Maria nailed Tinkerbell. It was as if Tink swept into Maria’s body one evening as Maria slept. Maria fully brought out Tink’s feistiness and orneriness. She was magnificent.

When she learned of the play in December of last year, she wanted to be Peter Pan or Wendy so badly. Those were the two roles that she knew would be able to fly during production. She asked me to call one of the directors from the December play and see if she would coach her. She agreed to meet with her on two different occasions before auditions at the end of January. She prepared Ri on how to present herself at the audition, how to memorize her lines, and how to give life to them. Thank god she did because it gave Ri the confidence needed to rock her audition. She auditioned knowing that she would not get the roles of Peter Pan or Wendy. They had announced that you had to be under 100 pounds for those roles. My muscular girl would not make the cut.

We got a call back the night she had a sleepover with a few friends. I was going to wait to tell her about getting the Tinkerbell role until after her friends left the next morning. At about midnight, she came running into our bedroom asking if I had heard what role she had gotten. Two of her girlfriends spending the night had received calls from their parents telling them what roles they had gotten. So, I was forced to tell her. She was so psyched.

I did not go to any of her rehearsals. She did not want me at any of them. This, from the girl who was too nervous to audition two years ago and stood by my side until her brother auditioned and brought up the nerve in her to go for it (at that time, they simply had to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat). She likes that the rehearsals and shows are her time to shine. She does not want to be overshadowed or have the disruption of chatty parents (me) or little brothers. She definitely held her own with all of those actors and actresses. The few times I did go backstage to pick her up, she was jabbering away with her fellow cast members who I had never met. She loves that. She is completely comfortable making new friends. And they all love her. Who doesn’t though? Everyone Jon and I meet talk about how down-to-earth and kind Maria is to everyone she meets.

She worked her butt off the week of the play going downtown at 5 PM every night and not returning home until 10:30 or later. She was excited on opening night. Patty, Meg, I and Alana came to watch her. Her voice was a little raspy but she hung in there. She got home that evening and her ankle was bruised and swollen from jumping off the bed in these little flat shoes she had to wear. She drank 3 cups of hot tea to help soothe her throat.

She had her last soccer game on Saturday afternoon. I thought she may want to skip it, which I was against, but instead, she was all in. She is dedicated to her team. We all went to Easton to watch her and when we got home, Sarah and Elena arrived. She played with Elena until her ride picked her up to go to the show. Sarah, Elena, Jon, and my dad went to see her Saturday show. I stayed behind, much to my dislike, with Mario, who felt sick. He had a fever and we figured it was strep throat due to a couple of his buddies who had it the week before. He was bummed out, too, because he had wanted to see Maria in the play. Jon reported that she did fabulous. She spent the night with her three girlfriends who were in the show with her. I went over to the girlfriend’s house to hang out with some moms until midnight. The girls were still up when I left. I was a little worried about how she would feel for Sunday show but she deserved to have a little fun after a week of craziness.

She arrived home on Sunday morning at 8 AM. She had gotten up at her friend’s house and asked the dad to drive her back home so she could be with Elena. Ri roller skated and Elena biked up to Stauf’s for breakfast. Then we hit the park. We did not arrive home until 11 AM. My mom had arrived at that time. We went to the basement for a dance party while my mom gave Sarah a massage. An hour later, Maria had to leave us again to head to her last show. My mom and I arrived 30 minutes early and the line was already out the door. They had sold out of tickets. Luckily, I was able to get my mom a seat. Elena and I played at the park across the street. We met up with my mom at intermission and we were lucky to have somebody leave and give us their seat. I was so happy to see the second half of the play. Maria got a rousing round of applause at the end of the show with some people even standing up. The cutest thing was when we were getting pictures with my mom and a little girl came up to her to ask if she could get her picture with Tinkerbell.

Absolutely adorable.

And Maria was as sweet as sugar giving her a hug and turning around for the camera to pose for a picture. She’s a natural.

