Maria nailed Tinkerbell. It was as if Tink swept into Maria’s body one evening as Maria slept. Maria fully brought out Tink’s feistiness and orneriness. She was magnificent.

When she learned of the play in December of last year, she wanted to be Peter Pan or Wendy so badly. Those were the two roles that she knew would be able to fly during production. She asked me to call one of the directors from the December play and see if she would coach her. She agreed to meet with her on two different occasions before auditions at the end of January. She prepared Ri on how to present herself at the audition, how to memorize her lines, and how to give life to them. Thank god she did because it gave Ri the confidence needed to rock her audition. She auditioned knowing that she would not get the roles of Peter Pan or Wendy. They had announced that you had to be under 100 pounds for those roles. My muscular girl would not make the cut.

We got a call back the night she had a sleepover with a few friends. I was going to wait to tell her about getting the Tinkerbell role until after her friends left the next morning. At about midnight, she came running into our bedroom asking if I had heard what role she had gotten. Two of her girlfriends spending the night had received calls from their parents telling them what roles they had gotten. So, I was forced to tell her. She was so psyched.

I did not go to any of her rehearsals. She did not want me at any of them. This, from the girl who was too nervous to audition two years ago and stood by my side until her brother auditioned and brought up the nerve in her to go for it (at that time, they simply had to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat). She likes that the rehearsals and shows are her time to shine. She does not want to be overshadowed or have the disruption of chatty parents (me) or little brothers. She definitely held her own with all of those actors and actresses. The few times I did go backstage to pick her up, she was jabbering away with her fellow cast members who I had never met. She loves that. She is completely comfortable making new friends. And they all love her. Who doesn’t though? Everyone Jon and I meet talk about how down-to-earth and kind Maria is to everyone she meets.

She worked her butt off the week of the play going downtown at 5 PM every night and not returning home until 10:30 or later. She was excited on opening night. Patty, Meg, I and Alana came to watch her. Her voice was a little raspy but she hung in there. She got home that evening and her ankle was bruised and swollen from jumping off the bed in these little flat shoes she had to wear. She drank 3 cups of hot tea to help soothe her throat.

She had her last soccer game on Saturday afternoon. I thought she may want to skip it, which I was against, but instead, she was all in. She is dedicated to her team. We all went to Easton to watch her and when we got home, Sarah and Elena arrived. She played with Elena until her ride picked her up to go to the show. Sarah, Elena, Jon, and my dad went to see her Saturday show. I stayed behind, much to my dislike, with Mario, who felt sick. He had a fever and we figured it was strep throat due to a couple of his buddies who had it the week before. He was bummed out, too, because he had wanted to see Maria in the play. Jon reported that she did fabulous. She spent the night with her three girlfriends who were in the show with her. I went over to the girlfriend’s house to hang out with some moms until midnight. The girls were still up when I left. I was a little worried about how she would feel for Sunday show but she deserved to have a little fun after a week of craziness.

She arrived home on Sunday morning at 8 AM. She had gotten up at her friend’s house and asked the dad to drive her back home so she could be with Elena. Ri roller skated and Elena biked up to Stauf’s for breakfast. Then we hit the park. We did not arrive home until 11 AM. My mom had arrived at that time. We went to the basement for a dance party while my mom gave Sarah a massage. An hour later, Maria had to leave us again to head to her last show. My mom and I arrived 30 minutes early and the line was already out the door. They had sold out of tickets. Luckily, I was able to get my mom a seat. Elena and I played at the park across the street. We met up with my mom at intermission and we were lucky to have somebody leave and give us their seat. I was so happy to see the second half of the play. Maria got a rousing round of applause at the end of the show with some people even standing up. The cutest thing was when we were getting pictures with my mom and a little girl came up to her to ask if she could get her picture with Tinkerbell.

Absolutely adorable.

And Maria was as sweet as sugar giving her a hug and turning around for the camera to pose for a picture. She’s a natural.

