Partyin’ with the Ritz

Once our girl gets wind that there is a party, she is raring to go! We finally were able to schedule our annual dunk tank party for Mario’s baseball team and Maria’s softball team this year. It was pathetic that we could find no weekends in July or beginning of August to have the party because of all of the activities the kids were in during the summer. We ended up choosing the Sunday after the first week of school, and we had surprisingly great weather. 85° and sunny. 

But back to our party planner, Maria Grace. She began planning the party is soon as I told her the date. It’s all about the good food with her so she immediately looked up all sorts of recipes. But, alas, the Internet was trumped by the good old-fashioned recipes on a box. Yep, our girl found delicious appetizer recipes on the back of a Ritz cracker box. We are so proud that she represents our Reading, Ohio and Marietta, Ohio roots as well as she does! 

She found two recipes that she thought would be best for the party. One was a little bit more “posh” for the adults at the party and the other one was more likely to suit the taste buds of the kids at the party. The “posh” one included guacamole, sour cream and black beans and the kid one included pasta sauce, pepperoni and cheese. Both on top of a delicious Ritz cracker!

We drove off to Kroger’s to gather the ingredients. 


The crackers were a hit. Ri taste-tested a few of them to make sure that they were edible. She was proud of herself as she chimed “now those are some good Ritz crackers!”

They were gobbled up in minutes by the guests. Hilarious. The kids needed fuel before spending the next three hours in the dunk tank, and leave it to Ri to deliver mighty fine fuel there way.

Mario heads off to camp

Mario went on his first three-night camp adventure two weeks ago. He heard Maria talking excitedly about the camp last year and wanted to go this year. It was the first year that he was eligible since you have to be going into fourth grade. I signed him up late; he was waitlisted at about number 50 when I checked on it in late May. The topic came up at the dinner table one night and I let him know that I was not sure he would be able to get into the camp. This fact led to many tears and anger and sadness, which led me to many phone calls and pleading and begging. I found out two other mothers were in my boat and had switched their sons to a different time – over the July 4 holiday. There were not a lot of kids signed up so I was able to get Mario in. I told him that I had worked some magic, and he was so excited.

As the time I got near, Mario seemed to have a bit of trepidation about the trip. He was not so much concerned about spending the night at the camp, but about his two buddies and how he would fit in. His two buddies are very close, and he was worried that they would partner up the entire time and he would be left with no one. I tried to explain to him that the reason for camp is to make new friends and that he would make new friends in his cabin. His response “I can’t make new friends because I will never see them again after we leave camp.” I told him that we could easily drive around Columbus to have a play date with a new friend. He looked at me like I was crazy. We let it be at that. I didn’t really mention anything more about the trip and he didn’t either prior to it arriving on a Friday morning. 

The night before he was to leave, he and I packed up his things. Actually, I should say I packed up his things while he shot baskets in his room. Yeah, another moment when I should have made him help me out but I was enjoying him in his element making slam dunks and trying to impress me. He found a flashlight, which was really the only item he was concerned about being packed.  I kept hugging him through the evening and teasing him that I did not want him to leave me.

I came home from work early on Friday and took Mario to camp. As we drove over together, he kept asking me if I wanted him to stay. I think it was his way of being nervous but putting it on me. I told him that he would be just fine at camp as long as he let himself have a good time and not worry about who was hanging with who. The drop off seemed easier with Maria – maybe because more of her girlfriends were going – but I think also because Maria just tends to have a different attitude with these things. She’s more able to go and make new friends or just find fun herself. Mario needs to know his buddies are there and worries more about being cool and wanting to impress. 

On a side note, Mario also gets freaked out when it is dark outside (because we have let him watch way too many horror films). He always needs me to come upstairs with him in the evening so I was a bit concerned that he may freak out in the cabin once night hit, and everyone would make fun of him.

When we arrived at our destination he grabbed his sleeping bag and slung his mesh bag over his shoulders. Two teenage boys greeted us under a tent. One of the kids’ names was Mario. Mario told him his name and the high school Mario didn’t react. I thought “come on, at least give him a high-five or something to make him feel more at ease.” My mama antennae were shooting up. We moved inside to the nurse’s line next and one of the high school boys saw Mario’s name tag. He put out his fist to Mario and said “I’m one of your counselors, Matt.” Mario fist bumped him and I felt better. 

We found Mario’s two buddies and they hung out looking all cool while us moms talked about how we thought they’d do at camp. Mario seemed to be relaxed and they were all talking together so I felt good. 


Then we started to see people walk out the front door. We grabbed the boys and told them we thought it was time for the departure. They moved outside with us still looking pretty cool. We made them take an obligatory photo for us. 


Then we moved them towards the buses. They still remained calm and collected, even giving me a wave when I told them to look back at me. 


