Happy 10th birthday, Mario!

I can’t believe you are 10, Mario Joseph. With the way you act and what you know, I swear you are 18. This was evident when I went out shopping for your birthday gift. When I typed in 10 year old boy gifts on Amazon, I got a barrage of Lego sets, superhero masks, Nerf guns, and Pokémon cards. This show of gifts was a complete disconnect from what you had been asking for in the last few months. Your thinking was around an iPhone 7, a superb headset to use for vlogging, a pair of Uzzs or whatever those high-priced rapper sneakers are. You love the bling, that is for sure.

This year, you got into Jake Paul and rap music (a boy after his mama’s heart). I would find you in your room with your ear buds in jamming out. You even started to rap a bit after watching a lot of Jake Paul videos. I would try to teach you a few rap tricks while riding in the car, but all you would do was laugh at me and shake your head disapprovingly. 

You also got into YouTube big time. You love to watch videos on it but you also created your own YouTube channel. Your dream is to get 1 million subscribers. You started a giveaway in order to try to increase your subscribership. The first thing you gave away was a wallet in the mold of $100 bill. Dad and I watched your clip, and we were so proud of you! Actually, we were in awe that you had even created such a video – we have some homework to do to make sure you are staying within the bounds of a 10-year-old. But what are those bounds? We are still trying to test them out – we want you to be able to have the freedom to express yourself but we also want to make sure you are not engaging in activity that could end up harming you or us. Little did I think that I would have these issues when you arrived 10 years ago.

You continue to assert your independence. Ever since you were six, you felt as though you could walk or bike places all by yourself. Even places that were miles away. You were so excited for school this year because you are able to walk by yourself. Actually, you have chosen to walk with several of your guy friends but you love the thought of not having dad or I have to take you to school. You loved going to the pool by yourself this year and meeting up with friends. Of course, you depended on me and dad to give you $5 to spend while you were at the pool but that’s as close as we got to you there. You also enjoyed hitting the library by yourself. I think you may actually read a book up there but for the most part I think you just enjoy hanging with friends or playing on the Wii. 

You have also gotten into gym shoes this year. And not just any old gym shoes, but the best of the best. Kyrie basketball shoes, Jordans, and  expensive Saucony running shoes. Of course, you know your mom’s weakness. I cannot say no to a sweet pair of gym shoes. You and I have found I love in going to the running store and trying on 10 different pairs of shoes (we only walk out with one or two pairs each though:)). 

As much as you like receiving nice things, you also exercised your giving muscles this year. You attended Feed the Streets with me and you went to the shelter to help pack food during the summer. You also collected backpacks for homeless kids going back to school, and talked up a storm to the YMCA coordinators when we delivered them to the shelter. You enjoy giving to people, both in donations and in laughter. You had the coordinators cracking up and amazed at how confident you were at your age.

You and your cousin have gotten into scootering. You love to watch tricks being performed online by skaters, and then trying them out yourself. You have been trying to master some flip turns at the skate park. You love heading to your grandma’s house because she takes you and your cousin to the skate park everyday. 

You talk about moving to LA every other day, and buying a Lamborghini or a Bugatti. You dream of hosting a killer YouTube channel and having millions of fans. Somehow, dad and I can picture this dream coming true for you based on your personality. 

You still love chocolate and sugar just like your mom – you will chow down a chocolate long john donut at any time of the day or night. You love a good action or comedy film – the days of watching Pixar movies with you are over – you want PG-13 everything, if not R…. You would drop everything to go fishing or hunting with your dad. The only activity I engage in with you where I get that reaction is wrestling. You still love to wrestle with me (it’s getting harder and harder with your increased strength).  You fight with your sis at times but in the end, you always have her back. If you see her getting messed with, you move right to her side. You are still an emotional thing and very sensitive. You get really upset when someone interrupts you and you get sullen when someone says something that hurts your feelings. You want respect (but you have to remember to give it, too). You have gotten better at expressing your frustrations more calmly since you have gotten closer to the double digits. We are working now on letting go of comments that may hurt your feelings and enveloping a greater sense of worth about yourself and your abilities. 