7th grade dance

Maria mentioned going shopping for a dress for her seventh grade dance about a month and a half before the dance. Our weekends have been replete with Mario’s basketball games and Maria’s soccer games. We finally found a Sunday to shop. We decided to hit IKEA first to buy a couch we’d been wanting for six months, and then head over to the mall. But Ikea drained the entire family and none of us wanted to go to the mall, including Maria. She was willing to find a dress on the Internet rather than brave a shopping center (our type of girl). She perused the Internet off and on and reported nothing back to me. At some point, I realized we only had another week or so before her dance.

“I’m not spending $45 on shipping fees, Maria. So you need to find a dress in order for it to get here on time.” Sigh.

She found two black dresses off two different websites that I had never heard of before. She sent the sites to me and at 10 PM one evening, I got on the sites. They were ones that infiltrated you with 20 different advertisements while you were trying to check out of the site. They also wanted me to add my email address and personal information several times over. I was getting a bit concerned with the validity of the sites. But, I did not want my girl to stress out about a dress so I continued plugging away. After I completed the sales on both sites, I received email confirmations. The confirmation for the dress that Maria really wanted informed me that although they shipped within two days they may not have the dress for another couple of weeks. Are you kidding?! They did not tell me that information as I checked out, of course. The other confirmation email confirmed that it would arrive “soon.” Seriously? I spent the next hour trying to cancel my orders but had no luck. Frustrated, I searched for the dresses on Amazon. Why did I not look at that before I made the order? Amazon had the exact same dresses and I could get them in two days. I ordered them at midnight. What we do for these kids of ours.

Amazon came through, and we received the dresses two days after I ordered them. Maria loved one of them. She made a video for me trying both of them on and sent it to me while I was at work. It made my day. The dress she liked was classy. Black, off the shoulders, knee-length. Thank goodness. Jon and I are relieved not to have to worry about short, tight skirts and dresses at this period of time.

Two days before the dance, Maria, Mario, and I drove to Target to try to find black shoes. No luck. We tried two other places with no luck. We ended up back at Target. Maria pleaded for some stilettos but compromised with me on a pair of chunky heels. I bought her a little silver chain with a silver ball in the middle; I told her the ball represented the ball of energy she carried everywhere she went.

The day of the dance, Ri got her hair done at a salon. I had said no way to the request but Jon caved. He knew my horrible hair styling skills and felt bad for Maria. After her styling session, three of her girlfriends came over to eat pizza and get ready.

Maria allowed me to do her nail polish. Wrong move. I couldn’t even get that right. We had to have a girlfriend of mine reapply. She did cave in after the nail polish debacle and allow me to try her make-up. I succeeded on that front because she only wanted minimal application. I could handle that.

Next thing we knew, the girls went from Saturday morning chill wear to glamour red-carpet wear! Were these our baby girls?!

They we’re so excited to go to the dance. However, they wanted to keep their cool so they asked me to drive them around so that they would be dropped off at 6:38 instead of 6:30 when it started. Hilarious. Sure enough, there was a group of boys sitting at the picnic table when we drove by doing one of our loops. They were thinking the same thing.

I got a call at the end of the dance informing me that the girls would walk home. When they arrived, much to Maria’s dismay, her girlfriends told me that she danced with a boy. The boy being the boy that she has been friends with since she was in third grade. His nickname is Cookie and he is the sweetest boy in her class. They had video of the two of them dancing to the last song of the night. Again, hilarious. I liked that they were arms distance apart….

The night did not end for them, however. I had agreed that I would take them to a 10 PM movie. I dropped them off in their PJs. They said the movie was awful but they had a blast drinking their Icees and eating their cookie dough treats.

Give that Job to the mom

If you want to get multiple tasks done quickly and effectively, call a mom. Without a doubt, she will be able to crank out the job better than anyone. 

My Christmas Eve night this week:

Arrived home at 7:30 PM from Cincy.

Unloaded the entire car full of boxes and gifts.

Dragged a mini refrigerator and a huge cozy seat up the stairs and into the kids’ rooms. 

