Two fistin’ trophies

After six weeks of intense softball action, our girls brought home a league championship trophy and a tournament championship trophy. Rock on, ladies!


I am still beaming. These gals formed a cohesive and strong team during our six weeks together. 

The beginning few practices are always tough because girls are getting to know one another and feeling personalities and skills out. We had a sixth grader from the local catholic school on our team this year. She had an amazing pitching arm and hit the bat like Babe Ruth. She was definitely a notch above the other girls in the league. However, she was so humble and kind to all the other girls on the team. When one would strike out, she’d be the first to pat her on the back and tell her it was ok. When Ri pitched a bunch of balls, she’d step out to the mound and calm her down. The girls all looked up to her and her simple presence made a huge positive impact on the team. 

We struggled in the beginning of the season to understand the new rules of the game: dropped third strike, stealing, sliding…. And there was different rules for each league we played in through the season: UA played you could steal fine, Gahanna didn’t. UA allowed 4 innings per pitcher and stealing on a walk, we didn’t. You’d think it would be fairly easy to remember (I thought so too) but you get in a game situation and your mind is on who to play where, getting girls around the bases, where the game ball is hiding….

But we hit our stride half way through the season. The girls were all comfortable around one another, they were learning how to get under the pop fly, their arms were getting more accurate, and their bats were coming around well. We played only Grandview teams in the last week and a half of the season. We ended up 5-1 against our other Grandview gals; one game ahead of the second place team. We secured the league championship against the Indians – a team coached by my buddy and the father of Ri’s good friend. The girls doused me with water and ice and ran around the bases giving high fives. 


My assistant coach and I made sure after each game that the girls gave a cheer to the opposing team -“2,4,6,8 who do we appreciate…”. There were a few games where they were mighty hesitant to chant it but they came through after some provocation by their coaches. And their good sportsmanship was recognized: parents approached us after games and praised the girls for being upstanding sportsmen. 

I must admit, I was on pins and needles in the league championship game. I wanted my girls to get a trophy so badly. My stomach killed half way through the game but I held it together and never let the girls know I cared. It’s all about having fun and playing hard, I’d reiterate to them. But deep down inside, my competitive self squated, waiting for our next big hit.

I was calmer for our championship game. It was our last game, the girls had secured a trophy, and I just wanted to have some fun. Mission accomplished, for the most part. Ri didn’t have her best game; I wish she would have gotten a fly ball or hit a good single or double. But she cranked out some good plays in past games so I kept reinforcing that each time she came into the dugout mad she didn’t make a good play. In the bottom of the 6th, tied 16-16, Sofie hit a triple and brought Kathryn home to win the game 17-16, and no one cared how they had played through the game. They just ran out to the field to shake hands, ran the bases and hugged incessantly. 

We had to clear out immediately because the boys played right after us. The girls grabbed the water jug and moved it over to the grass. There was no surprise as to what was coming. I tried to get my assistant coach under the downpour with me but she alipped away. Half the girls got in there with me though. The ice felt good!


We moved to the picnic tables and I presented each of the girls with a gift bag filled with candy, sunflower seeds, framed picture and a “Stay Calm and Play Softball” postcard. I bought each girl a different type of candy based on their personality. As I handed out the bags, I described why I chose the candy for them. Yes, I am a sentimentalist….

I also just loved my team this year – I’d take these girls back in a heartbeat to coach. It was so strange waking up the next morning knowing there would be no more games to run to after work. Crazily, I really miss it, but look so forward to the insanity next year.

Happy rescue

I think if Mario had to choose between me and Jon’s mom, Patty, to live with for the next ten years, I’d be pushed to the side. The boy loves him some Grandma time. And thank goodness she loves her some Mario time because she rescued us yet again when we were juggling teacher-in-service days and work. 

Patty got home from Florida on Wednesday evening and barely had time to get her bags before she headed 30 minutes up north with me to Lazer Craze. The kids were there for an evening of laser tag and pizza and games. Patty rescued us from pulling our hair out on Thursday – trying to juggle Jon out of town, Sarah in town, and me having to attend a mandatory meeting.  She sat up at Lazer Craze with me for an hour watching the kids play and listening to the loud music. I am sure she was exhausted from her trip but she did not complain one time. She let Ri and Mario drag her from game to game to watch them play. 