When I asked you what 10 would bring, you told me you wanted to learn more scooter tricks. When I asked about school, you said you wanted to read faster. When I asked what you wanted to do with your mom, you stated that you wanted to do more for the homeless (you knew the right answer!). When I asked what you wanted to do with your dad, your immediately chirped back that you wanted to go hunting, and lots of it. 

Dad and I are so lucky to have you in our lives. You bring much laughter to the household and beyond. You also remind us to play hard and let go of chores and work. Jump on the bed and wrestle. Head out back and play basketball. Watch the skater on Xbox take a head dive. It’s all cool, just like you. Happy 10th birthday, my darlin’. We love you!

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.

Back to school

How the heck do Jon and I have a 7th grader and a 4th grader? Wasn’t Ri just laying on Jon’s forearm like a baby sloth and Mario bopping on my chest in the Snugli? How many times during those first years of life did Jon and I stare at each other in our sleep-deprived states and think “when will they grow up and be able to do things on their own?!”  

I remember heading back to work, tired as all get out from being up all night. A colleague walked into my office and laughed. She had kids that were grown and in college. 

“Up all night?” She asked already knowing the answer. 

I looked across the room at her and gave her a sneer. “When does all of the joy of having a kid come?” 

I was only half kidding. Of course, there were many amazing and joyful times when the kids were very young but it was such hard work. Both kids loved to be held every second and they were not good sleepers at all. It’s amazing how parents can get by on two hours of full sleep a night. We did it for over a year with each kid.

My colleague shook her head and smiled. “Before you know it, they will be grown up and you will miss these days.” 

I smiled thinking of my two babes who had hugged me so tightly when I dropped them off at day care that morning. I missed them as we spoke but couldn’t quite grasp how I would miss these days and nights of non-stop baby work. 

And here I am years later remembering that conversation with my colleague and understanding every word she said. I look at Maria and Mario and it’s hard to remember those days when they were just little nuggets. I miss being able to pick them up whenever I wanted to and love all over them. I miss putting them on my back and carrying them around the neighborhood to point out the different trees and to find as many squirrels as we could find in one block. I miss having them on my lap and reading picture books. I completely forget how tired I was all the time.

The morning of the first day of school, the kids woke up rarin’ to go. I made chocolate chip pancakes and eggs to celebrate the beginning of a new year where both kids go to the same school! Mario has been psyched all summer to be able to walk to school. They had their new bookbags all together, lunches packed, and hair brushed. They indulged my first day of school pictures on the porch and then headed off together to school. They wanted to walk together the first day, which warmed my heart. 


They came home after their first day of school and reported all went well. The next day, they got up late, threw on some random clothes and shuffled out the door after quickly downing a bowl of cereal. They were already out of the back to school honeymoon. When I asked for a hug goodbye, they both walked over to me and hugged me. They even told me “I love you” without any prompting. Yes, indeed, they are still my nuggets, just a little taller. 

Wait until tonight when I make them read with me before bed:)

Anniversary no. 15

At this time on August 17, 2002, I was drinking lots of wine and groovin’ on the dance floor in my gym shoes and wedding dress. 

Fifteen years later, I am making pb&j sandwiches for the kids’ school lunch and running to the pet store for another bag of crickets to feed the gecko.  

I did score a quick kiss from my hubby, however, before he ran out the door to help with Mario’s football practice. 

And I cooked him up some pasta with fresh tomatoes and olive oil at 8:30 pm after we’d picked up the kids from practice and taken out the trash and put away the dishes from the past day. We sat together for 20 minutes and caught up on our days before heading up to give the kids’ goodnight hugs. 

Yea, that’s how we roll anymore. But damn if we could imagine life any other way but than the messy, hectic, hilarious way it is right now. We are partners through it all. There have been numerous times when we were pissed at one another to the point we thought “why did I choose this jacka– to be with forever?!” but we knew – even in that frustration – that there is no one else we’d rather be with in this life.  The laughter and connection and love far outweighs any momentary pissiness. 

So, here’s to 15 more years, babe, and fifteen more after that and fifteen more…. I am grateful our lives crossed and we decided to walk through this lifetime together.

Doctor

I love when I come home from work and the kids don’t have anything going on for the evening. We can sit down together and eat dinner, review our days’ activities, and go out for a bike ride or a rollerskating adventure before we settle down for the night. It’s like a bright red bow on a shiny silver box. 

