The girl is a trooper. Her poor little eyes have been swollen for three straight days. Swollen, itchy, stinging. Yet, she does not stomp around the house blasting her misery in every direction. She does not cry and wail and pout in the corner. 

Rather, she lays in our bed with a washcloth over her eyes and begs for her little brother to give her a hug. She only wants her Mario. And Mario innately knows that he needs to be there; his brotherly love is in full force and comes through when Ri truly needs it. 

Mario is not one to give away free hugs to his sis (whereas Ri would hug her bro every millisecond if possible – as seen below).  But he senses when it’s necessary and he obliges. Last night, she was upstairs crying after I put her to bed. I didn’t hear her but Mario did. He yelled for me, and I stopped doing the dishes and walked upstairs. I found Mario holding the washcloth on Ri’s eyes and Ri’s arm wrapped around his waist. 

She had stopped crying. 

Mario repeated “you got this Ri; you will be ok.”

Cupcake war

Maria obsesses over the show Cupcake Wars. Absolutely loves it. 

Yesterday, we had some down time between having friends over. Ri was shuffling through the boxes in the pantry and found a box of chocolate cake mix and icing (because we are the family that never is without sugar). She looked at me with her Maria smile and sweetly asked “can I do a cupcake war in the kitchen?”

Yes, it was her against herself. She retrieved all the ingredients and cupcake pans, and placed them on the counter. She wrote down the names of all the neighbors she’d give the cupcakes to and totaled the numbers. She needed 26 cupcakes. I stood at the oven and calibrated the timer to one hour and thirty minutes. 

She yelled “go” and I started the timer. She whipped over my way and preheated the oven. Then she poured her batter and mixed her eggs, water and oil. She was in a mad frenzy from the start. And she loved the thrill. I acted as assistant reacting to commands she belted out.

“Open the icing and put it in the plastic dispenser! Make sure the silver decorating tip is all the way down!”

As I did that, she poured the mix in the cupcake cups. She only had enough mix for 20. 

“Assistant, you need to run to the store and get another box of mix! And I need a topper. How about cherries or bananas?” I darted out of the house to Kroger’s. I had 18 minutes.

I grabbed a bunch of bananas and a box of mix. I also grabbed a can of frosting, in case (smart move in the end). Then I saw some decorative colored balls of chocolate so I grabbed a green and blue package. I thought Ri would love them. 

I arrived home to a daughter who was flying around the kitchen.

“Thank goodness you are home! We need more mix made into batter! Did you get the bananas?”

I gave her the bananas and then brought the two packs of chocolate balls from behind my back to surprise her.

“What are these?” She made a scrunched-up disgusted face.

“I thought you’d like them for your cupcakes.”

“Ahh, mom, they do not at all go with my theme. Thanks though.”


She proceeded to sprinkle crushed graham cracker on her cupcakes. She sliced four bananas out of the six because she calculated 7 slices per banana. Glad her math is up to par.    

She kept on me about the mix until I had stirred it up enough to bring it over to her. She poured it quickly (chocolate everywhere) and threw the pans into the oven. She dictated my next task: put the icing into the plastic decorating tube. 

There was 6 minutes left when Ri took out the cupcakes. Some were finished but some were not. This led to a scolding from Ri about how I needed to buy the same kind of mix. My mix required a 25 minute bake time and Ri’s required 20. This meant they needed 5 more minutes – that would only leave one minute to decorate! Agh!

I took the fully cooked cupcakes out to decorate and Ri threw the remaining cupcakes into the oven. At two minutes, she made an executive decision and took the cupcakes out of the oven – ready they were fully done or not!

She topped the cupcakes with icing and I moved them over to the table to sprinkle with crushed graham cracker. She finished and put the bananas on top. We had 1 minute … she placed the last banana on the last cupcake and we were done! We high-fived each other and breathed a sigh of relief.   

I could have eaten this girl up from head to toe as we stood there looking at her creations. She amazes me with her independence and strong will. She has a gift for design and a love of food. A pathway to executive pastry chef is beginning to be carved out….

Now, if she can just learn how to CLEAN UP!