   
 It really is amazing that this woman in her mid-70’s can go as hard and as strong as women in their 30’s. She is always up for a wrestling session with Mario and water volleyball with Ri. Jon and I woke up on Thursday morning to a text from Patty – it contained two pictures of Mario in his pjs fishing at her pond. 7am and they are outside fishing. That ranks in and of itself in the “way too cool” annals for grandparents.

 
She watched his crazy you tube videos with him, let him play restaurant and serve her at her bar table, took him to Lazer Craze again to play, and made him cinnamon rolls every morning. Seriously?!

No wonder when he has to come home, he pouts! I can’t recall a day when I asked Mario if he wanted to go to Grandma Ionno’s house and he replied “no.” It is always an ecstatic “yes”! That says a ton right there. And when Patty spends the night at our house, both kids beg to sleep downstairs with her. And although we say no, somehow Mario inevitably ends up cuddled by her side in the morning.❤️

Old Man Winter

These days grow longer and longer. It is flippin’ freezing outside; you know it’s been a rough ride when you see the temperature will be 16 degrees and you are excited.  I can’t drag the kids outside with me in the evening to walk Rocco because I would be accused of child endangerment.  I can barely head out there with Rocco for more than fifteen minutes.  My poor toes have steadily remained purple through the days.  All I can say is that sweet Spring cannot get here soon enough.  I will embrace it and not let go.  I will not complain when we have 90 degree, humid weather this Summer.  Just get me out of this frozen tundra.

There have been some highlights to the last few weeks – thank goodness for these kids and their activities; they force us to get out when we would be hibernating.

On February 11, Maria had her first play.  She played Susan B. Anthony and had IMG_0601a whoppin’ three lines.  But she rocked it – she was one of the few kids who you could hear (thanks, Heile family).  She got on line and found a colonial costume to wear for the show and a hilarious white wig.  Grandma Ionno, Grandma Lolo and Aunt Sarah, Jorge and Elena showed up to see her in action.  She did not seem nervous as she waited for the IMG_0606play to begin; rather, she ran around with her friends and laughed.  She was annoyed with me and Grandma trying to get pictures of her.  She was nervous about one thing – that Elena would start wailing during the performance.  Elena tried to do that but Sarah swopped her out the back doors before she could get a good one out.  We cheered hard IMG_0617 IMG_0615 IMG_0623for her after the performance; she shot us a quick glance but focused all her energy on Luka (Bethany brought him to see the show).  Afterwards, we took the actress to Barley’s for her much loved ribs and beans.

On February 13, the kids celebrated Valentine’s Day at their schools.  Ri took in tattoos and Mario took in Sponge Bob.  I had bought them mustaches on a stick that said “I mustahce you as a Valentine.”  They were adorable.  Both Maria and Mario were appalled at the the thought of giving IMG_0647 IMG_0651them to the respective opposite sex.  “That would be so embarrassing mom!”  So back to Target we went for the tattoos and SpongeBob cards.  Boring.  Ri got ice cream sundaes at her party; she did not care that I did not come.  On the other hand, Mario begged me to attend his, which I happily did.  You can’t walk away from those parties with a sour attitude.  The kids are too dang cute and so excited about making heart-shaped towers and paper flowers.

On February 14, Ri had a pool party for her friend Janira at Westerville pool.  IMG_0669 IMG_0677 IMG_0683They stayed there from 12:30 until 5.  She got pizza and ice cream and cake and non-stop pool action.  When I came to get them at 4 pm, they begged to stay for another hour.  They all tried to jump in an inner tube together without tipping over, which failed every time.  But they had a blast and it was great to be in a heated pool area and see bathing suits!

On February 17, Ri had her skate party with 10 friends.  Mario got to attend, also IMG_0713 IMG_0716 IMG_0719 IMG_0730 IMG_0732(Ri let him use one of her friend passes for one of his friends).  The moms may have had more fun than the kids….  I was happy to see many of the moms head out on the rink with me.  The girls all did a great job skating and falling.  No broken bones.  Ri greeted all of the girls as they trickled in at different times – she is a good host.  Mario tried to help Rohan skate but it was not easy.  So the two of them ended up playing games the entire time.  Mario was not disappointed about that.

On February 19 and 20, the kids got off school due to the extremely cold temperatures.  Bums.  They were so psyched up.  On Thursday, Bethany took them to Galaxy Games and Golf from 3 pm until 9 pm.  They played tag and hide-n-seek and Mario won 1000 tickets.  He was so pumped up.  On Friday, Mario feigned illness to stay home with Jon and Bethany and Ri went to COSI.  Not bad for two days off of school.