7th grade dance

Maria mentioned going shopping for a dress for her seventh grade dance about a month and a half before the dance. Our weekends have been replete with Mario’s basketball games and Maria’s soccer games. We finally found a Sunday to shop. We decided to hit IKEA first to buy a couch we’d been wanting for six months, and then head over to the mall. But Ikea drained the entire family and none of us wanted to go to the mall, including Maria. She was willing to find a dress on the Internet rather than brave a shopping center (our type of girl). She perused the Internet off and on and reported nothing back to me. At some point, I realized we only had another week or so before her dance.

“I’m not spending $45 on shipping fees, Maria. So you need to find a dress in order for it to get here on time.” Sigh.

She found two black dresses off two different websites that I had never heard of before. She sent the sites to me and at 10 PM one evening, I got on the sites. They were ones that infiltrated you with 20 different advertisements while you were trying to check out of the site. They also wanted me to add my email address and personal information several times over. I was getting a bit concerned with the validity of the sites. But, I did not want my girl to stress out about a dress so I continued plugging away. After I completed the sales on both sites, I received email confirmations. The confirmation for the dress that Maria really wanted informed me that although they shipped within two days they may not have the dress for another couple of weeks. Are you kidding?! They did not tell me that information as I checked out, of course. The other confirmation email confirmed that it would arrive “soon.” Seriously? I spent the next hour trying to cancel my orders but had no luck. Frustrated, I searched for the dresses on Amazon. Why did I not look at that before I made the order? Amazon had the exact same dresses and I could get them in two days. I ordered them at midnight. What we do for these kids of ours.

Amazon came through, and we received the dresses two days after I ordered them. Maria loved one of them. She made a video for me trying both of them on and sent it to me while I was at work. It made my day. The dress she liked was classy. Black, off the shoulders, knee-length. Thank goodness. Jon and I are relieved not to have to worry about short, tight skirts and dresses at this period of time.

Two days before the dance, Maria, Mario, and I drove to Target to try to find black shoes. No luck. We tried two other places with no luck. We ended up back at Target. Maria pleaded for some stilettos but compromised with me on a pair of chunky heels. I bought her a little silver chain with a silver ball in the middle; I told her the ball represented the ball of energy she carried everywhere she went.

The day of the dance, Ri got her hair done at a salon. I had said no way to the request but Jon caved. He knew my horrible hair styling skills and felt bad for Maria. After her styling session, three of her girlfriends came over to eat pizza and get ready.

Maria allowed me to do her nail polish. Wrong move. I couldn’t even get that right. We had to have a girlfriend of mine reapply. She did cave in after the nail polish debacle and allow me to try her make-up. I succeeded on that front because she only wanted minimal application. I could handle that.

Next thing we knew, the girls went from Saturday morning chill wear to glamour red-carpet wear! Were these our baby girls?!

They we’re so excited to go to the dance. However, they wanted to keep their cool so they asked me to drive them around so that they would be dropped off at 6:38 instead of 6:30 when it started. Hilarious. Sure enough, there was a group of boys sitting at the picnic table when we drove by doing one of our loops. They were thinking the same thing.

I got a call at the end of the dance informing me that the girls would walk home. When they arrived, much to Maria’s dismay, her girlfriends told me that she danced with a boy. The boy being the boy that she has been friends with since she was in third grade. His nickname is Cookie and he is the sweetest boy in her class. They had video of the two of them dancing to the last song of the night. Again, hilarious. I liked that they were arms distance apart….

The night did not end for them, however. I had agreed that I would take them to a 10 PM movie. I dropped them off in their PJs. They said the movie was awful but they had a blast drinking their Icees and eating their cookie dough treats.

Mother/son dance

So, Maria had her seventh grade dance a couple of weeks ago. It was time for Mario to have to participate in a dance as well. I am sure he would’ve been fine if it was a boy/girl dance like Maria had but instead it was a dance where you had to take your mom! Yuck! All the boys acted like they could not stand the thought of having to attend this event even though I think deep down inside, they were more comfortable going with their moms then going with girls.

