Sledding!

Sledding promotes good health. You get it all – you work out your heart by climbing up the hill, you work out your mind by trying to figure out where best to place your sled, and you work out your abs by laughing your butt off as you fly down the hill on your sled.

However, as much fun as it ends up being, it is a pain in the butt to get ready to sled. You have to throw on three layers of clothes (when it’s 5 degrees like it was for us), you can barely move around, and it’s impossible to pull on your boots without being able to bend at your waist. Then, there is pulling the sled out of the garage and hauling it to the car in the freezing cold. But the pay-off is huge.

Look at the smiles.



We haven’t gotten good sled riding in for a few years. We hardly got any snow last year, and the year before that the little bit of snow that we got came when both kids were out of town. I was scared half to death the first time we went down. I sat on a tiny circular plastic sled with Maria who is not shy about taking up almost all the space on it. My butt was barely in it when we took off. I just kept praying that we would not hit any rocks or ramps because I knew that my tailbone would hurt for days. The things you think about when you’re an adult. I would’ve been looking for that ramp when I was 10 years old.

We laughed so hard together as each one of us took some crazy fall or turn on the hill. I love all of us being together like that – being outdoors, being active, it’s my ideal day. And the one good thing about it being freezing cold all weekend was that the snow did not melt from the hill. Therefore, we were able to go sledding with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack through the weekend.

Elena had no fear going down the hill as long as somebody went with her. Sarah went on a little sled with Maria. She screamed as loud as I did when I went down with her.


Sarah and I even took a sledding trip together – both on a tiny little plastic sled. Thank God Sarah has no booty. Jack was a good sport as well. He went down with Maria a couple of times and watched each time the kids yelled “Uncle Jack, watch me!” They also had to impress their Uncle Jack by going down the abandoned hill that has all of the trees interspersed on either side. It scared me half to death but, live and learn, right!?


After sledding, I got cocky that we could build a snowman as well. The snow did not pack well at all for such a task but the kids still humored me and came outside. They shook their heads as I tried to pack down the airy snow. But they saw my strong desire, and decided they would help as much as they could. In the end it looked more like a snowman jabba the hut but it was something. How boring is a normal snowman anyway?

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. 

Ping pong 

Seriously? I have been running around all evening buying last-minute gifts, stocking up on cinnamon rolls and bacon for Christmas breakfast, returning clothes that didn’t fit and buying ones that hopefully will…. After two trips from the car to the house with arms-full of groceries, Mario comes from around the corner to beg me to sword fight with him using card board tubes from the wrapping paper. 

“Dude, you have to give me a second. I just brought all these groceries in and have to put them away and I still have to wrap things.”

“Just a minute, mom. Come on.”

I put down the pie crust and go in the family room to fight. We dance around the room until he jabs me in the chest. My tube breaks in half.

“It’s ok, mom. You can use two halves and I will just cut mine and use one.”

We play again and then I tell him I have to put groceries away. He asks if we can play again after I put them away.  I keep reiterating the mantra “he will not want to play like this one day, take it in…” but the competing mantra is yelling “you have 7 presents to wrap and cookies to make – get on it!”

We play again, several times. It’s 11:30 pm and I can’t function any longer. I decide to wrap in the morning. I turn off the lights in the other rooms and hear Mario ask “where’s my Mountain Dew?” I answer that it fell over in the fridge and so I tossed it. Mario proceeds to throw his arms up and dart back and forth in anger. “Seriously, mom, that was from St. Nick. I had been waiting to drink it!” (And yes, sadly, St. Nick brings out family soda). 

I tell him he doesn’t need Mountain Dew at 11:30 anyway. He stomps past me and upstairs. I stand there looking down the hall where he had just been begging me to play with him. How does that work? How can I put aside everything to be with him and then he is able to get so angry at me to just end the night by brushing by me? Ugh, so irritating. 

And then I have to be the bigger person and forgive him when he says sorry while laying with Jon (who undoubtedly told him to say it). I just want to say “whatever” like a sullen teenager. But I acknowledge him and jump in bed beside him tickling his sides. When I stop, he begs for more. All is good again. It’s like a ping-pong game when they are at this age. Here’s to more pings than pongs. 