Baltimore, Bucks, and Babies

Jon and I had a great time in Baltimore celebrating our anniversary. His buddy Paul and wife Kelly hooked us up beyond belief. Front row at the Orioles game on Friday night right behind home plate. You could hear the crack of the bat and feel the sting of the ball in the thigh (quite a few bad pitches).I screamed at the Baltimore players with all my might but didn’t manage to get a smile from them (my Reds would have given me some).
On Saturday, we started the tailgating early. Out of the hotel by 9 am (yea, I know there are those up at 5 am raring to go… Not moi). We met up with Paul and Kelly and our neighbors in Grandview (small world) and their family. The stadium was booming when we entered and the Navy boys were impressive as they threw and loosened up on the field – but our guys looked rough and tough when they marched out. The suite had hamburgers and hot dogs and sushi and nuts and more. Ri would have been in heaven with me. Our neighbors’ kids sure were. Jon had fun teasing them and helping one of them create an ultimate burger!

Meanwhile, I had to move around before the game. I was getting antsy after being in that room for an hour. I went down to see the band and the players near the field. I absorbed all the positive energy from the players – so energizing to be near the field listening to music and hearing the crowd. Their were players’ mamas and papas near me taking pictures and beaming about their children.


I headed back to our suite about fifteen minutes before the start. The midshipmen assembled on the field and the Star-Spangled Banner played. Gets me every time.
And then the game.

It was quite the nail biter at first but then we pulled it out. All were in good spirits afterwards. But we were also whooped. We went our separate ways to rest up before dinner. I took a walk to check out the inner harbor and to wake me up (if I nap, I’m worse off).
We went to Little Italy for dinner with Paul and Kelly. We ordered a magnificent bottle of wine and had an amazing meal. It was a great way to end the trip.

We crawled out of bed at 7 am on Sunday and left for the airport. We arrived home to sheets of rain and kids’ embraces. But then they were off to the neighbors’ house to play. And I was whacked out. Usually I’m happy to get some quiet time and slurp it up but for some reason their departure left me depressed and I didn’t recover all day. Sometimes when I don’t start my day with a run or the gym, I get in a funk, too. So maybe it was that combo that kicked my butt. We had our block party that night so I had to break free from the doldrums. I managed to do so and had a good time talking with Patty and Stephanie. The kids biked and wrestled and “got drunk” on Jones soda.
I woke up and took a seven mile run. I felt much better on Monday. The kids and I cleaned up their rooms. We had four garbage bags of junk and old toys and clothes. How refreshing! Jon worked on their fish tanks (not a fun chore). It was soothing to all be together. But Mario got antsy after a bit and begged to go see Quinn. I gave in after the hundredth plea and let him go. My girl stayed with me though, and helped move her barbies upstairs. Evening came and we got ready for bed at 8:15. I read them a book in Ri’s room and tucked them in.
I took a deep breath as I walked down the steps, and gave thanks for my kiddos and being home.
And the more I thought about my melancholy upon my return home on Sunday, the more I came to believe that it was just leaving Paul and Kelly! They were too good of hosts!>

Finally! A no travel weekend

We had no plans to travel this weekend. I don’t believe that has happened for three months. Ms. Elena has a lot to do with that predicament. Ri and I can barely go a week without heading to the farm to see her.

We’ve also had Cincy pool parties, Big Mario’s pig roast, farm family reunions, vacation. You name it, we did it this Summer. So it was heavenly to stay put this weekend.
Maria had a Strings picnic on Saturday afternoon. I thought it was just a gathering outside the middle school to play on the swings and jungle gym and get to know fellow String players. I had Joanne pick up Ri so I could finish cleaning and told Ri I’d meet up with her at 1 (the picnic was 12-2). Mario and I walked up at 1. I should say that Mario started out in the stroller but then walked as soon as we spotted his football coach. He had not wanted the stroller to begin with but we were in a hurry and he wanted to eat lunch so he couldn’t bike. He even told me as he hopped in “I can’t let anyone see me in this because it’s embarrassing.” So when we spotted Coach Jim and his family a block ahead of us, he leaped out of his seat and walked ahead of me. What a trip.
We arrived at Edison to find no one outside. We learned the picnic was inside and all the kids, including Ri, were sitting in rows with their instruments. I guess this is a musician’s idea of a picnic… The 4th graders plucked away as they tried to follow the notes on the page. The 5-7 graders played with their bows. They actually sounded pretty good. Ri and her two girlfriends looked a bit overwhelmed but they hung in with the rest of them.


