Shopping and eating…

Maria begged me to take her and her girlfriend to the mall on Friday night. Mario stayed with Patty this weekend – loving his time with his grandma before she moves from Marion. 

It was a cold night on Friday so I knew that we would not be able to play outside. This was pretty much the only reason I agreed to the mall – that, and it allowed for me to at least walk around and get some exercise while they looked at clothes. It also brings back fond memories of my girlfriend Beth and I going to Kenwood Mall on the weekends. We would spend hours up there just walking around, eating lunch, looking to see if any other friends or boys were around. We inevitably would find other friends hanging out because that is what we did in the 1980s. Nowadays, kids actually go there just to shop. How strange is that?

 I couldn’t believe how long Maria and her friend could remain in one store. I waited out on the couches for them, catching up on emails, but after 25 minutes I thought maybe they had been held hostage in there. I went to check on them and, sure enough, they were trying on there seventh shirt in the dressing room – just as happy as can be. 


Ri walked out with this snazzy top and I told her there was no way her father would allow her to wear that outside the house. She loved it though, and of course, I caved in and got it for her – but required her to agree that she would only wear it this summer, not beforeehand. I’m a real stickler aren’t I?!

They finally decided to move to a different store. They chose Bare Minerals. I watched a video of how to put on make up, and realized how little I know about proper application of that stuff. I was tempted to buy everything that was on the video because the older lady starring in it transformed from wrinkles and blemishes to a supermodel. But the  practical part of me, along with many generations of women who have never been consumed by that stuff, overpowered any remaining desire I had. I grabbed the girls and told them we needed to move on to another store. But this was not before they both applied some funky pink lipstick.

We moved on to Lush. I actually liked the store – all organic bath products. The bath bombs smelled delicious. I caved in and bought each girl one of them. These are the times that I wish we had a huge bathtub – I could get into using one of those bath bombs every night to relax me.

We hit a few more clothing stores, including the newly designed Abercrombie and Fitch store, which the girls geeked over. Finally, 2 1/2 hours later, they were starving and ready to go. Everyone was craving Mexican food so we decided to head to El Vaquero. Not a smart move when you are starving and they feed you nonstop chips and salsa. 


We were ill or by the time our food came but how can you reject fish tacos and enchiladas? And to top it off and make us truly stuffed, we had to get the fried ice cream for dessert!  I was positive we would all have stomachaches at 2 am.


Surprisingly, we all slept like logs. In fact, we woke up the next morning and decided to top off our Mexican grub from the previous evening with some timbits from Tim Hortons. If you are gonna splurge, splurge big!

B-ball woes 

This weekend blew the big one. Maria had a basketball tournament all weekend long; Mario had one on Sunday. I wish we would’ve had both kids tourneys this weekend  so we could’ve been done with basketball for the season.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Maria isn’t a superstar at basketball. She just started playing last year, and was on the fence about whether to play this year. She’s always looked at it as more of a sport to play in the winter in order to be around friends than a sport to play because she absolutely loved the game. We’ve talked about that on numerous occasions – if she wants to get really good at basketball she’s going to need to practice like a mad woman. However, she really has no desire to practice like a mad woman so it is what it is, right? She goes to each practice, tries her hardest, gets to hang with her friends, and goes to the games. Take it for what it is.

Throughout the season, she has not played as much as her girlfriends. She’s been fairly ambivalent about it because … “it is what it is” to continue the theme above. But in the last couple of weeks, it’s gotten more under her skin. I’m sure it’s because another girlfriend started complaining about not playing as much as some other girls. I talked with her about letting it go since it was near the end of the season; besides, she didn’t think she’d play again anyway.

Maria looked completely dejected at her last tournament game; they were down 28 to 6 and she was still on the bench. It broke my heart as a mom. She’d always been happy go lucky during these games, rooting on her teammates and sitting on the sideline smiling. But this last game, she didn’t break a smile once. After the game, she came over to me and mouthed tersely  “let’s go, now.” I asked her what was wrong. Dumb question from me but I didn’t know what else to say. Ri looked away and explained as we walked out of the gym: “I’m not part of this team. I can’t play well. They told the girls not to throw it to me. I just want to leave.” 