It never fails that the kids do something to crack us up. Thank God Jon and I have them in our lives to keep us grounded when we get stressed with work or bills or other nonsense. Last night, Maria decided to roller blade and Mario decided to bike. Mario was taking forever while Maria, Jon and I waited out front for him. We kept yelling back “Mario, what are you doing?” He’d answer “just a second, be right there” and we’d wait another minute before we yelled back to him again.

Finally he biked down the driveway with a backpack on his back. He pulled up to Maria and I, and stopped his bike.

“I made sure I had all of the things we may need during our trip.”

He began to pull out numerous items: bubble gum, washcloth, band aids, water bottle, and a knee guard. He explained his concern for Maria being on roller blades since she usually only used roller skates. He was ready to help if she fell. He really does have a heart. Maria gave him a hard Maria hug and was taken aback with his kindness in thinking about her safety. 


We started off on our two block adventure. Mario stopped every 100 feet to ask if we needed water. Maria answered affirmatively each time because she thought it was so precious. 

We were rounding the second block and heading towards home when Maria faked a fall in order to have Mario play doctor. Mario had no clue she had faked the fall so when Maria yelled out “Doctor Doctor” he came speeding on his bike from around the corner. 

“What happened Ri” he asked as he pulled out the washcloth. She described how she twisted her ankle on the rollerblade and fell onto the pavement. Mario examined her ankle and her knee. Maria confirmed that it was her knee that hurt most of all. Mario poured water on it to start off with, and then he sopped up the water with his washcloth. He poked around the kneecap and wiggled it to see if that hurt. Maria screamed in pain and then winked up st me to show me she wasn’t really hurt. Mario got out the knee brace and strapped it on to her knee. He told us that we would have to wait a few minutes to see if her pain calmed down before we moved. Maria kept looking up at me slyly and smiling. She loves this kind of play with her brother, and he rarely engages in it with her so she had to absorb every minute. After some more consoling and a full check of the limbs, I told Maria that I thought she could make it home. Mario asked her if she was sure she was ok, and after Maria saw my “you better get up” face, she knew she better confirm that she was fine.


Of course, I knew she would take the opportunity to fall at least one more time before we got home because she so loved this time with Mario. And so two driveways before our house, she fell onto the curb and acted like she hit her head. Mario again came to her rescue throwing down his helmet and his bike and tending to her ails.  After her treatment, she begged Mario to give her a hug to make her feel better. He was in rare form because he readily agreed. These are the nights I dream of.

Summer angst 

Every summer I tell myself that I am going to hire a sitter who will come up with a huge game plan for the kids during the summer. I interview college kids and tell them my expectations. They all respond with positive affirmations like “that sounds wonderful “or “I love that idea “or “I have done that in the past and it works well”. But then the summer begins and the new sitter comes over and nothing falls into place in the way I expected it to weeks before. 

This year, both kids fell in love with the same sitter. In the past, they have had to bargain together because one of them liked one sitter and the other liked another sitter. They would go back-and-forth on the benefits and detriments of both of their choices and eventually land on one for the summer (typically Maria’s choose with some bribery on her part).. So this year, I was excited that they both selected the same girl. She seemed very nice and grounded during our telephone interview, and she seemed upbeat and chill  when she came over to the house. She studied Chinese and finance in college, and was getting ready for a full-time job starting in September. Her references stated that she was one of the nicest people they had met. The only issue they had with her is that she was “too nice.” Their kids loved her because she would let them do anything they wanted. So there lies my dilemma. This would probably be the last year that we have a full-time summer sitter. Jon and I had been seriously contemplating letting the kids be on their own next summer and just putting them in numerous camps, etc. So as much as I dreamed of a sitter who would have detailed plans for the week and get them to do 2 hours of homework a day, I also dreamed of a sitter that would have fun with the kids and who both kids enjoyed. Hence, why I decided to go with the girl both kids liked. 