Afterwards, I asked Ri what she thought. She confirmed she was overwhelmed and that her fingers were sore from plucking. I began to feel the “I want to give up” cloud moving in and promptly blew it away. “You are just starting. You will only get better. You need to hang in there.” She nodded and continued walking.
When we got home, she immediately placed her violin case on the table and took it out. She began to pluck after she wrote down a line of D’s, A’s and G’s. She did this off and on all weekend, and loved playing a “concert” for Jon and Mario and me. Hopefully, this enthusiasm will remain.
Mario enjoyed hanging with his boy, Quinn over the weekend and swimming with his friends Zachary and Owen. He always wants to be with his friends or on his iPad so when we say no to iPad, we know he will ask to play with a friend. Quinn is always first on the list. But Saturday, Quinn was busy so Mario met Zachary and Owen to swim and play at Zachary’s house. Dressing up and drinking lots of juice was involved.

Ri and Sophie and I took Rocco for a walk to Grandview Ave. around dinner time. Why is it that we always and up with Jeni’s ice cream for dinner when we do that?!

Mario and I played Yahtzee when we got home while Ri played violin. He and I had an epic battle – two competitive souls fighting for a Yahtzee. Neither of us got one but he made it up top so he beat me by 35 points. He loved that.
On Sunday, Jon and I were treated to an anniversary breakfast in bed by M&M. Mario kept running into our room to see if we were sleeping until finally he pleaded for us to get up at 8 am (yea, they were up before 7). He brought us two coffees and me a Powerade. He knows his mama. Ri brought up two plates holding two over easy eggs and a waffle. They made us eat all the food as they watched us (the eggs may have needed cooked a bit longer). We told them that the best things to came from our marriage were them munchballs.

After breakfast, we cleaned Ri’s room – I swear we had two garbage bags of stuff to either throw away or give away and yet her room was still cluttered as can be. Mario would not allow his room to be clawed over for old toys and trash. He neatly piled all his junk in his drawers or bins and called it a day.
I did get the kids to take Rocco to the woods with me. Rocco has finally come to terms with the kids climbing up the tree. He used to bark and jump up on the tree to get them.



Mario got his wish come true the rest of Sunday. He got to play with Quinn all day. Ri got to play with Sophie, too. It’s been such a long time since we had an entire day to spend just relaxing with friends. Jon and I spent the day gazing into each others’ eyes still mesmerized by each other 12 years after we said our vows to one another. Actually I got a massage and he got palettes for Ri’s broken bed frame but we did swipe smiles at one another as we walked out the door. >

Snowball personalities

Nothing like the snow to bring out our respective personalities:

Maria, the muscle. She rolled that snowball until it took both Jon and I to lift it.


Mario, the provoker. He threw snowballs at me and Jon and Ri every time we turned our backs on him.


Jon, the machine-lover. He couldn’t wait to get home to his snow blower and clear off the bit of snow at the end of the driveway that had accumulated throughout the day (Mario in the foreground making his snowball move).


And me. The do-er. “Let’s stop this nonsense and build our snowman!”
And since I have trained my kids well, we ended up with not one snowman but five of them scattered throughout our lawn (the neighbor kids did come down and help to their credit).





Heading out on the town

Mario has been dreaming to go out on his own the past few nights.  This has been an ongoing desire over the last few months that has manifested itself with admonishments from him to me whenever I get too close to him.  At the library, he went up to the second floor by himself to look at Wii games.  I followed him stealthily so that he would not see me.  I watched him look at the Wii games and then head over to the counter to ask the librarian whether they had the Rise of the Guardians Wii game.  She was having trouble understanding him so I butted in to clarify.  Mistake.  Mario became irate and embarrassed.  “Mom, I told you I would do it myself.  You are so embarrassing! Go away!”

pixLast night, we were drawing pictures, and Mario asked Maria how to spell “I’m Going Somewhere.” He then walked over to me and gave me the picture.  I couldn’t read it at first and then I got it.  I asked “you are going somewhere? Where?”  Mario’s response: “Don’t know yet but I will figure it out. I will wait until tomorrow.”

mariojeanstattooTonight, he asked Maria to go upstairs with him.  Ri ran back downstairs and breezed past me. I asked her what she was doing and she quickly replied “Getting some cool shoes for Mario.” They both came back down ten minutes later and Mario looked too cool for school with his double layered oxford shirts, new jeans and sweet man-watch on his wrist.  Maria grabbed the body crayons and drew tattoos on his arms.

“I’m heading out tonight, mom.”

“Where you going?”

“I may got to the bank and then I may just take a walk.”


“Yeah, I am not going to any girls’ houses but I may not be home until tomorrow.”

doorJon told him that he was free to go (the mom in me could not let him leave even though I knew Jon would sneak out and watch over him).  Mario put on his coat and hat and gloves and he said goodbye to Ri.  Ri bawled and begged him not to go because he could be stolen by someone in the night.  He told her he’d be fine.