On February 21, we got seven inches of snow!  The world turned white and Rocco couldn’t get enough of it.  I am surprised his nose did not freeze off as much as he dug into the snow with it.  Ri and I took him on a walk up to IMG_0747Grandview Grind and he leapt with joy, literally, throughout the entire walk. We visited Ri’s friend and their new pup and Rocco found a playmate.  They played great together.  Ri ended up staying at Anna’s house while I walked Rocco home.  The neighbors were making a giant snowman in the front yard.  I walked in the door and told Mario we had to go sledding.  There is a small hill by his school that I knew was open.  He shook his head no and told me he didn’t feel like it.  I kept prodding him until he finally got on his jeans and sweatshirt.  He had to wear his Cabella’s overalls and coat since we don’t have any snow pants that fit him.  He was all stressed out about how he would look.

“No one else will be wearing this, mom.  I will look stupid!”

IMG_0774This boy is more concerned about his looks than I ever have been.  Jon and I reassured him that he would be fine.  If someone laughed, he should ignore them.  Each person is unique.  I don’t think he so much agreed with us than he just wanted to shut us up so he threw on his boots and headed to the car.  It was IMG_0779 IMG_0775 IMG_0767funny because Ri showed up with her friend, Anna to sled an hour after we arrived and she had on a huge pair of brown bib overalls that did not fit her at all but she could have cared less. They all had a blast going down the hill, engaging in a massive snow ball fight, and making a ramp to jump over.

It was so beautiful today because although we had seven inches of snow it was 33 degrees so you could go outside without your face freezing off.  Tomorrow the high is 23 degrees and I think it starts to plummet even worse Monday on.  I keep telling the kiddos to have dreams about Spring flowers and birds chirping and open windows with a warm breeze wafting in, and maybe that will help move old Man Winter along.

But we’d be amiss if we did not thank Old Man Winter for giving us the snow to play in today.

 

 

 

 

 

Immersion

I’m so in love with these munchos of mine I can hardly stand it. My heart expands to the size of a hot-air balloon when they show me a math problem they did or tell me a story they read in class. Those minds expanding and growing and full of questions and ideas. I just want to eat them up and tell them how special they are, over and over and over again.

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We took a walk last night after dinner. We talked about random things – school, getting Rocco, how many babies they would have when they were older (Mario five and Ri six – heaven help is). These are some of my happiest moments during the week. No cell phones to answer. No friends to interrupt us. No homework to fight about. Just us talking about anything that pops up and laughing together. And laugh we do – a lot.
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I don’t know that I appreciated this time with the kids as much five years ago. It seems as the years float by, my awareness of the preciousness of this time with them deepens. I am immersed in the moment. I remember with preciseness the smile on Mario’s face as he gets pulled down the street by Rocco and the raucous laughter coming from Maria as Mario rolls around with her in the grass. Whoa, does that feel good and rich and grounding.
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Gulp

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I really don’t think it’s possible to love this kid anymore. I went to his back-to-school night last night and the above poster was hanging up outside his classroom. What a dear friend he is to have his number one wish be to spend every second with his buddy, Quinn. Jon and I have to rent a RV to make Mario’s second wish come true. Mario has been begging for a trip in a RV since he was four and hooked on the show Ben 10 (where Ben rides around in a RV). Before he wanted to go to Mt. Rushmore in the RV but now I see it’s Hawaii. We better rent it soon before he opts for Asia.
Mario is working hard on his third wish. Jon and I are amazed at his perseverance and grit on the football field. He’s the youngest boy in tackle but he is one of the strongest.

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He also has a lot of heart. He wants to get out there and tackle the heck out of kids. He could care less about catching the ball. He just wants to hit. He’s been this way since he was a toddler; he’s always loved to wrestle. Jon and I have spent countless hours on the family room carpet going round after round with him. He’s a strong little sucker. Last night, he got in his football stance and ran towards us to tackle. Both Jon and I woke up this morning with sore chests from his pushes.
He tells us that he wants to play pro because then he’d make one million dollars. He also thinks he will get money in college. I explain to him he may get a scholarship where his room and board are paid and then mom and dad would save money but he would not get actual money in his own pocket. He doesn’t quite get that and dismisses me each time I explain it. However, by the time he becomes a college football player, the NCAA will probably allow stipends, if not a paycheck… so he will probably be right in the end.
I read his note he wrote to Jon and I as I listened to his teacher talk about the class routine. In his note, he told Jon and I “do not be scared.” I thought that was interesting advice to give us. He must know that he’s gonna take risks (example, playing tackle football at age 6) and that he needs to reinforce in Jon and I that we need to swallow our fears and let him try….
Gulp.