Good riddance December 

This girl is a total freak. She had been looking forward to getting her tonsils out for the last three months. Jon took her to the ENT in September to get her nose looked at after she broke it, and during that consultation the doctor told her that she could get her tonsils and adenoids out. She had been wanting to hear that advice for years. Our primary care physician had referred us to an ENT when she was much younger and that ENT had told us that surgery wasn’t necessary. He told us that we should keep an eye out for any increase in strep throat infections, and any issues with her being able to sleep at night. Well, she hasn’t got a heck of a lot more strep throat infections, but she does not sleep well at all.  She wrestles around through the night and snores quite a bit. So, when she and Jon went to the ENT for her nose, she brought up her desire for the surgery. Jon does not have the concerns around surgery like I do so he went right along with it. They returned home waltzing through the door with a brochure about the surgery and a date for it – November 27. The date was a couple of months away so I did not think anything more about it. I figured we would all forget about it and there would be no surgery. But as November rolled in, she got more more excited about the surgery. She brought home a piece of paper from school that I needed to sign setting forth the days she would be absent. This is when it really hit me. Were we really going to go through with this? I am not a fan of drugs, surgeries, anything invasive to the body so I was very hesitant to agree it should move forward. However, after tons of google research and numerous talks with several of my go-to family members, it seemed fairly harmless to do now and much more problematic if we waited until later in her life. The ENT had told her that she would likely need a week off of school. Jon and I both translated that to mean Maria would be off at the most one week but would prv ably only be off two or three days. Maria is a machine when it comes to healing quickly. 

As the 27th approached, I had more and more hesitancy of going through with the surgery. I just did not like the thought of Maria going under. And I worried that nothing good would come of it. Was she really sleeping that poorly? Were taking out her tonsils and adenoids really help? But, in the end, I deferred to her wishes. And in the end, she was right. But in the beginning and in the middle, Jon and and I were regretting our decision.


Maria post – operation. 

She actually came out of the procedure in  a jolly, irreverent mood. She did not seem that drugged up but in retrospect, Jon and I could see she was pretty loopy. She would take a while to answer a question to where it seemed she was trying to think of a funny answer but then she’d say something out of the blue. Before the operation, she asked me to make videos of her. So, I took out my phone and began the video. She had some gems for us. Jon and I looked at each other after a few minutes and both thought “this is our girl, goofy as always and taking the surgery like a machine as always. She will probably be up and ready to go tomorrow.” 

She switched off belting out tunes on the way home and sleeping. A good little patient. We got her home and she laid in bed watching TV and sucking on Popsicles. She didn’t make any ruckus; she didn’t call on Jon and I hardly at all. This is going to be a piece of cake, we thought. She slept well that evening, too. Machine! The next day, she felt a little sick to her stomach but was still in good spirits. She didn’t want to eat much so she continued with the Popsicles and abided by Our charge to take sips of water every hour. I even went to work for the afternoon and left Jon with her. He reported that she didn’t need much – an occasional new glass of water or a popsicle – but most of the time she was fine watching her TV and working on some homework. I thought she may even be able to go to school on Wednesday! 

She woke up on Wednesday feeling about the same as Tuesday. She definitely was not heading to school but at least she was still not in excruciating pain and dehydrated, like I feared may happen based on my google research. We told her that she should continue to rest. I set up some books and homework for her and headed off to work again. I called in to see how she was doing and she reported that all was fine. I came home from work that evening and she looked pretty good. Her lips were a little parched so I told her to drink more water but other than that, we continue to have a great patient. I still held out hope that she may be able to get to school by the end of the week

Then all hell broke loose. It just took us thinking that all was good in order for all to turn. She could not sleep on Wednesday night. She was up several times complaining about her throat and her ears.  I gave her medicine and rubbed her back. It sucks that the only magic for those times is to hold them and tell them that it will get better. It breaks your heart. She woke up on Thursday morning still feeling awful. And so it began…. five straight days and nights of her being absolutely miserable. Her ears killed her. I called the nurse and they told me to continue her on routine heavy pain medication with Motrin (we had slowed the heavy duty meds because I did not want her to get addicted – yes, I’m the freak). We did that for 24 hours but then she got constipated from the heavy pain medication. Her stomach absolutely killed her. I had a speech to give on Saturday morning at 9am. I was up with her all night on Friday. At 6:30 am, she laid on the bathroom floor moaning. I phoned the on-call doctor and he advised to give her laxatives.  I jumped in the car and went to CVS to get some. I arrived home to Maria still laying on the floor. Poor girl. I gave her a laxative and headed off to my speech. Patty stayed home with her because she was still recovering from her neck operation on Tuesday. She had been in the hospital until Thursday afternoon and then came to stay with us. Lordy Lordy. When I got home from my speech, I found the two of them on the couch. They both looked miserable. I got them some soup and tidied up the house as much as I could. Maria finally got a poop out and I felt the same type of relief I felt when she was a baby and was constipated. It never ends, does it? 