Assisted the kids with unpacking the mini fridge and getting it set up in Mario’s room. 

Assisted the kids in unpacking Maria’s cozy chair and setting it up in her room. 

Cleaned Mario‘s room under his bunkbed and near his closet so that Maria would have a space to sleep. 

Took four loads of clothes and other random items up to the attic. 

Gathered winter clothes from the attic and brought them back downstairs. 

Cleaned the clothes off of Maria‘s floor. 

Hung up my clothes from Cincinnati. 

Cleaned the top of the kitchen counter. 

Fed Rocco. 

Took Rocco on a two-mile walk. 

Helped the kids make sugar cookies. 

Unpacked all of the gifts from Cincinnati and put them in their respective rooms. 

Wrote two letters to family members to put on their gifts. 

Wrapped the remainder of the gifts – seven in total. 

Drove to Walgreens to pick up some last minute items. 

Drove to CVS to pick up other last minute items not found at Walgreens. 

Drove to the liquor store to get a 40 ounce (just kidding – I wish). 

Went to bed at 11:15 pm. 

Seriously, all a mom should have to do is put “MOM” on the top of her resume and the job is hers. In the matter of minutes, we can wrap a gift, cook dinner, solve a math problem and clean up spilled milk. We can also answer any question posed such as “how do you start the dishwasher” or “how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.” 

Put us in a board meeting and we would run the roost. Give us a managerial position, and we’d bring up the profits. Bottom line: shit would get done – and done well. 

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.”


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.


Mighty girl

I saw this “footprint” taped to the wall outside of Maria’s classroom. If my body mimicked my heart, I would have done backflips down the hallway. 

I have read hundreds of articles since Ri was born trying to learn how to best empower my daughter as she grew into a young girl, a teen, a woman. 

Ask her questions about her day.”

“Don’t focus on her looks or her weight.”

“Listen to her.”

“Get her involved in sports.”

“Make sure she sees hard work pays off.”

And scores of other pieces of advice for the inquisitive mama. Inevitably, I went through periods of doubt about whether I was doing  “it” right. Does Ri feel self-confident? Does she believe she is smart? Is she worried about how she looks?

So when I saw this footprint on the wall, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I love that she just started soccer last year (and dreaded the thought of playing prior to that) but includes a soccer ball to describe herself. And the adjectives she used to describe herself are even better:




Hard Working


I couldn’t agree more with her choices. And I love that I didn’t see “cute” or “nice” or “polite.” Not that those aren’t fine qualities but I’d much rather have her see herself as fearless than as polite. Politeness has its attributes when you hold the door for the elderly person struggling to enter the room. I would hope Ri would do that without thinking about it. But fearless has its attributes when she rock climbs, runs for school council, and stands up for herself and others. 

Here’s to Ri’s footprint expanding with even more amazing adjectives describing herself. And here’s to us considering our own footprints and how we see ourselves.

Time to run

I signed Ri and I up for a 5K run/walk in support of research to cure Batten Disease. One of Ri’s friends has a twin brother and sister who are both battling the disease. The twins attended nearly all of the girls’ soccer games this Fall so a bunch of parents and girls signed up in support of the family. 

Ri was not excited about the event at all. I told her about a week in advance and nearly every night, she’d confirm “we don’t have to run the entire race, do we?” She still has PTSD from the Girls on the Run 5K where she nearly keeled over in exhaustion from running so long and hard. She is just not into running for running’s sake. And I’ve accepted it … for the most part….  

But as much as Ri dislikes running, she adores helping people. And I knew she’d go along with me to the race without a huge cry because she knew we were helping out her friend’s sister and brother. She has a monstrous heart. 

We arrived to lots of other girlfriends playing at Audubon Park and moms and dads registering for the race. Ri ran over to talk to her girlfriends while I signed us up. It was uplifting to see so many Grandview moms and dads with their kids coming out to support the cause. I can’t remember who the guest was on Krista Tippett’s show “On Being” but the guest opined that we all want to feel connected. That gives us purpose and joy. I thought of that guest’s words as I stood with my group of girlfriends and stretched my not-quite-awake-yet legs and watched Ri laugh with her friends. Others smiled at me as they walked to the start of the race. I saw Ri help a little boy off the bars. Connection. 