A mom of one of Mario’s friends was offered a limo ride from one of her neighborhood friends. She invited A bunch of her sons friends, including Mario. I knew Mario would think it was a fun idea and be in for it, but I was a bit on the brink. What were we setting our sons up for? They get a limo for their fourth grade dance? Will it be a jet for their high school prom?!

The weeks before the dance were very different than the weeks before Maria’s dance. There was no scouring the Internet to try to find the perfect suit for the dance. There was no running to Target and five other stores to find the best shoes possible. It basically went down like this: we had to be at DK Diner at 5:30. At 5:00, I stopped vacuuming the house and told Mario I was taking a shower. Mario continued to play his video game. At 5:20, I yelled for Mario to come upstairs and get dressed. He tried on a pair of jeans and the only button-down shirt he had. He looked ridiculous. He and I are meant to live in sweatpants and T-shirts. He tried to get comfortable in the attire but after a few minutes of trying to jump around and pretend like he was throwing a dodgeball, he commented that there was no way he would be able to stay in those clothes for two hours and play. I completely understood. He changed back into Adidas sweatpants and a “nice “sports shirt. I bit the bullet and wore a pair of nice shoes with my jeans and tank top. I think I’m going to start up a mother/son event where everybody must wear gym shoes, lounge pants, and T-shirts or else you cannot get in. We got to DK a few minutes late but he grabbed a seat with all of his buddies and took down a cheeseburger and fries while I chatted it up with the moms.

We left a half hour later to head down to Mario’s friend’s house. The limo came shortly after we arrived and all of the boys went running up to it like there was a celebrity waiting inside. The boys oooohhh’d and ahhhh’d for ten minutes, and then we all settled in and began our ride around Grandview. A few of the moms brought some champagne. I played some jams. We kept asking the boys what songs they wanted to listen to but no one would chime in. Therefore, they got to hear some good 80s and 90s jams. After about 20 minutes of driving around, the boys were ready to jump out and head to the dance. They were gone as soon as the limo slowed down and all of the moms were left barreling out of the limo and walking into the dance by ourselves. And that was pretty much how the night was spent. The boys went off and played dodgeball or football games and the moms stood around and caught up (actually, it was a lot like Maria’s dance that way:)).

Mario was ready to leave after half of an hour. He just wanted to head home and watch a show on the couch with me. Precious. I was right there with him but we had promised the other moms and sons a long night so we hung in there. Eventually, Mario ended up finding things to do and running around until 8:30 when the limousine picked us back up. We headed to the chocolate café for some malts and brownies, and then the sugar-infested kids danced in the limo for the next 20 minutes. The moms, by this time, were ready to head home and put on their pjs.

Mario and I thanked his friends mom for the limousine service and hopped in our little ball though to head home. I watched him play his video game for an hour when we got home, and then he asked me to carry him to bed. Yes, I can still pick him up and carry him up the stairs for bed. I think that was my favorite part of the evening (that, and doing the chicken dance with him in the gym!).

Dis expectations and embrace appreciation

I listened to just the right podcast this weekend. I was sitting at the skate park watching Mario and his friend do tricks on their scooters. Meanwhile, there were some serious skate dudes performing incredible flips and tricks. Mario and his friend looked precious as they scootered down a small ramp and looked over at me excited about their feat.

After watching them scores of times, my mind started to drift to Thanksgiving day. We are hosting Jon‘s family this year, which takes the burden off a bit because there are not as many people for dinner. In addition, they tend to be a rather quiet crew so I do not need to worry about anything getting broken, fights ensuing, or hurt feelings at the end of the night. But I do want to have a lively, entertaining day with them; so, I started thinking of ways that we could create such an atmosphere. 

I heard about an app that allows you to record people‘s stories, and thought that we could use it to record stories of Jon’s mom and his brothers. Maria could craft five questions for each of them and post them during Thanksgiving meal. I then played my sweet husband’s reaction when I told him that that was our plan.

“Mar, you have got to be kidding. People Just want to eat dinner and relax with one another. You don’t always have to have activities happening all the time.”