We were supposed to head to the farm to bake cookies on Saturday, which obviously was not happening . We were hoping for Sunday but the way Saturday was going, I knew that would not happen, either. I told Maria that she and I could bake cookies at the house on Sunday. But alas, she continued to feel awful and not be able to do anything. By this time, I was getting a little pissed off. Not at her, by any means, but at the ENT who told us that she should be feeling better by this time. I kept looking at the scabs in the back of her throat and wondering if they were coming off. The nurse had told us when they start to fall off, Maria could feel more pain. But they didn’t look like they were coming off so why was she in such pain? And if she was in this much pain now, what would she be in when the scabs started coming off? Why the hell did we agree to this operation? Would I ever sleep again? Would my baby girl ever sleep again? I was losing it….

The eighth day post surgery came and went. Maria had some classmates come over to see how she was doing. They had expected that she would be back the following week. Jon and I were exhausted and distressed – would this ever get better for her? I called the nurse again and she told me the same thing she had told me the week before – some kids take longer to heal than others. Really? My girl has always healed crazy fast so what is up with this operation?  I sat with Maria on Monday night and could tell she was over it. The first week has been rather fun with her just being able to watch TV and do what she wanted but she was now antsy to get back to school. She is one who loves being at school and so this long of a break was killing her. I made some wishes to the skies above that she would start to turn it around. I must have been doing something right because on Tuesday she woke up feeling a bit better. She was able to walk around and able to eat some macaroni and cheese and soup. On Wednesday, she was feeling even better. She wanted some more substantial foods in her body and was drinking hot tea like it was out of style. As we watched our tenth Modern Family, she told me she wanted to try to head back to school on Thursday. I was hesitant but also thought it may be good for her to go for a few hours just to get up and about. I was so happy to see that she at least had the desire. School started late on Thursday morning, which was helpful. She woke up Thursday morning around 8 am and was bright-eyed and bushy tailed, and ready to go. 

“I want to try it, mom!”

I was not about to say no. After all, she is my daughter and whenever I feel sick, if I can just get up and work out, it actually makes me feel better. She survived her first day back to school and loved it. She was tired when she came home but was so glad that she could spend the day with teachers and friends.


I, on the other hand, was laid out. Waking up nearly every two hours with Ri every evening had killed me. I had a nasty headache, runny nose and cough. Nonetheless, just like I thought with Ri, I figured I’d be out for a day or two and back to life. Yet, here I am nearly two weeks later, still trying to recover. I was out of work for two days, laid in bed the entire weekend, and then went back to work on Monday still sniffling and feeling miserable. 

Needless to say, December could have just been obliterated and I would have been perfectly fine with it. Over three weeks post-surgery, Ri is back to her same goofy, crazy, irreverent self. And that makes me so happy. She’s also sleeping like a log, which is wonderful.

Here’s to a healthy holiday and restful 2018.

Dis expectations and embrace appreciation

I listened to just the right podcast this weekend. I was sitting at the skate park watching Mario and his friend do tricks on their scooters. Meanwhile, there were some serious skate dudes performing incredible flips and tricks. Mario and his friend looked precious as they scootered down a small ramp and looked over at me excited about their feat.

After watching them scores of times, my mind started to drift to Thanksgiving day. We are hosting Jon‘s family this year, which takes the burden off a bit because there are not as many people for dinner. In addition, they tend to be a rather quiet crew so I do not need to worry about anything getting broken, fights ensuing, or hurt feelings at the end of the night. But I do want to have a lively, entertaining day with them; so, I started thinking of ways that we could create such an atmosphere. 

I heard about an app that allows you to record people‘s stories, and thought that we could use it to record stories of Jon’s mom and his brothers. Maria could craft five questions for each of them and post them during Thanksgiving meal. I then played my sweet husband’s reaction when I told him that that was our plan.