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First day of school – 2014

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And so a new school year begins….
Mario in First and Ri in Fourth. We had one school year – last year – where the kids were both in the same building. It passed too quickly, and now we have Ri heading to the Intermediate school just a few blocks from our street and Mario staying at the Elementary school about a mile away. Ri has to be to school by 8 am (and will deal with nothing less than being ten minutes early) and Mario has to be at school by 8:15 (and could care less if he’s there early). It made for an interesting first morning. Jon and I had to draw straws to see who took who. Actually, we didn’t in the end because we both knew who Mario would want to take him. Jon. He’s a huge dad fan lately. So Ri and I started up our street at 7:35 am hoping to meet some friends along the way. We found Nora!
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Then Lucia!
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And then throngs of kids in front of the school doors. Ri talked with random friends and then the teacher came out to welcome them. I snuck in behind Ri and got to see her classroom. She promptly shoo’d me away and I obeyed. But not before making sure her school supplies were in the room. They weren’t. Great. I confirmed with her teacher that they wouldn’t need them today and found the name of the PTO rep who I needed to call. I swore I ordered her supplies not once, but twice on line just to be safe. She’s the child that will freak out if everything is not in order. I left without even telling her so she wouldn’t stress all day and promptly called the rep to make sure I could have her supplies by tomorrow.
Then I biked like Lance Armstrong down to Mario’s school. When I arrived, there was a line around the school to enter. I cut through it and I made it to Mario’s room in time to see him planted in his seat ready to learn.
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I had managed to get his supplies ordered ( the child who could care less). One star for me. Mario was quiet and shy. He began to draw on the sheet of paper in front of him that had the words “Summer, I did….” He kept glancing around at friends coming in the classroom. He doesn’t have any of his football buddies or previous boys from Kindergarten in the classroom but I know he will make quick friends. My girlfriend sent me this darling GQ-like picture from earlier in the morning.
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It was much easier to drop off this year than last year when Mario cried and cried. He’s growing up.
I biked over to Ri’s school at lunch. They had a 4-8th grade cookout. They were dancing to the YMCA song and running everywhere. Ri was her chill self sitting on the jungle gym.
“Why don’t you go dance, Ri?”
“I don’t want to.”
I smiled and rubbed her dangling foot. I’m learning to stand back. As much as I want to advise her on who to play with and who to befriend, I’ve got to let her be and trust that she will figure it out like we all did as young girls.
I biked from work at 2:30 to catch Mario after school. He came running out happy as can be
and chatting with his buddies. He confirmed he had a great day – thank goodness. I expected Ri to be down there when I arrived but she was not. I started to ridiculously fret that maybe she went home instead or got kidnapped or had to walk alone or… You name it, I thought it.
I got a text at 2:55 from Ri’s friend, Evie informing me that Ri wanted to talk to me.
“Mom, we are at the top of the hill;can I go say hi to Mrs. Pharion?”
I was relieved she had made it down from Edison and that she was not asking me to pick her up (she is not my walker girl). When I caught up with her, I asked her how the walk to Stevenson was. She said “great.” I was very happy to hear that word; hopefully she will continue to like walking home with Kathryn and Evie. It’s good for her. It also led to her pleading for a phone like Evie has and ten justifications for having one. This will an on-going battle this year, I am sure.
By the time I got done talking to Maria, Mario had decided to go with Stephanie and Quinn to DQ. Sophie ran over to Ri to ask her to go. Ri planted a big hug on her.
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And they were off for after-school ice cream with their buddies. First day over and done with – grateful to see it end with smiles and friends.
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My muscle

My girl is a muscle.

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When I asked her to help me with the groceries, she grabbed one bag and then demanded that I “load ’em on!” She slung five bags on each arm and started towards the door. She panted it out and nearly made it (I had to take two at the end).
When Ri was in preschool, she was friends with a teeny weeny little girl names Bell. They were nearly the same age but Bell maybe weighed 35 pounds wet. Ri, on the other hand, weighed in around 70. She is, and always has been, thick and strong – just like her daddy. When other kids would mess with Bell, she’d get in between them and protect Bell with all she had. Bell’s parents loved it and when Ri showed up at Bell’s birthday party, Bell’s dad exclaimed “There’s the muscle!”

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It has stuck with her ever since for very good reason….

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