They finally got on their bus; I saw Mario’s two friends sit together. My heart dropped. I saw Mario slide into the seat across from them. Dammit.

Then, I saw Mario jump up and lean over the two boys out their window. He yelled “bye mom” and waved to me. Thank goodness. He sat back down and chatted with his buddies across the aisle. The two other moms left but I waited until the bus took off. I moved to the side of the bus where Mario sat. I waited for him to look out the window at me but he was busy talking with his friends. So when I saw some buses ahead starting to move, I yelled “bye Mario, I love you.” He looked out the window at me and for the first time I saw a bit of trepidation in his eyes. He yelled back “bye mom, I love you too!” He usually would be embarrassed to say such a thing but I think the nervousness got to him and he wanted to let me know that he loved me before I left. And then he was off.


I only checked the camp website every 45 seconds to see if a picture was posted of him. Thank goodness there was the first night – he was smiling and running to the lake. Ahhhh.

There were more in the following days – not as many as I would have liked – but enough to make me feel at ease that he was alive and having a good time. 


Jon picked Mario up from camp three days later and brought him and Ri to my work for lunch. We peppered him with questions about his time at camp and we got one or two word responses. He talked about the soap slide and the lake and the hike. He thought the food was ok. He liked most boys in his cabin. It wasn’t until me and Jon were playing cards this weekend that we truly had some insight into what he did at camp.

“What are you guys playing?”

We told him we were playing Gin Rummy.

“How about we all play some blackjack?” 

Jon and I looked at him with mouths agape. 

“My counselors taught me how to play at camp. We would play for food each night. We can play for money if you want.”

And so there you go – no need for me to worry about him having a good time at camp.

Softball/baseball Wrap Up!

We officially hit the end of baseball and softball season last night. Four weeks straight of pretty much a game every evening, if not two. Four weeks straight of hot dogs, chips, famous Amos cookies, and orange pop. Four weeks straight of up and down moods based on how much sleep the night before, how much activity the day of, how much irritation at the thought of homework the following day.

Maria ended with a bang. Who would’ve thought that this ragtag group of girls would make it to the championship game? I was busy just getting them to talk to one another and cheer for each other during the game. But something clicked midway through the season and I heard girls that I had never heard before rooting for their teammates. I had girls that had never caught a ball catching flies in the outfield. It was amazing. Maria rocked out pitching for us this year – I basically had her and a fifth grader to get us through the season. She stepped up. She also got her bat around well this year. And last but not least, she was the voice of the team, as always. I think that’s why the shy, quiet girls on the team finally began to speak – they were worried of the wrath of Maria! Ri possesses the ability to get people to smile and to engage and maybe get out of their comfort zone for a while. That is because she can so easily act silly and goofy and wild without a care about what anyone thinks. 

She riled up the girls for the semi championship game, which led to a decisive win over the opposing team. The girls were so excited. 


However, me and my assistant coach were a bit less excited just because we were playing a team that can bring a bit of drama to the game. I learned a great deal about my personality over the two day period between winning the semi-championship and playing in the championship. I could not believe how sick to my stomach I was in that 48 hour period – second-guessing myself, worrying I hurt people’s feelings, concerned that people may be upset with me. Just throw me back to my childhood because that’s where all this crap began. I had at least 50 come to Jesus talks with myself over that short time period but it wasn’t until after the game that I began to feel less stressed. A huge lesson for me for the future – I am allowed to take a stance and I am allowed to have people be upset by it. Not all of my viewpoints are going to be loved. 

We ended up losing the championship game. I was surprisingly relieved after all the tension leading up to it. I would usually be madly disappointed but I wasn’t this year because of all the angst prior to the game and because I was mindful of my group of girls who gained experience and skill and had a most wonderful season together. They knew how to have fun. You would have thought we won the championship by the way they were laughing and playing and goofing around. 


Mario’s team got to the championships, too. They played a nail-biter of a game against the number one team in the league to win the semi-championship. Mario played his heart along with the rest of the kids. He had a killer nab at shortstop with a bullet of a throw to first. He also pitched like a rock star. I was so proud of him and so happy for him and his teammates. They were on cloud 9. 


They did not catch a break in the championship game; they hit line drives but they went straight to an opposing player. The other team hit line drives on the gaps in the field. There was nothing to do about that; it’s simply a matter of luck. Mario was upset as were his teammates. There were tears. There was anger. But they still got second place trophies and within twenty minutes were all feeling better and ready to move on. I told Mario over and over that no matter if he won or lost, he’d forget about it twenty minutes later. I think there’s a study that confirms you bask in your glory for about 15 minutes and then you are back to usual. 


We had Gio with us that night so I told the boys we could take a bike ride to Jeni’s and Mario was fine. 

What will I do next year now that Maria will play for the middle school team and I can’t coach her? Watch out Mario…:)

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.