And so far, it has gone well with our current sitter this summer, as far as the kids and her  getting along. However, I have gone a bit nuts through this summer with the lack of itinerary planned for the kids. The sitter quite enjoys watching TV with the kids and caves as soon as they start begging for anything. The upside is that if I tell her certain things must be done, then she will get them done. But that means that I have to spend time in the evening or in the morning writing down all of the things I want done. This would not seem to be a huge task but when I’m dealing with work, cleaning the house, tending to the kids and to the hubby, walking the dog, working out, that one more thing may just put me over the edge. 

I had dreams of the kids waking up in the morning and taking a walk with the dog, coming home and doing some workbook pages, engaging in a cool project together, hitting the pool, coming back to a siesta and reading their books for an hour, putting a book report together of what they read, starting a nonprofit to help needy children in the world, learning Spanish fluently…. ok, a bit much but a mom can dream.

A few weeks ago, I about lost my mind over   what the kids were doing (actually not doing) through the day. I called the house and heard the TV in the background. I asked my sitter how long they had been watching it. She responded that they had only watched a few shows. Only watched a few shows, I thought?! Are you kidding me? It is 80° outside and sunny and they are in there watching tv shows for hours on end? I came home that night, ignored the dishes and clutter, and wrote down a list of things the kids needed to do the next morning – dust, water the flowers, do workbook pages, read…. The next day those things were done, and I was happy. The following day I had no time to write anything down but I was still happy from the previous day’s accomplishments. Who knows what the kids did throughout the day. I began to fret about it but then I thought about my summers. I don’t recall my parents worrying about the amount of reading I was doing or buying me any workbooks during the summer. Rather, I recall watching Famoly Feud and Three’s Company and Family Ties.  I recall jumping on my bike and trying to find a friend to play with in the morning. I recall walking down to the carry out to get snacks with my girlfriend. I recall arranging and rearranging my stuffed animals in my bedroom. One thing I don’t recall – learning multiplication or reading 300 page novel. And now look at me. I’m not a Nobel laureate but I turned out ok. My kids will do the same. 

And since I’ve let go of my angst and worry about summer activities for the kids, I am able to appreciate all they’ve done.

1. Created their own lunches and made videos of the preparation.


2. Thought about activities they could do to earn money (babysitting, dog-walking and dog-sitting).

3. Started a backpack drive to get backpacks for kids in need. 

4. Went to play practice Tuesday through Thursday each week.



5. Dusted the house.

6. Watered the flowers. 

7. Completed workbook pages.

8. Read their books.

9. Started reading a book with me in the evenings (The Giver).

10. Babysat their cousin.



11. Cleaned their rooms.

12. Played with friends.



13. Swam and dove at the pool.


14. Visited the pet shelter and gave kittens love.


15. Coached a K-6 soccer camp with high school girls (Maria).

16. Got tutored (Maria).

17. Played in a basketball league (Mario).

18. Completed swim team (Maria).



19. Played in GBSA baseball and fast-pitch softball.


20. Went to basketball and football camp (Mario).

21. Went to Akita camp.


22. Visited their grandmas.


23. Watched a deer play with Rocco.


24. Learned how to fake fight each other. 


25. Played Clue and Monopoly.

26. Hit a neighbor’s pool party and Ri baked a killer 4th of July cake.


27. Watched fireworks in the car.


28. Played with cousins.


29. Biked to Tim Horton’s for donuts.


30. Drank lots of Starbucks.


31. Went to a church festival.


32. Tried out modeling (Ri).


33. Fell in love with Jake Paul (Mario).

34. Enjoyed Jeni’s.


35. Visited The Wilds and became mesmerized with an ostrich. 

36. Visited my work and played at the Barnes & Noble. 


37. Visited the Boathouse in Marietta on the River and ate ribs and pulled pork.

38. Ate at Skyline (one too many times)!


39. Rocked some heels at Robert’s lakeside wedding.


40. Learmed how to play Balckjack (his counselors taught him at camp)!


41. Hit The Beach water park and braved the slides and zip line with Ri.


42. Partied together at Lia’s wedding.

43. Ate s’mores and held baby chicks at the farm.


44. Made family meals together and ate on the patio.


45. Held family meetings to discuss the week ahead.

Not bad, and we still have a month to go. The kids are hoping we can add Kings Island to our list; I’m hoping we can add two more completed books:).

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…:)