Last day of school.

I gave up my morning run to make pancakes and see the kiddos off to school on their last day before Summer Break. They were quiet and a but fatigued as they ate their pancakes. I asked them what they had planned for the day, and they both shrugged. Rocco had more pep in him.

I told them I’d pick them up from school and we could do whatever they wanted. Ri voted for Jeni’s and Mario cast a vote for the river. 

Much to Ri’s dismay, I made her walk to school one last time this year. I snapped shots of her as she left. She was a good sport about it and even gave me a few smiles. I can’t believe how old she looks!

I returned to the house to find Mario’s pancake untouched. Seriously, I don’t know how this kid grows without any nutrients heading into his body. I got on him about not eating and shoved a Z Bar in his bag. It was 7:40 and we had to hit the road if we were gonna walk to his school in time. Rocco was charged to come with us.

We started our descent down 1st Ave. talking about our favorite movies. Fairly soon into our walk, he held my hand. He held it nearly the entire way to school. Kids passed and he kept holding. Little did he know that this small gesture brought me such joy. We arrived to his school and he walked off to finish his last day of 2nd grade.

I picked Ri up at 2:40. All the fifth grade boys had taken off their shirts as an end of the year gesture and the girls were grossed out. They were gagging and pointing at the boys. Hysterical. 

We drove down to get Mario. Ri welcomed him as he walked out the door. He and his buddies wrestled around on the grass and then we left for Jeni’s. I had big plans to bike to the river but the kids wanted to drive. I gave in because Mario had his first baseball game at 6. We parked and walked the bike path to our river spot. Ri, of course, wanted to play her game where she stands on a rock in the river and we toss stones near her to see who can best splash her.

After soaking Ri, we raced each other up the concrete slope. Ri and Mario bickered over who beat who so then we had to time one another. But then they bickered about me not starting the timer on one of them fast enough. Ahh, siblings. 

We headed home to see Jon and get ready for Mario’s first baseball game. And Summer begins…! 

wild childs

There is a family who lives close to us that we adore and they have two kids who are Maria and Mario’s ages. H is the same grade as Ri and R is one grade higher than Mario. It is a god-send because we can get the girls together at the same time as the boys and no one feels left out. 

This weekend, Jon and I took the girls and Mel and Stephen took the boys. Inevitably, we have crazy stories to tell when we swap the kids back to their respective houses. These kids party hard together! 

The girls went to their first book club meeting Saturday evening and made waffles with all sorts of toppings in honor of the book they are reading “Everything on a Waffle.” 

They were dosed up on sugar when I picked them up. We decided to head to the G-View Hop to get some Jeni’s ice cream. It was packed with people and the girls were charged to get two scoops of Jeni’s ice cream. We walked down to Nicholas’ house and said hi to him and his dad.  The girls love Nicholas, who is five years old and sweet as can be. After chatting with them, we headed to Trinity to play on the playground. The girls were wild and crazy along the way saying hi to people and jumping all over the place. They were even more insane at the park getting wet on the slides and taking their shoes off to run around. All I could envision was the two of them in college at some campus party; they would be the center of attention, no doubt.

They settled into the evening at 11 pm after taking showers and putting their hair up in towels.

The next morning, they begged for waffles so they could load them up like at book club. I agreed (I’m such a sucker). Notice how delicate and organized H’s waffle is compared to Ri’s insanity.


After some playing on the trampoline and xBox, we headed back up to the Avenue for one more dose of Jeni’s (Sunday Funday = ice cream for lunch). Of course it started pouring rain as soon as we left but the girls wanted to keep scootering. Wild childs.

Yea, these two make the boys look tame. They met us at Jeni’s with dry shirts and calm demeanors. They clearly had not been sufficiently sugared up on waffles, chocolate syrup and marshmallows. 