“Mar, you have got to be kidding. People Just want to eat dinner and relax with one another. You don’t always have to have activities happening all the time.”

So my mind moved on to something that was not so intrusive. Maybe we would have paper and pencil laid out so people could write gratitude notes to one another. We did something similar with my side of the family a few years back, and it was a lot of fun. At least for me. On further thought, I realized that only one of Jon’s family members – his mom – would really enjoy writing such notes. Scratch that idea, also.

I tend to do this to myself. Exaggerate how awesome the day is going to be and all of the things that I hope to get out of it – be it gratitude notes, interviews with family where they detail a magnificent hidden secret that we would have never known about but for the interview, incessant laughter while playing an awesome board game. Then the day comes and goes, and I am disappointed. I am disappointed because people didn’t laugh as much as I thought they would, I didn’t get to interview anybody, no one expressed gratitude to one another…..

The perfectionist mind comes into play again. But not this year, baby. 

I have set no expectations. 

None. 

Rather, I have focused on appreciation. I learned that from one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Podcasts. Yes, I never thought that I would be an Oprah podcast listener but she has some good ones on there. And you can’t help but love how she finds such joy in wanting to better understand humanity, meaning, and spirituality on a deeper level. Her guest talked about how a death knell is having expectations of anything. He said that expectations will automatically destroy you. Rather, he recommends fostering appreciation; appreciation takes it off you and puts it on others. You change your mindset from wanting to giving. I no longer want things to happen the way I expect; rather, I give appreciation to those around me and for all that I have in my life. 

And guess what? It worked! I even caught myself at the dinner table starting down that path of expectations. I hoped someone would bring up a topic that would burst into a magnificent conversation. As soon as my mind started going down that path, I took a deep breath and shoved in a pile of potatoes. I looked around the table at my hubby, who had drank a few wines and was making me laugh all day long; my kids, who were on their phones making videos of one another; and my family, who are all very different from one another but who love each other and feel comfortable enough together to simply sit at the dining room table and eat.


Learning Division and Patience

I taught Mario long division. I felt like a superhero at the end of the evening. 

In the beginning, there was an in ordinate amount of stomping and crying and yelling and affirming “I am man-trash at division!” (Yes, that is Mario’s new phrase for everything bad). I remained calm, taking deep breaths as he slammed the table with his pencil, and rose up to bang his head against the wall. I allowed him to let off steam and then gently brought him back to the table to try another problem. He would get the first number but then have trouble with what to do next. He would stare at the problem, dig the lead of the pencil into the paper, and then begin his tirade routine all over. I, in turn, was able to continue my routine of taking breaths, letting him vent, and then re-setting him. I explained to him that skills do not always come immediately – there are certain skills that need continued work to master. This is sometimes lost on him and Ri. Although he stared at me in disgust, my communication was having an affect because he continued to work on the division problems with me. Thirty minutes after we began this work, I gave him 5÷125. He asked me to not give him any hints. I stood up from the table and moved to the stove to stir the chicken in the skillet.

“ Mom, I finished. Can you come and check it?”

I gave a silent prayer up to the heavens that he got it correct. I walked over to the table and looked down at his solution. I saw two at the top of the division problem. I saw where he subtracted 10 giving him another 2. I saw that he dropped down the five and put another five by the 2 on top and then subtracted the 25 to get a remainder of zero. In other words, he had done it! All by himself with no help from me. 

I beamed like he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. But that is just how it is as a mom. You feel that exuberant no matter if the accomplishment is folding their own laundry, acing a math problem, or winning a renowned prize. I patted him on the back and gave him a new problem. He got that one right, also. He looked up at me and asked if he could be done with math for the week. I told him that I would give him one more problem and then he could be done. I gave him 4÷164 and he got it correct. Alleluia! 


As I watched him complete the last problem, I made a conscious effort to soak in the moment with him. I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like angels flew down from the heavens when he got that final answer correct. You could see how excited he was when he looked at me and I told him he had gotten it right. There is not a better feeling than seeing your kid work hard, and get to where he needs to get. 

A few years ago, I would have been too wrapped up in work, getting the house clean, feeding the kids, etc. to be able to calm myself enough to sit down for thirty minutes and persevere through tantrums to solve math problems. But I have gotten older, read more, contemplated more, and reconstituted my priorities. And, in return, received this gift.