So my mind moved on to something that was not so intrusive. Maybe we would have paper and pencil laid out so people could write gratitude notes to one another. We did something similar with my side of the family a few years back, and it was a lot of fun. At least for me. On further thought, I realized that only one of Jon’s family members – his mom – would really enjoy writing such notes. Scratch that idea, also.

I tend to do this to myself. Exaggerate how awesome the day is going to be and all of the things that I hope to get out of it – be it gratitude notes, interviews with family where they detail a magnificent hidden secret that we would have never known about but for the interview, incessant laughter while playing an awesome board game. Then the day comes and goes, and I am disappointed. I am disappointed because people didn’t laugh as much as I thought they would, I didn’t get to interview anybody, no one expressed gratitude to one another…..

The perfectionist mind comes into play again. But not this year, baby. 

I have set no expectations. 


Rather, I have focused on appreciation. I learned that from one of Oprah’s SuperSoul Podcasts. Yes, I never thought that I would be an Oprah podcast listener but she has some good ones on there. And you can’t help but love how she finds such joy in wanting to better understand humanity, meaning, and spirituality on a deeper level. Her guest talked about how a death knell is having expectations of anything. He said that expectations will automatically destroy you. Rather, he recommends fostering appreciation; appreciation takes it off you and puts it on others. You change your mindset from wanting to giving. I no longer want things to happen the way I expect; rather, I give appreciation to those around me and for all that I have in my life. 

And guess what? It worked! I even caught myself at the dinner table starting down that path of expectations. I hoped someone would bring up a topic that would burst into a magnificent conversation. As soon as my mind started going down that path, I took a deep breath and shoved in a pile of potatoes. I looked around the table at my hubby, who had drank a few wines and was making me laugh all day long; my kids, who were on their phones making videos of one another; and my family, who are all very different from one another but who love each other and feel comfortable enough together to simply sit at the dining room table and eat.

Learning Division and Patience

I taught Mario long division. I felt like a superhero at the end of the evening. 

In the beginning, there was an in ordinate amount of stomping and crying and yelling and affirming “I am man-trash at division!” (Yes, that is Mario’s new phrase for everything bad). I remained calm, taking deep breaths as he slammed the table with his pencil, and rose up to bang his head against the wall. I allowed him to let off steam and then gently brought him back to the table to try another problem. He would get the first number but then have trouble with what to do next. He would stare at the problem, dig the lead of the pencil into the paper, and then begin his tirade routine all over. I, in turn, was able to continue my routine of taking breaths, letting him vent, and then re-setting him. I explained to him that skills do not always come immediately – there are certain skills that need continued work to master. This is sometimes lost on him and Ri. Although he stared at me in disgust, my communication was having an affect because he continued to work on the division problems with me. Thirty minutes after we began this work, I gave him 5÷125. He asked me to not give him any hints. I stood up from the table and moved to the stove to stir the chicken in the skillet.

“ Mom, I finished. Can you come and check it?”

I gave a silent prayer up to the heavens that he got it correct. I walked over to the table and looked down at his solution. I saw two at the top of the division problem. I saw where he subtracted 10 giving him another 2. I saw that he dropped down the five and put another five by the 2 on top and then subtracted the 25 to get a remainder of zero. In other words, he had done it! All by himself with no help from me. 

I beamed like he had received the Nobel Peace Prize. But that is just how it is as a mom. You feel that exuberant no matter if the accomplishment is folding their own laundry, acing a math problem, or winning a renowned prize. I patted him on the back and gave him a new problem. He got that one right, also. He looked up at me and asked if he could be done with math for the week. I told him that I would give him one more problem and then he could be done. I gave him 4÷164 and he got it correct. Alleluia! 

As I watched him complete the last problem, I made a conscious effort to soak in the moment with him. I am not exaggerating when I say that it felt like angels flew down from the heavens when he got that final answer correct. You could see how excited he was when he looked at me and I told him he had gotten it right. There is not a better feeling than seeing your kid work hard, and get to where he needs to get. 