Getting it in

It was 60 degrees when I got home from work last night. There was no way these kids were getting out of going for a walk with me. The whining about it being too cold to go outside began a couple of weeks ago right alongside the daylight savings’ time change. I feel their pain. It’s hard for me to push myself back out the door when I get home and it’s pitch black outside. My heart tells me to throw on my pjs and be done. But my mind tells me to take the dog out, get some cold air, enjoy the darkness and calm.
But this tug-o-war of the body and mind did not have to occur last night because it was warm outside. Like the beginning of Spring after a Winter frost. Delightful.
I offered to take two friends with us but everyone they called was being responsible and doing homework. So it was just us. I compromised and agreed to Jeni’s if they ate a good dinner.
I love walking with my two babes. They are hysterical and darling and observant. Mario acted like he was running into the telephone posts to make Ri laugh. Ri pointed out all the Christmas decor in the windows and how strange that was when we haven’t even had Thanksgiving.
“Get used to it, girlie.” I told her.
We were the only ones in Jeni’s and we had a sample fest. Mario cracks me up with his staple choice – wild berry lavender. I wish he’d choose chocolate because he never finishes his and I am not a fan of lavender. Ri, on the other hand, always goes for the chocolate and peanut butter scoops – my favorites…but she eats all of hers! Mario got his first and sat at the bar. When we went to sit by him, he shooed us away.
“I want to sit by myself, guys.”
He’s been starting this new independent phase where he wants to order on his own, sit on his own, do everything on his own. I won’t complain.

After Jeni’s, they begged to go to the park. It was 7:15 and a responsible mom would have denied such a request. They still needed to read and take a bath and get to bed at a reasonable time with school in the morning. But I’m not a responsible mom when it comes to the last few gorgeous 60 degree nights of the season. We need to slurp it up while we can. And so the park we went. I chased them around, they slid down slides and I gave them some wild, twisted underdogs. Mario was scared to twist his swing chains around and then be pushed high in the air to untangle; but after watching Ri do it over and over, he tried it. Pure glee.


They did a good job enjoying the evening with me. When we got home I asked them “wasn’t I right? Wasn’t it awesome getting outside?”
They both looked at each other and then back at me and shrugged their shoulders. They artfully dodged the question by wrestling around on the floor for the next five minutes.
Yea, they were not going to admit that mom was right. But I know….>

Movies in the stroller – what a life!


We made a late-night run (literally) to Jeni’s for ice cream. Mario brought the iPad and got on YouTube to watch the Pink Panther. Maria soon became intrigued. And I was left acting as chauffeur to the two munchos.
We passed an older couple along the way and they gawked in amazement at the sight of M&M watching tv in the stroller.

“You wouldn’t have seen that five years ago” they chuckled.

It got me thinking back to when Maria was born just 7 years ago. An iPad would not have been an option. She had to stare into space and take in the sights around her when I took her for a stroller ride. How cruel!

But Mario has known nothing but this way of life. Technology is always at your fingertips. You can watch that show you like anytime. You can play an app game anytime. But you can also educate yourself and look up facts anytime (like when we googled how clouds were formed last week).

I struggle as do most parents with how much computer and tv and iPhone they should have in a day. It tends to go back to what they are doing on the computer or phone, also. There are some apps that have done wonders for Mario’s and Ri’s math skills (Math Zombies) but others that are probably killing brain cells exponentially (Zombieville (yes, M&M have a strange fascination with zombies)).

As with everything in life, moderation is key, I suppose. Ri and Mario still get on their bikes and run around the neighborhood through the day. The day they sit inside all afternoon on a technological device is the day that we start enforcing hard and fast rules. But, knock on wood, we have some pretty happy, active, diverse kids who like to mix it up between outdoor play and games and education. Think it will stay that way five years from now when they both have iPhones?!



Slightly insane but still kickin’ it

Mothers are all slightly insane. – JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

And there you have it summed up well.  I thought of this quote tonight as I sat with my girlfriend, Amy and her two kids and husband at Jeni’s ice cream parlor.  Maria and Mario wanted to see Zach and Grace (Amy’s kids) and we decided to meet at a local ice cream parlor and sit outside.  Zach is as wild as Mario so whenever the two of them get together, it tends to be chaotic.  Gracie and Maria do their own thing – typically not together since there is a two-year difference – but they are cool with just hanging out in their own separate hemispheres.  

Maria and Zach - minus two teeth

When we got to Jeni’s, Amy and her hubby already had a table.  Zach came running up to me and rammed into my side.  Mario jumped on him and fake-punched him in the back.  Maria climbed on Mario.  Gracie watched.  Let the chaos begin.  A friend with a daughter in Maria’s class was in front of me in line for ice cream.  She began to make small-talk with me about what teacher Maria had next year while Mario was dodging in and out of the stools with Zach.  This is how the conversation ensued:

Her: “So, who does Maria have this year?”

Me: “She has, ugh…Mario, get off the floor and stand over here now! She has Ms. Palmer – is she any (evil eye to Mario) good?”

Her: “I hear she is just awesome. Did Maria like her first grade teacher?”

Me: “Yeah, she… Mario, stand still now; do not move another inch or no ice cream! Yes, she really liked her – Maria, watch out for the wandering baby! – first grade teacher.”

And so it went for another five minutes as my friend waited in line without any children in tow surely thanking the heavens for a night with no interruptions.  When I went to sit down, it started all over again.  Amy and I would get a question and half an answer out before interrupting one or the other with a command to one of the children.  But somehow we were able to pick up where we left off in the conversation – even if it was right in mid-sentence – and complete our thoughts.  Mothers may be slightly insane but we can multi-task with the best of them and walk away from a get-together having got caught up on each others’ lives and kept the children from disaster! 


Precious babes ready for their stroller ride.

I woke this morning to a compliment: “You are a pretty flower.” Spoken from the lips of my son as we sat in McDonalds eating Timbits and burritos this chilly morning (ignore our diet, please, it really is a Sunday morning treat – and sometimes Monday and Wednesday and Friday treat…).  He had bitten into a timbit and fixed his stare on me.  I tilted my head and looked perplexed.  That is when he softly spoke the words to me.  I pursed my lips and rubbed my eyes and thanked him for saying something so sweet to his mama.  Maria saw this entire scene and quickly chimed in with “Mom, you are a…a… pretty flower.”  She is usually pretty quick with a quip to follow-up on her brother’s so she must believe that Mario summed it up pretty well to simply repeat his compliment.  I swallowed both of their compliments up and stored them away in that place all of us mothers have – the “I need to remember something positive about these kids” storage chest that we can open when all heck is breaking loose and we feel like we need to escape but cannot.  If we can just take ourselves back to one of those memories, hopefully we can stay sane enough to make it through the breakdown.  Kinda like chocolate….

Maria (Ms. Serious) and Mario (Mr. Jolly) playing Wii.

On our stroller ride home, Mario finally admitted he was cold.  Both kids refuse to wear big coats or hats or gloves even though it is only 38 degrees outside.  I bring their coats and accessories because I know eventually they will request them – or I should say, one will request them.  Mario.  Maria is a cold weather machine; a heater; a polar bear.  She has our warm blood streaming through her and it takes a blizzard to make her slightly chilled.  When we got home, Mario went straight to the Wii for a b-ball game.  Maria and I went back out for a stroll and talked about Mario’s birth, her birth, what kind of car I had growing up, what kind of car she wants when she gets older, and boyfriends (she is so inquisitive about the past – I love it).  

When we got back home, Maria and Mario played Wii together while Jon worked and I cleaned.  They went upstairs after five games and took a bath.  Maria loves it when Mario is in a good mood because he will play Barbies with her.  He still uses his Spiderman figurine but he will act like Spiderman is talking to Barbie, they go on dates, talk about their friends, and so on.  It is hilarious to listen to from behind the door.  They played a good half hour before they started to splash the water around the tub and all over the floor.  We politely screamed at them to get out, and before we knew it, there were two naked children in Maria’s room reciting “we are robots” and giggling hysterically. 

Maria and Mario fashion models

Jon and I continued to work and clean and Maria and Mario played together upstairs.  After another half hour, Maria yelled down asking if we were both ready for a fashion show.  “Sure!” we yelled back to her.  She introduced her and Mario while they waltzed down the stairs and stepped off the landing in a beautiful display of velvet green and plaid.  Mario in a button down shirt and Maria in a dazzling dress.  I screamed like they were teen idols, and asked for their photo and autograph, which Maria loved.  I also asked if I could kiss her cheek and she blushed with excitement.  “You are such a superstar, Ri, thanks for saying hi to me!”  She laughed and waved goodbye and went up to help Mario who realized he had a tear in his pants (causing him to bolt up the steps to avoid being seen by any other fans).

I finished cleaning the cabinet in the kitchen.  While I scrubbed spaghetti sauce off the white paint and listening to M&M laughing upstairs and talked to Jon about our week ahead, I felt a surge of happiness through my bones.  Pure, raw happiness.  Life could have stopped right there at that second – my head swirled with happiness about who I was, people I loved, experiences I had, places I traveled, choices I made.  All in that moment.   

This evening I perused the NY Times and happened by Roger Cohen’s post titled The Happynomics of Life.  England’s prime minister has decided to create a happiness index.  Cohen argues that this idea is not outrageous and could be helpful if used wisely.   He notes that when Western industrialized societies started measuring gross domestic product, the issue for many was survival.  But now that most of us have enough to live on — or far more than enough by the standards of human history — the question may want to turn to: “What’s going on inside our heads?”  Trying to make a shift from financial prosperity to emotional prosperity.  Putting value on things that don’t have price tags: open spaces, clear air, security, release from pressure — things of growing importance but also growing scarce.

The kids playing it up before Jeni's

Cohen thought of some recent moments of happiness in his own life. “One came walking across Regent’s Park, my skin tingling at the first brush of spring. Another came kissing my daughter goodnight as she slept and seeing how peaceful she was. A third came in Cairo seeing the powerful dignity of the Egyptian people coalescing to bring peaceful change.  These moments were linked to nature, to finding time, to feeling the transcendent power of the human spirit. Emotional prosperity is not the next e-mail in a relentless life.”

His piece struck me based on my experience earlier in the day, and stayed with me as I took Maria and Mario and Maria’s friend, Jonera to Jeni’s for ice cream.  They all ran ahead of me laughing at Mario making silly faces at them.  They giggled the entire time at Jeni’s about goofy things – Mario’s dancing, Maria’s kissing frenzy, the puppy at the window waving to us.  We walked home with the crisp cusp of Winter at our side but with birds chirping and people on their porches clearing the way for swings and planters.

The kids enjoying Jeni's

Eating Well

Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.  ~Harriet van Horne

One of hte amazing dishes from Doris and Kim

We got out of the car tonight and they immediately pleaded “can we go to Doris and Kim’s house to say “hi?”  Before I could answer Maria’s plea, she was standing in their yard moving towards the porch.  Mario followed swiftly yelling his monkey scream “ew ew ah ah.”  Doris had a few girlfriends over and she had out brie and crackers.  The kids dove into the crackers and I scooped up the brie.  Heaven.  Doris is an amazing cook.  Everything I taste of hers is remarkable.  (Now, granted, this is coming from the woman who does not cook anything.  But although I do not cook, I still know good food! )

Her dishes  take you to another world.  I am in Sicily or Florence or New Orleans or Paris.  She needs to start her own business – she is made to live in the kitchen.  She enters the cooking process with abandon.  Her art is just too wonderful to be wasted anywhere else.  Their kitchen was just renovated a couple of years ago, and it was a wise investment.   

Posing near the sunflowers on our way to Jeni's

When we stopped at Doris and Kim’s tonight after an hour walk to Jeni’s and up Grandview Ave. (looking at the power lines that Papa Rod climbs, the different shapes of clouds, and the mailboxes that store our letters to distant family), they had a basket of delicious rolls for the kids.  I scored a chicken marsala dish with mushrooms and noodles.  It was sweet and tangy.  The chicken marsala from many weddings’ past paled in comparison to Ms. Doris’s.  The other night she hooked my up with grilled veggies (zucchini and yellow squash and onion), shaved cheese, and chicken.  The veggies were out of this world and the chicken juicy, juicy, juicy. 

Oh, yes, we must have done something right to land these two for neighbors.