He walked out the door and stood on the porch in the 15 degree cold.  He looked back at me.  He walked back to the door.

“Mom, will the police stop me if they see me?”

“Yeah, they won’t let you walk by yourself until you are fifteen.”

He walked back out on the porch. He stood on the step for a minute.  I stepped back so he would not see me.

He walked back to the door and peeked inside.


“Did you decide to come back to your mama and sis?!”

“Yes, I will come back just because the police are out. I will go out later when the police get off work.”

I agreed knowing that Jon would explain to him that the police never get off of work.  I am sure he will think of some other way to get out of the house in the next few days.  Probably use a disguise or something.  He is jonesin’ to get out on his own at age 5.  Ri, on the other hand, is perfectly content with me following her everywhere and has no desire to leave the roost.  I imagine that will change when she hits her pre-teen years especially with her brother’s influence.

2012 Wrap-up

2012 Highlights:

1. Playing in the ocean and collecting seashells.



2. Petting an alligator (and Ri kissing it!).



3. Hiked the sand dunes in Michigan.


4. Playing lots of putt-putt.


5. Ri and Mario flew on an airplane for the first time!


6. Took a boat ride on Traverse Bay.


7. Visited Louisville, Kentucky for Miles and Taylor’s wedding, and spent the night at a hotel with Grandma Meg and Peepaw.


8. Celebrated Ri’s 7th birthday!


9. Mario turned 5!


10. Headed to Kings Island and rode the Beastie!


11. Rode the COTA bus to downtown.


12. Swam at Fort Rapids water park for Zach’s birthday party.

13. Ate at Perkins for my birthday!

14. Ri went to her first horseback riding camp!


15. Mario played his first season of football and baseball.



16. Maria cheerleaded!


17. Mario learned to ride a bike!


18. Ri started the second grade.


19. Mario and I raced at the track while Ri timed us.

20. Ri and Mario got to see Uncle Jack play in his band.


21. Riding rides and playing games at the Ox Roast.


22. Ri got to see Big Time Rush in concert.


23. We made lotsa pancakes!


24. Mario got to go hunting with dad!


25. Ri got to make wine with dad.


26. We ate lots of Orange Leaf yogurt!


27. We had a decade party at Grandma Meg’s and Peepaw’s!



28. We went to President Obama’s rally at OSU.


29. We went to the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Cincy.


30. Mario went to the dentist for the first time.


31. We visited the dog shelter to walk the dogs.



32. We walked Willie and Butters in Cincy.



33. We ate rocks at the river (ha, just wanted to see if you were awake!).


34. We celebrated Easter with our cousins playing out at the farm!


35. We found Easter eggs at the Heile Easter egg hunt; didn’t win the $5 egg but got lots of coins and candy.


36. We played at French Park like I did as a kid.


37. We swam at Grandma and Grandpa Ionno’s country club.


38. We swam at Grandma Lolo’s pool.


39. We rode Grandma Meg’s and Peepaw’s horses.


40. We hosted Maggie’s graduation party!


41. We caught fireflies.


42. We saw Aunt Sarah and Jorge more because they live in Pittsburgh!



43. We watched fireworks at Wyman Woods for the 4th of July.


44. We learned how to roll into a sleeping bag sandwich thanks to David!


45. Robert began at OSU and Laura came to visit.


46. We jumped in leaves!


47. We participated in the Heile Olympics.


48. We hosted Thanksgiving for the wild Heile clan and made our first Grateful Tree!


49. We went sled riding all week of Christmas break!



50. We spent the last day of the year with our Ionno cousins and built a huge snowman!



51. We hosted Christmas for the Ionno’s and Menkedick’s and Grandma Ionno got to see all her grandbabies!



52. We loved playing Three Little Pigs card game.


53. We still managed to ride in the stroller all year!


54. Elfie came to live with us until Christmas day and wrecked havoc on our house.


55. We went to the zoo with Alana and Gio.


56. We visited with my best girlfriends from Cincy and their kids.




57. We worked in our garden.


58. Mario and I went to Darby Creek with Gio.


59. Maria had more sleepovers and play dates than in 2011.


60. Lou came into our life!


And for 2013, our resolutions:

Maria – eat healthier (good job, Ri!)
Mario – to be able to shoot fire
Jon – to not make resolutions
Mary – to cook more (or I guess it’s more honest to say, “to cook”)!