A few years ago, I would have been too wrapped up in work, getting the house clean, feeding the kids, etc. to be able to calm myself enough to sit down for thirty minutes and persevere through tantrums to solve math problems. But I have gotten older, read more, contemplated more, and reconstituted my priorities. And, in return, received this gift.

Halloween 2017

It was a tough Halloween for me this year. After all, Halloween is all about me, right, not those pesky kids…?! This was the first year I did not walk with my kiddos at any point in time during their trick-or-treating adventure. I actually had to steal a child to walk with in order to recover from the trauma of not having my own near me (thanks Betsy, for allowing me to walk around with Makenzie – you are a lifesaver).

Mario debated whether he was even going to go out this year. He debated all the way up until the weekend before Halloween when he decided that he would just go as a referee. He had received a sweet Italian soccer shirt that had black and white stripes like a referre’s shirt earlier in the week from his aunt and uncle. Even then, he was still a bit on the fence on who he would walk with and if he really wanted to go out at all (whose kid is he?!) 

Maria knew all along that she would be heading out. She is a girl after my heart with her love for gathering as much candy as possible over a two hour period on a cold October night. My enthusiasm for this holiday has totally infiltrated my girl. She and her friend determined that they would be M&Ms weeks before Halloween, and they both got on Amazon to find matching outfits. Of course, Maria and I procrastinated and did not purchase the attire off of Amazon until  days before Halloween, which led to extravagant shipping costs on my end. Better planning next year…. 

Back to Mario … who decided the night before Halloween that he had to have a different costume. That day at school he had decided that he would walk with a group of his friends who all had “cool costumes” compared to him. So, I got to miss out on Maria’s end-of-the-year soccer party in order to take Mario to Halloween Express. It seemed that quite a few other families were in our same boat. I picked out a NASCAR driver outfit and a 70s disco outfit and Maria was appalled. Luckily, my niece showed up soon after us. She has a son who Mario looks up to – Isaiah – who is a couple of years older than Mario. He’s a super cool kid. So when Isaiah  picked a nerd costume, Mario decided he’d go for the same. 

Mario begged Jon and I to go to his Halloween party on Tuesday afternoon. He still wants us to attend those school parties with him but he doesn’t want us near him at other events. The mind of a ten year old…. We both left work to go see him in his parade and to be there for his after-party. However, all we got was a brief wave when we spotted him in the crowd.  He was off with his friends the rest of the time. It’s as though we are his long-time stuffed animal – he just needs to know we are there to be comforted. Even though we were being ignored, we hung in there through the party we knew that this would likely be the last of them. Maria‘s grade doesn’t do parties anymore. 

Both kids got invited to friends’ houses to have dinner before Halloween and then go out with a huge crew of folks.  Maria got dressed at the house and then met her M&M partner over at her friend’s house. She allowed me to straighten her hair and put it in ponytails, which made me very happy. I think she has allowed me to do her hair about five times through her entire life. Mario got dressed on his own and Jon and I cracked up when he came downstairs. He looked absolutely ridiculous, and he embraced it. I gave them each a pillow sack to use to hold all their candy, and told them they better not come home until it was filled to the top. My usual instructions year in and year out. They rarely disappoint. 

I took Ri to her friend’s house and Jon took Mario to his friend’s house. The girls were still giddy as if they were in kindergarten. Except this year you could tell they were more concerned about how they looked, and what outfits they chose, then in actually getting candy. 

Mario and his friends were simply interested in wrestling and jumping on the trampoline. But when the time came to head out for candy, they all took off like cockroaches subjected to light. I tried to keep up with Mario and his crew but after three houses he turned around and gritted his teeth: “Mom, stop! Please leave us alone – we want to do this ourselves!” 

Mario and his buddies lasted until 7:15. I was not at the house when he returned or I would have forced him back outside until 8:00. He’s lucky…. Ri called me at around the same time Mario stopped trick-or-treating. She asked if Jon or I could pick her up. I was still out with my girlfriend’s daughter so I told her Jon would pick her up but she needed to walk with me and Mackenzie for a block to get the last bit of candy. She sighed but obliged because she loves me. 