The mama bear in me wanted to go up to everyone of her teammates and the coaches and demand an explanation. The rational woman in me knew there was more to this and that confronting anyone right after the game would not be a good idea. Maria made it an easy choice for me because she just stormed out of the building to the car. We both sat in silence as we pulled out of the parking lot. Maria asked for my phone. I threw it back to her in anger – not anger at her so much as  anger at the situation. I hate leaving a game like that – not wrapping up and saying goodbye to the adults and the kids. I should have made her walk back into the building and say goodbye to everyone – mad or not.

Maria asked what was the matter with me. I chirped “what do you think is the matter? I’m upset at the way that ended.”

Ri sat silent for a minute but then began to talk. “I was just upset, mom, because I feel like I let my teammates down. I feel like the coaches think I’m the worst player ever because they tell my teammates not to throw to me. I’m just upset about the season and not being good.”

Why doesn’t someone just rip my heart out of my chest and stomp on it? It would probably feel better than how I felt driving down the highway hearing this from Maria. I hate these parental moments with such a passion.

I can’t remember how I responded to Maria except that it brought out a whole conversation about basketball, coaches, sports, life. Yeah, we got real philosophical because that’s how mama works in those situations. I asked her how much she loved bball. She responded “not much.” I asked her how  many times she went outside to shoot layups and free throws. She responded “not much.” I asked her how much she enjoyed being with her friends during practice. She responded “a lot.” I tried to help her put it all in perspective. This was not a sport she loved through and through. She didn’t put much effort into it outside of practice and games. And that was perfectly fine. But that also meant that she might not get as much playing time as other girls on the court. The harder piece to tackle was her opinion of self based on the comments made to her by her friends and her coaches. Like I said earlier, I was torn between calling up the coach and giving her a piece of my mind and just letting it be. Coaches are going to have different personalities. There are going to be some that are super supportive and some that are not. But we are  dealing with sixth-grade girls. They need positive reinforcement; they need encouragement and support. I understand when they make a bad play, coaching. But coaching them in a supportive manner. I just don’t fathom how a coach can call some girls “good players” thereby implying there are “bad players.” 

I reinforced to Maria she cannot take what others say – be it a friend, another adult, or even a teacher – to heart and let it determine who she is as a person. She needs to believe in herself and trust  in herself. I can’t be there all the time when a coach or a teacher or a friend says something hurtful to her so I need to arm her with the ability to deal with those situations herself.

It’s hard as hell to be a parent, especially when you’re dealing with a pre-pubescent girl. You remember how it was to be that age, you have major flashbacks to the hell that it was at times. And you want to just avoid it all for your daughter. But you can’t. You got to help her as best as you can to move through it and find her strength. I so hope that’s what happens for her. 

As her mother, I will reinforce how wonderful she is, how I love her dreams, how she cares, how she wants the best in life, how she loves new experiences, how she has to believe in herself, and how she should treat others the way she wants to be treated.

In the end, I just want Ri to be able to get through these situations with a healthy attitude and confidence. I know she’s not always going to be happy and filled with joy – that’s just not life – but I want her to be stable and confident enough that when times aren’t particularly happy, she can weather through them and come out upright and stable, just like she has learned on those 80’s roller skates…..

Trying out the skate park

I love Mario’s constant quest for new activities.  One day it is boxing, the next day it is parkour. He got really into wrestling for a while, but then his attention turned to running. He would get up at 6:30 AM and go for a run up to the library and back.

This weekend, he decided he wanted to try out a skate park. I reminded him that he had not used the skateboard we bought him for at least a year. I was a bit worried with him trying to do tricks, and not having been on it for quite some time. He informed me that he actually wanted to do some BMX training at the park. Granted, he does not have a BMX bike but he thinks he does.

“it’s just like a BMX bike, mom. I can do some sweet moves on it, I’m sure.”

He mapquested the closest skate park to our house and we drove over that way an hour later. Maria wanted to check it out with us as well. Except she did not want to ride her bike, she wanted to rollerskate. This could lead to some serious injuries, I know. But we all have to live life to the fullest, right?

The skate park did not disappoint either child. Mario loved biking down the ramps and struggling his way back up. He got more confident biking faster down hills to get the speed to ride back up the ramps. Maria loved skating down the concrete hill into the pit. She held onto me the first few times and then went down the steep hill all by herself. Daredevils.