Halloween 2017

It was a tough Halloween for me this year. After all, Halloween is all about me, right, not those pesky kids…?! This was the first year I did not walk with my kiddos at any point in time during their trick-or-treating adventure. I actually had to steal a child to walk with in order to recover from the trauma of not having my own near me (thanks Betsy, for allowing me to walk around with Makenzie – you are a lifesaver).

Mario debated whether he was even going to go out this year. He debated all the way up until the weekend before Halloween when he decided that he would just go as a referee. He had received a sweet Italian soccer shirt that had black and white stripes like a referre’s shirt earlier in the week from his aunt and uncle. Even then, he was still a bit on the fence on who he would walk with and if he really wanted to go out at all (whose kid is he?!) 

Maria knew all along that she would be heading out. She is a girl after my heart with her love for gathering as much candy as possible over a two hour period on a cold October night. My enthusiasm for this holiday has totally infiltrated my girl. She and her friend determined that they would be M&Ms weeks before Halloween, and they both got on Amazon to find matching outfits. Of course, Maria and I procrastinated and did not purchase the attire off of Amazon until  days before Halloween, which led to extravagant shipping costs on my end. Better planning next year…. 

Back to Mario … who decided the night before Halloween that he had to have a different costume. That day at school he had decided that he would walk with a group of his friends who all had “cool costumes” compared to him. So, I got to miss out on Maria’s end-of-the-year soccer party in order to take Mario to Halloween Express. It seemed that quite a few other families were in our same boat. I picked out a NASCAR driver outfit and a 70s disco outfit and Maria was appalled. Luckily, my niece showed up soon after us. She has a son who Mario looks up to – Isaiah – who is a couple of years older than Mario. He’s a super cool kid. So when Isaiah  picked a nerd costume, Mario decided he’d go for the same. 

Mario begged Jon and I to go to his Halloween party on Tuesday afternoon. He still wants us to attend those school parties with him but he doesn’t want us near him at other events. The mind of a ten year old…. We both left work to go see him in his parade and to be there for his after-party. However, all we got was a brief wave when we spotted him in the crowd.  He was off with his friends the rest of the time. It’s as though we are his long-time stuffed animal – he just needs to know we are there to be comforted. Even though we were being ignored, we hung in there through the party we knew that this would likely be the last of them. Maria‘s grade doesn’t do parties anymore. 


Both kids got invited to friends’ houses to have dinner before Halloween and then go out with a huge crew of folks.  Maria got dressed at the house and then met her M&M partner over at her friend’s house. She allowed me to straighten her hair and put it in ponytails, which made me very happy. I think she has allowed me to do her hair about five times through her entire life. Mario got dressed on his own and Jon and I cracked up when he came downstairs. He looked absolutely ridiculous, and he embraced it. I gave them each a pillow sack to use to hold all their candy, and told them they better not come home until it was filled to the top. My usual instructions year in and year out. They rarely disappoint. 


I took Ri to her friend’s house and Jon took Mario to his friend’s house. The girls were still giddy as if they were in kindergarten. Except this year you could tell they were more concerned about how they looked, and what outfits they chose, then in actually getting candy. 

Mario and his friends were simply interested in wrestling and jumping on the trampoline. But when the time came to head out for candy, they all took off like cockroaches subjected to light. I tried to keep up with Mario and his crew but after three houses he turned around and gritted his teeth: “Mom, stop! Please leave us alone – we want to do this ourselves!” 


Mario and his buddies lasted until 7:15. I was not at the house when he returned or I would have forced him back outside until 8:00. He’s lucky…. Ri called me at around the same time Mario stopped trick-or-treating. She asked if Jon or I could pick her up. I was still out with my girlfriend’s daughter so I told her Jon would pick her up but she needed to walk with me and Mackenzie for a block to get the last bit of candy. She sighed but obliged because she loves me. 


We walked back to the house Mario and Jon were at, ate a few chips, and headed home. The kids laid out their candy on the dining room table as they have in years’ past and examined all they got. Mario couldn’t get too excited because he was ready to barf from eating 20+ pieces while out with his friends. You can see the nausea on his face!


All in all, another fine year of candy gathering but I really hope they let me walk with them next year. Wishful thinking, I know. 

I guess I will need to nab another 6 year old to walk with again.