We walked back to the house Mario and Jon were at, ate a few chips, and headed home. The kids laid out their candy on the dining room table as they have in years’ past and examined all they got. Mario couldn’t get too excited because he was ready to barf from eating 20+ pieces while out with his friends. You can see the nausea on his face!

All in all, another fine year of candy gathering but I really hope they let me walk with them next year. Wishful thinking, I know. 

I guess I will need to nab another 6 year old to walk with again.


The kids get a fall break every year, usually the third week of October. They only get Thursday and Friday off during the week but a lot of families take off a couple of days before, and use the week as a fall vacation. We have never done that. This year, I had extra vacation accrued that I would lose if I did not take by October 31. Therefore, I decided it was high time that we take a Fall trip. That was the easy part. Now where to go?

I immediately thought of Hocking Hills because it wa supposed to be warm and I love to hike. But then I thought about my lovely children and his hiking doesn’t tank as a vacation to them….  I asked my girlfriend (who tends to agree that hiking is not vacation) where she would go and she mentioned Chicago. I took a walk with Maria that evening and asked her what she thought about heading to Chi-Town. She freaked out. “Seriously mom, we could go to Chicago!?” Her enthusiasm sealed the deal for me. We arrived home and asked Jon to check on hotels. We mentioned the trip to Mario, and he was just as excited. And as life goes, we were quickly disappointed. The Chicago cubs were playing in the playoffs during the week we were going to go. The hotel prices were outrageous. 

Never ones to wallow in our tears, Ri and I thought of a back-up city. Washington DC. I had been wanting to take the kids to DC for a year or so because it is fairly close and they are at the age now where they’ve learned about politics, seen pictures of monuments in DC, read about the Declaration of Independence, and so on. 

Jon was able to find a hotel near the White House, and we were able to get flights for cheap. It was a done deal. We left on Tuesday night and returned on Friday night. Half of the fun for the kids is pulling their suitcases around the airport and flying on a plane. Our flight to DC was not even half full. The kids each got a row to themselves, which they loved. 

We took a taxi from the airport to the hotel, which the kids loved almost as much as flying. They had not been in a taxi before. Mario wanted me to tip the driver $100. He is very generous with my money.  Another small thing that thrills the kids is arriving at the hotel and getting the keys to the room. They inevitably engage in a power struggle over who gets the key to open the room. The compromise of late is that someone gets to use it to go up the elevator and another gets to use it on the room.  They fell in love with the room as soon as we walked into it. They opened up the curtains and gawked at the bustling outdoors. They loved that each of them had separate beds; they immediately relegated me to the sleeper sofa. I think not….

After reviewing the room, we traveled downstairs to the fitness room and pool. The kids loved the fact that they could lift weights and get on the treadmill with me. I was getting excited that we would have morning workouts but that never really came to fruition. They simply appreciated the fact that they could jump on the treadmill for a minute and then get off. We hit the hot tub and the pool that evening. There was a ceramic divider between the hot tub and the pool so we use that to be our imaginary net for pool volleyball. I predicted that game would end in a few tiffs, and I was right. But in hindsight, it was good fun.  The kids also had epic battles with some random foam noodles. Maria slammed Mario many more times then he got her and I swore that he would have welts all over his back. When I cringed and told them to stop, they swore that they were having fun doing it.

We are at District Taco Tuesday evening. It was only a few blocks from the hotel. Chips and guac hit the spot. After that dinner, we needed a walk so we headed over to the White House. The kids thought it looked tiny compared to how they pictured it. We all had a few words with the occupants of the White House before we departed…


On Wednesday morning, the kids woke up and asked to hit the gym. Woo-hoo!  They actually walked/ran on the treadmill for about 10 minutes, which was longer than I thought they’d last. Ri even lifted a few weights while Mario pedaled the stationary bike. It wasn’t long before they were asking to leave; I was excited we got 20 minutes in. We made a Starbucks run and then shot down to the Museum of African-American history. Unfortunately, you needed passes to get into the museum, which I may have known about if I would have read up beforehand. Whatever, better to wing it. We decided to go to the Museum of American History instead. We stayed there for an hour or so. The kids weren’t too interested. Mario thought an old car was cool and Maria liked looking at Ella Fitzgerald’s dress. We found a room for kids where they could experiment and create things. Mario found a way to get fruit from the top of a platform down into a basket, and Maria made a corn hole set to add to a play farm. 

We walked from the museum to the Capitol building for our 12:20 tour. I knew it was a bit of a walk but I was determined to get a good walk in on such a nice day. The kids didn’t complain too much…. Mario, consistently throughout the trip, begged for a taxi – no matter if our destination was one block away or 10 blocks away. Maria was good about walking – she knows how to please her mother.

We made it for our capital tour on time (I was mad that I had to discard all of the snacks in my book bag – I tried to hide them behind a pole much to the kids’ chagrin – Maria eventually grabbed the bag of goodies and forced me to throw it in the garbage can. Mario complained that he was hungry before the tour so he got a bit pissy in the beginning. But then he came around and he and Maria asked a ton of questions of the tour guide. 

After the tour, the guide mentioned that we could go across the street to our senator’s or house of representative’s office and ask them for passes to sit in the spectator seats in the Senate and House. Maria wanted to do it so badly (which I would have never guessed) but Mario was begging to just go to lunch. I told Mario that we would simply try to get into the Senate by asking the person if we could get in without tickets. We walked over and asked. We had no luck – she directed us to go across the street. This led to a breakdown by both kids – Mario pleading to leave and Ri pleading to go across the street.  I was trying to manage the bickering as we walked down the hall when all of a sudden a man dressed in a suit and holding a legal file stopped us. 

“I would like to help you get into the Senate. I have tickets that you can have so that you don’t have to go across the street.” 

We looked at one another in disbelief. Was he serious? He pulled out three green Senate passes and told us to walk around the building with him so the lady manning the Senate would not know that he gave them to us. We walked around the building with him and he pointed out different things to us. He then had us drop our phones and bookbag off prior to heading up to the Senate. He walked us to the elevator and asked if we wanted to meet up with him after lunch to see the House in session. The kids frantically nodded yes but I was still a bit skeptical…. Mario nudged me after he left and commented that he was trying to pick me up. Ri looked at him in disgrace. How could anyone want to pick up her mom?! We saw three senators speak in the Senate session: a senator from West Virginia who talked about economic needs, a senator from Wyoming, and a senator from North Carolina. They were basically talking to the air since nobody else was in the room but hey, we got to see a few reps in action. We left there and traveled to the cafeteria for lunch. It totally reminded me of the times I would visit my mom at Deaconess Hospital. The plastic trays, the cafeteria hamburger and fries, the soda fountain, the individual plates of cakes. We had a bit of fun right before dessert. The lights went off in the cafeteria and security was scrambling around talking into their headsets. Maria was truly frightened; Mario was ready to tag along with security and track things down. I frankly was a bit nervous, and thought maybe we should leave and not meet back up with our new friend. We debated, watched everybody walking around, and finally asked a front desk person if she thought everything was safe. She said that we were probably most safe inside the capital. So, we decided to stay, and for the next two hours we got to see parts of the Capitol where only the Senators and House of Representatives and their staff can go. We got to go on the floor of the House of Representatives. The kids got to walk down the aisle that the president walks down when he meets with members of the house. We even got a history lesson and learned about a shooting in the House of Representatives back in the 1950s. They were intrigued with the bullet hole in the wooden table in the middle of the room. The kids were good about asking questions and seemed genuinely interested in everything our friend said (we later learned that “our friend” was known for being generous to families who were visiting the Capitol, although Mario still thought he liked me:). We didn’t leave the Capitol building until 5 PM. 

We walked down to the Metro and took it directly to Georgetown where we met Aunt Ann for dinner. We got there a bit early so we decided to look at a card shop and get a few cupcakes from Sprinkles. Maria was on cloud nine because she had seen Sprinkles on one of her cupcake shows. The cupcakes did not disappoint. Anne treated us to an Italian dinner at Flavio. The kids talked up a storm with her – she kept turning her head from Maria back to Mario back to Maria back to Mario. I don’t think she’s used to the constant jabber of kids. But she did great keeping up and they loved having her attention. By the time we all ate our carb loaded meals, we were exhausted. The day has hit us hard. We gave Aunt Ann a big hug goodbye and I succumbed to the kids’ pressure to get a taxi to the Metro. How sad is that? We arrived back in the hotel and Maria was asleep within 10 minutes. I laid in bed with Mario watching some goofy show until he finally fell asleep. 

We woke Thursday to Maria searching her phone for a breakfast place for us. One of her favorite things about trips is eating out at new places.  Mario and I could’ve grabbed a Starbucks every morning but she likes to relax, have a good meal, talk, and then start the day. She chose a French café – I think it was because it was only a block away. They had different types of breakfast – nothing traditional – so Mario was completely appalled by it. Luckily, they did have chocolate chip muffins so he lessened his irritation a bit. Maria got an apple turnover and we were set. We sat at a high table near the entrance and reviewed what we had done the day before. 

We left for the monuments after breakfast. We saw the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the MLK Memorial. The kids were amazed at the Lincoln Memorial, and stood in awe with me at the MLK Memorial. We read all the quotes at MLK. 

We met our friend again at the Capitol and he gave us a tour of the legislators’ private subway system. He also led us through the hall the president walks down on his way out to the inauguration ceremony (and showed us pictures from this past inauguration). After the Capitol, we decided to hit the Newseum. I had heard that it was a cool museum, and the kids had heard there was an exhibit where you could be a news anchor. When we first got there, we were a bit disappointed. It was interesting to me because of my First Amendment work but the kids were rather bored with the incessant writing on the wall without much interaction. But then we found the area where kids could act like newscasters and watch themselves. They loved it. We ended up spending nearly two hours just doing that. Maria was precise and poised; Mario was hyped and comedic in his presentation. The area also had a virtual reality station where you had to escape the Berlin wall. The minimum age was 13 but we figured we would fib and get Mario in. The boy that’s Mr. Cool all the time lost his cool when he went up to the girl and she told him he had to be 13 to do it. He just ran away instead of saying he was 13. So he was all pissed off that he couldn’t do the virtual reality game. Of course, Maria gets upset that they won’t let him so she boycotts it herself. But after another few times as a newscaster, she got bored and went back over because there was no line to do the game. I scammed with Mario that I would walk in the line with him and tell the lady that he was going to be 13 at the end of the month. She caved and let him play. Am I the best mom or what!? They both loved it, and did it two times in a row. 

Even though there were six floors of information, the virtual reality and newscaster spots are the only ones that we reviewed. Lovely. By the time we left the Newseum, it was 5 PM. We slowly made it back to the hotel and rested for a few minutes. On our way back, Maria asked if she could hold Mario’s stuffed animal koala when they got back to the hotel. Mario said no way, and Maria was upset. I told her that we would go to a store near the hotel and see if we could find her a stuffed animal. Mario agreed to go because he wanted to see if they had any cool phone cases. We had some excitement on the walk there in the dark. Mario tried to leap over a garbage can and something came running out of it. We assumed it was a rat or a mouse – it led to 15 minutes of us trying to see if we could find it. Good times. We found Ri a stuffed animal puppy that you could also microwave to heat up. Gotta love what they come up with anymore. Maria was happy. Mario also found a phone case, which made him happy. And I was happy because they were happy, and it was a beautiful night to walk around DC with my two babes. They really wanted room service at the hotel so we ordered that and watched Hidden Figures on HBO. 

On Friday, I tried to get the kids to go down and work out with me. