria first.  She is so good with her brother.  Mario must have said twenty times “Maria, look at this throw.”  Now most people would ignore Mario after two or three throws but Maria stops what she is doing, watches him, and exclaims “Cool Mario!” And even when she has no desire to watch him after the twentieth time, she will still throw a glance at him right when she needs to so Mario thinks that she is watching.  What a trooper. 

Maria deep in her massage (notice eyes closed and all!)

After collecting a handful of rocks, we left to head home.  On the way back, the kids decided they wanted to visit the trolls in the forest.  There is a little woods about a mile from our house (close to a home we thought of purchasing a few months ago and didn’t – slight regret) that is perfect for the kids.  They can run around in it and not get lost.  We can make up stories of trolls and fairies.  We can play hide and seek.  We can balance across fallen logs.  We can look for worms.  Mario collected acorns for the trip home and Maria asked about the trolls and where they sleep at night. Mario is a little more hesitant!

After all of that rock throwing and hiking, we needed a good massage.  Luckily, there was a masseuse on the streets of Grandview giving a “mini massage” to try to get business that day so Maria convinced me to take a load off and hit the masseuse up for a shoulder massage.  After I finished, Maria stood up out of the stroller and quipped “I am next!”  Of course, Mario could not resist if his sis got one.  So, there we are, the family massage on Grandview Avenue. 

When we got home, Jon had a surprise for me.  He was taking the kids to his cousin’s house for a fishing escapade so I could work and relax.  Ahh, the most wonderful gift I could ever receive on a Sunday afternoon.When I told Maria I was going to take her picture, she jumped off her bike and got in this pose!

Smiling Mario on his bike

On Monday night, the kids jumped on their bikes to ride up the street.  Mario is intrepid but when it comes to crossing the street, he becomes hesitant and cautious.  He stops ten feet back from the street, looks both ways, and then looks at me and says “I’m worried about cars, mommy.”  There could be a car five blocks down the street, and he will wait for it to pass before riding.  Maria gets exasperated with him. 

Hot times on Grandview Avenue

We finally made it to the top of the street and decided to go in the dance studio.  They sat on the couch and became mesmerized with an instructor and his student.  The two of them were doing a waltz around the studio.  The kids were in awe.  They got up every few minutes to try out a move they witnessed and then sat back down and continued watching.  We probably could have stayed until midnight – they just loved it.  When we left, I was fumbling around looking for my money, and when I looked up, the pose to the left is what I saw.  Maria reminds me of a female James Dean with her suave leaning pose.  Oh, how they make me smile!

Shout out to Michael

I watched snippets of “This Is It” – the documentary of Michael Jackson’s preparation for the “This Is It” tour.  Can I just say that I have always been a Jackson fan since “Off The Wall” and “Thriller” entered my home as a young girl.  But this documentary shed new light on Michael Jackson confirming to me how amazing and complex and thoughtful he was in his performances.   The man can sing his out and dance his a–off!  Oh, what I would give to have 1/1000th of his talent in the dance arena.  I am hitting the hip-hop lessons next week – who is in with me??!

Mexico

Oaxaca

An entire month before my travel to Oaxaca, I lamented about my upcoming trip with colleagues, friends and family. 

“The flights are so awful.” “I am going to miss the kids.” “Mario is having his big cookout for the 4th.” “I just want to rest on my three days off.”

The day crept up on me and I found myself dragging my body out of bed at 4:45 am to get ready for a 5 am pick-up.  Kissed the babies good-bye and hugged my hubby and off I went to the airport.  A coffee and oatmeal.  A Sky Mall magazine. A few words with my younger brother. A subway sandwich. Peanut M&Ms. A cranked neck.  We were there.

Oaxaca.

Plaza down from the hotel where kids play soccer

My younger sis, Sarah, has lived in Oaxaca for close to three years. She met the love of her life while going to school in the city.  He is a native to Oaxaca – his family lives in the hills abridging the city. We met him about two years ago.   He survived the family orientation. He posseses a calm demeanor, which is perfect for my energetic sis. He is a photographer – she is a writer.  They both love adventure and coffee and dancing.  They decided to “go on this journey together” and marry.  That is the reason for my departure to Oaxaca.

Sarah picked us up in a flat bed truck owned by a Mexican friend of hers.  We drove in the flat bed with the luggage back to Sarah’s apartment and our hotel.  The hotel was quaint and adorable. My room consisted of a bed, a desk, and a bathroom.  There was a courtyard on the first level and a terrace on the second level.  The courtyard had a small fountain with two snapping turtles floating in it. 

My turtles

We went to restaurants, we drank, we laughed, we reminisced.  It was wonderful.  The weather was perfect. No

The crew partying it up at a local restaurant

 humidity. Perfect blue skies. Puffy white clouds.  Large twisting trees. Incredibly difficult hiking trails. Crosses. It did not feel foreign to me – it felt like my little sister’s home.  Her wedding is able to be summed up with two rather opposing adjectives – quaint and spectacular. 

The sister and brother of her husband, Jorge, hosted the wedding in their backyard.

Getting ready for the ceremony

  Jorge’s nieces were the flower girls.  A mariachi band played. They wrote their story as the ceremony and they recited their own vows.  We danced with a live turkey. We drank Mezcal.  We jammed to old ’80s music. And at the end of the night, Sarah looked just as radiant and beautiful as she had the moment before the wedding.  

Dancing the night away

As I stood next to her and looked over at my little brother Jack who is six years younger than Sarah, flashes of their childhood came back to me with a vengeance and it seemed surreal that I was now standing in a Mexican yard watching one of them marry and the other graduate college soon.  There are moments where I feel like life is moving like molasses and the day will never end, especially when Maria and Mario are ont heir worst behavior.  But I see my little sis and bro and I see my babies at age 5 and almost 3, and I know that it in the end, it all goes lightening speed.  As it should, I suppose. Who would want to remain in high school forever?!

Dancing with the turkey

On Sunday, Jorge’s mother hosted a blessing ceremony at the same house.  She cried as she caressed Sarah’s hair and explained to us in Spanish how important it was for her to give a Catholic blessing to the new couple.  Her emotion moved us all.  The Bible verse read was raw and appropriate – one I had never heard before.  She etched the sign of the cross in the air to both Sarah and Jorge and hugged them hard.  It was one of the most tender moments.  We continued to drink Mexcal and beer and eat home-cooked food and soak in the Mexican atmosphere.  We ended the night with a round of pizzas and a game of cards.  Does life get any better?   

Meanwhile, Maria Grace celebrated at her Aunt Susie’s house with all of her aunts and her Grandma Lolo.  They toasted one to us around 6:30 pm (5:30 Mexico time when the wedding

Maria partying with her aunts

 began).  They laughed and partied and swam all night – Maria Grace had a blast with Grandma Lolo who treated her like a princess for three days straight.  She came home with toys and dresses, and coloring books and lots of fun memories. 

Proud fisherman

Mario celebrated with a night at Grandma Ionno’s house and then a trip to Uncle Mario’s house where he caught his first fish.  A catfish he would have you know.  And it was really big he would have you know.  A man’s man.