They had the siblings of the children inflicted with Batten Disease countdown for the start of the race. We stood together waiting to take off. And 3-2-1…we were off. Ri and a few girlfriends ran in front of me talking and smiling together. I was excited to see the girls running and laughing and I yelled “You got this girls!” Within a few seconds of my shout, I witnessed Ri stumble and fall to the gravel path. Blood, cuts, tears. 

I moved her over to the grass and sat down with her. She had a scraped knee and torn-up arm. Blood slowly oozed out. I could tell she was both shocked at the quick fall and stinging from the gravel cuts. I held her head into my chest. Slowly, I got her back up and told her we should walk it off and see how we felt after a bit. She was hesitant at first asking if she’d have to run. I told her we could walk the entire way and turn back if she hurt too much. 

We walked up to the bike path. She looked over at me and then at her friend, Evelyn. 

“Let’s try to run to the telephone pole ahead and then we will stop and walk a bit.” Evelyn agreed. And so we ran to the pole. Then walked. We caught up with other friends and walked with them. And ran. And before we knew it, we were at the finish line and all the girls formed a circle to talk. Some ran hard, others jogged with parents, others ran and walked and others simply walked and talked. No judgment, no pressure. 

I was so proud of Ri for plugging away to finish the race. I knew she was uncomfortable and the cuts stung. But she forced her mind to think of something else – friends, curing the disease, finding water, getting Mark Pi sesame chicken for lunch….whatever. She is one amazingly tough mama chica.

After the race, you could buy raffle tickets for the numerous gift baskets on the tables. I let Ri buy $5 worth of tickets. She gave me one ticket and she took four. She put them all in one canister for a wildlife basket. It had a bear hat, stuffed animal, zoo passes and gift cards to a pizzeria in it. All she wanted was the bear hat. 

We left before they drew names of the winners. They never called the rest of the day so Ri and I figured someone else won. On Monday, however, I received a call from one of the sponsors that Maria had won the wildlife basket. It was as though I’d been told we won 1 million dollars. I couldn’t wait to tell her that she had won. And for a few minutes after that call, I basked in the glory of that daughter of mine – her strength, her courage, her positivity, and her luck!


Put it in perspective 

So I think I’ve written previously about how I believe Ri was my mom in a past life. Actually, I’m not a believer or non-believer in reincarnation – who knows what’s in store for us at the end of this crazy life. But I remember reading Shirley MacLaine’s book and her writing that she believed her daughter was her mother in a past life (at least I think that’s what she said after all these years). That passage stuck with me when I read it and it feels relevant on so many occasions with Ri. I sometimes wonder if I’m teaching her half of what she is teaching me.

She had picture day this morning. She was up all night coughing and hacking with the ugly virus that the rest of us have had this month. When she woke up, her nose was Rudolph red and her eyes were swollen. Nonetheless, she got dressed and turned on her flat iron for me to straighten her hair. She never complained about how she looked or felt. To the contrary, after she found an outfit to wear, she smiled and commented “I really like this on me.”

As I did her hair and brushed some powder on her face to try to tone down the redness, I told her I was sorry she felt bad. She shrugged her shoulders and looked in the mirror. She gave me the smile she’d give for pictures. Beautiful. Then she blew her nose hard into the tissue laying on the sink and went down for breakfast.

Lesson taught: put it in perspective. It’s just class pictures. She’s healthy, got a cute outfit, biking to school rather than walking, and gets Cocoa Krispies for breakfast. Others may be freaking out (I think back to me at that age and I’m quite sure a meltdown may have occurred) but she goes with the flow. 

And as work explodes through the day, I will think of her and put it in perspective. I’ve got a good lunch waiting for me, I got to bike to work, I got a shower this morning, and I have two incredible kids who keep me aware of what matters.