It was freezing but we stayed for 30 minutes. Mario begged to go back on Sunday with his friend who had slept over. I really had no desire to head back because it was freezing cold but I caved in as always. We actually had a great time. Mario was a pro this time around – he was able to take on the ramps and make some sweet turns. Then we put the bikes down and ended up running down into the bowl and scaling back up the ramp. They were amazed that the old person could take them on in their obstacles. Gotta keep them on their toes. We topped off the skate park fun with some Frostys from Wendy’s as we took in the view of downtown. 

Team player 

Basketball has never been my sport. I don’t know any of the plays involved in it, and can barely shoot a lay up even when nobody is blocking me. But I love the intensity of the game and the great work out. Maria played with her gradeschool friends last year and had a decent time (mostly because she was with her friends and the coach was a good friend of mine who she’s always liked a lot). 

This year, that same good friend of mine, decided to coach a league a step above the school league, COBA. Most of the girls that had been in the school league last year decided to go to the COBA league this year. So Maria had to decide whether to try the COBA league or stick with the school league. In the end, my girlfriend influenced her to join the COBA league in order to take her play a notch up and be with the girls she played with last year. The “being with the girls from last year” part of the conversation swayed Ri. 

It’s been a long season so far. They had no wins until this weekend when they pulled one out against Dublin. Ri has struggled with understanding plays, especially offense (however, she does know how to disorient the opposing player who is throwing the ball inbounds – she is a spaz waving her arms and jumping up and down and screaming). She doesn’t get as much playing time as the others although she makes it to every practice. If it was me, I’d either have called it a day and quit or would be outside dribbling and shooting three hours a day. 

I said as much to my stepmom the other day as we were catching up. I was laughing at how different Ri and I are in dealing with situations. Her response:

“Ri was given to you for a reason…. And you were given to her for a reason.”

I thought about our conversation as I drove home with Ri in the backseat watching Dance Moms and petting Rocco. Ri has a very different approach to sports than I did at her age. I needed to rock everyone’s world with my athleticism; I hated losing. She does not have that intensity and need for glory. She could probably take sports or leave them, but for her friends being on the team. She sat on that bench during the last game knowing she likely would not go into play but still rooting for her teammates nonstop. She does not let the fact that she does not play a lot ruin her experience. I envy her for that. She finds joy in the social time with her friends. Don’t get me wrong, she does enjoy a win, and when she plays, she tries with all her might. She gets upset with the rest of the team when they aren’t playing well or the other team is trouncing them. But she can shake it off quickly and move onto the next thing. And she can give consolation and a lift-up to her teammates who aren’t able to move on 30 minutes after the game.

When they won on Saturday, she was ecstatic lifting her teammates in the air and hugging them all. She projects joy and I’ll take that any day over a lay up.

A Steampunk Christmas Carol 

I am still flabbergasted that the kids both performed in a play last week. How did these kids that came from two raging athletes ever acquire acting skills?! 

I still remember the first night we went to audition. Maria had called it quits as soon as she saw an eight-year-old boy bellow out five different tunes perfectly. Mario was right behind her. But then Mario’s friend showed up and sang a quaint little tune – happy birthday – and Mario felt like he could at least crank that song out. He followed his friend and sang “jingle bells”; his bravery allowed for Maria to feel comfortable enough to  stand up and sing “row row row your boat.” 

And with that, we were thrown into the world of acting. A completely foreign world to Jon and me. But the kids looked as if they had performed in plays 10 times over. They went to practice and picked up their lines. They made friends with the other actors. They ingratiated themselves with the director.  
I was surprised that they got roles with speaking parts since this was their first play. They only had about three speaking parts each but hey, that’s something for their first gig. And they were in a good deal of scenes. I loved watching them perform at the community center; I never felt comfortable performing in front of people so it amazed me to watch them perform so effortlessly. 

The last week of practice was intense. They had practice Monday through Thursday from 5:30-9:30, but they didn’t complain a bit. Ri especially enjoyed it. She loved the entire process involved in putting on a show – from setting the stage to putting on make-up to ensuring props were situated correctly, to performing. Mario, on the other hand, seemed to love only one piece – being on stage and getting the crowd to laugh. He hammed it up as much as he could enjoying the smiles and laughter from the crowd. 

I went to the final practice before the dress rehearsal on Thursday night and remember sitting with another parent and thinking “how will this play come together?” The parent next to me had done theatre in her past and reassured me it would come together just fine. And so it did. It came together wonderfully. 
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Meg and dad and Patty and Patrick’s family came on opening night. We bought roses for both kids.  They performed like pros and were so excited after it ended. They couldn’t come down off their acting high!


Saturday night’s performance was the best because the audience was so into it. They laughed and clapped and made it lively. I heard there were former actors with the Theatre Company who were in attendance and got the audience going. Whoever they were, I thank them because it really did liven up the entire show. Mario loved the attention…

My mom and Sarah came to the Sunday matinee. Ri was excited to see Elena but she was also so tired. Both of the kids were exhausted from 6 long nights working on the play. The feel of the last show was one of gratitude and relief that they had made it through to the end. It was much more low-key than Saturday. But they both again did a marvelous job reciting their lines with more power and conviction each day. However, Ri tripped on her costume during the matinee and ended up with a black eye because the ghost mask rammed into her. Poor thing. Nevertheless, in true Maria fashion, she just kept on going despite the obvious pain. 


After the play, we got the pleasure of cleaning up for 3 hours. Ri and Mario pitched in with the other kids and the adults tore down the set and picked up all the props and trash. We were all spent by 7 pm. But the kids had been promised Greater’s so off we went for ice cream. We talked at Greater’s (over brownie sundaes) until close to 9 pm before calling it a night. The kids hugged their fellow actors goodbye. I think they really enjoyed the experience and both want to audition for the next show in Spring. I am just pleased that their eyes got opened to another activity and that they were so capable of embracing it. 

Proud parents.

 

Weekend busy

Ri and Mario spent the entire weekend in sleepovers with their friends. Friday night, Ri and Mario headed up to the football game tailgate with Jon. They arrive an hour early to party it up with the rest of the parents parked in the lot by the field. Ri chatted it up with Jon’s friends and ate the unending line of dips while Mario threw the football with his buddies. 


I made it up in the second half (after letting go of the week’s work and taking my pup for a walk in the woods). When I arrived, Ri and Evelyn were already asking for a sleepover. Mario and Zach had already gotten approval from their dads for one at Zach’s house. I agreed and we decided to leave the game to head to Choclate Cafe for a late night snack. As I cleaned up the kitchen, the girls primped up for the Cafe. I had no clue that’s what they were doing and when they came down, I was caught by surprise. They really need to not dress up because they look like high schoolers and it makes me cringe! 


We enjoyed caramel truffles and milkshakes at 10 pm. Meanwhile, the boys played some serious x box at Zach’s house. 

On Saturday, the girls humored me and walked to Stauf’s for breakfast. We sat outside with Rocco and played cards while eating our yummy muffins. Then we hit Target for dress shopping – the girls’ favorite activity. The boys went, too, in order to sucker me into buying them face masks for their Nerf battles. Mario brought up his previous two eye scratches and that’s all it took. I bought them. Ri found a dress after trying on three of them. Ev wanted her to get one with polka dots but RI’s style is much more subdued – plain black. 


After Target, I took Ri to get her hair conditioned. A week ago, she mixed coconut oil and baking powder in her hair and it felt like hay. It looked awful and you couldn’t get a brush through it. She didn’t seem to care but it drove me nuts. It took two washes to get it clean but it finally looked normal again.

The girls had a b-day party on Saturday afternoon, and the boys wanted to hang out our house since we’ve got all the “bad food.” I agreed to take them for the night and our friends would take the girls. The boys begged me to take them to Get Air like I took the girls one evening a while back. But Zach is still recovering from a concussion so we couldn’t do trampolines. They decided on Galaxy Games and Golf for a round of putt-putt and some gym play. Little did they know that I am quite the putt-putter. I amazed them with my hole-in-one. Actually, I heard Mario whisper to Zach “my mom is really good.” Precious. 


We walked inside after their crushing defeat and right in front of us was a claw machine – Mario’s addiction! He begged for coins to play. Again, sucker mom. It doesn’t help that I love those dang claw machines, too. Mario, of course, immediately won a stuffed animal and a ball. It took Zach a few more tries but he nabbed an animal and a ball, too. In trying to get an animal, he nearly got a stuffed animal chicken. Mario was set on winning it because I was dumb enough to whisper “oh, I would have loved that chicken!” He’s gonna spend all his money on his dates trying to win them stuffed animals. He kept trying and trying but the chicken kept winning. I finally stepped in and asked if I could try it. I clawed the chicken and a random teddy bear – won two in one try! Can you sense my excitement still?! The boys were amazed again….


I had to put a stop on the claw games much to their dismay. They would have spent a fortune there if they could. We moved on to the gym, which was full of kids. I read my book and ate my snacks while looking up at Mario here and there when he shouted at me. 

We stopped at McDonald’s on the way home for some delicious dinner and then turned on the Buckeyes game when we got home. They made their way to the reclining sofa and commented on every play of the game. Jon got home shortly after us and we all watched the game together. Mario fell asleep around 10 but Zach hung in with us until the end. 

The next morning the boys and I walked to Stauf’s (two days in a row!). We ate bagels while playing cards and watching the marathoners. Heaven. Then we topped off the sleepover by heading to the woods for a Nerf gun battle. Rocco refused to leave Mario’s side. Alana and Patty were at the house when we returned. 

Alana and Ri loved working the concession stand at Mario’s football game. They each made some cash from it. 


Meanwhile, Mario and his teammates suffered their first loss of the season. They played hard with two of their stars out with injuries. I’ve never seen so many crying boys after the game. But they have next week to recover. 


So there you have it – another non-stop weekend with friends and parties galore. It’s a new kind of busy from the days of toddler-hood but I love it all the same.

School’s back 

We got the haircuts, the school clothes (braved Polaris Mall and wanted to poke my eyes out), the book bags, the lunch boxes, the notebooks, and even managed to get a couple of showers in prior to the first day of school. The kids were so excited – they both couldn’t fall asleep. It was like Christmas Eve. I was taken aback at how charged up they were to head back to school although I know in a few weeks they will be dragging out of bed…. 

Maria set her alarm for 5:30 am. Yes, 5:30. Why? Because she needed to spend 45 minutes on her hair. How is she my child?! She borrowed the “beach wave” curling iron from my girlfriend to assist with the do she wanted for her first day. My girlfriend had styled Ri’s hair a few weeks ago with the iron and Ri loved it. We laugh because my girlfriend’s daughter is a replica of me – athletic clothes, sports watch, hair in a ponytail and Ri is like my girlfriend with her sweet hair styles and trendy clothes. But I digress…. 

Jon and I shook our heads as we laid in bed listening to Ri bumble around in the bathroom. At around 6:15, Ri came into our room and tapped my shoulder.

“Mom, the curling iron is really hot. Could you do my waves in my hair?”

Are you kidding? Did she really ask me, the woman who puts her hair in a pony every day, to do her hair?! 

I rose out of bed determined to curl her hair and curl it well. Ri had straightened most of her hair but put a small section on each side in a ponytail on top of her head. She just wanted the hair in the pony to be wavy. Not so hard, heh?!

Yea, well, for someone that never uses curling irons, it was torture. I curled the first strand and when it came out, the hair was kined in every direction. Ri took one look in the mirror and bawled. Then she hyperventilated. Then she sobbed. I grabbed another strand determined to do it right. More kinks. What the he–?! More hyper-ventilating. I tried again. No luck. Ri bolted into her room crying. I walked in and made the executive decision.  

“We are gonna have to straighten the hair in the pony and try waves another time. I can’t do waves right now.”

She gave an affirmative nod and cried a few more tears. I told her again I was sorry. She stood still in the bathroom as I tried to straighten the kinks. She finally spoke:

“It’s ok, mom. I should have known you couldn’t curl hair.”

Well, at least she’s honest in her downtrodden moments. She actually looked just as adorable with the straightened ponytail look and I think she felt half way decent about it, too. Mom came through in a half-assed way….

Mario, meanwhile, slipped on a pair of athletic shorts and a t-shirt and was ready to hit the road. Thank goodness. 

I made Ri and Mario take obligatory pictures out front prior to heading off for their first day. One of these days, I will gather all of these “first day of school” pictures and do something with them….


Ri left at 7:30 to walk up the street and meet her two girlfriends. Mario and I biked up to meet them so I could get pictures. They all looked so mature! I can’t imagine how taken aback I will be when they hit high school.


Mario and I then biked to RLS. We got there early so we walked around and talked. Mario eventually spotted his buddies and bolted from my side to see them. I caught up and asked for a picture. What was I thinking? They dashed away from me as soon as they saw the camera. Where the girls were mature, the boys were 3rd grade crazy.


A few other moms and I were able to direct our sons over for a picture eventually but it took some muscle. 


And then the bell rang. Mario did not ask me or Jon to go in with him. He didn’t even wave goodbye. He just disappeared into the masses.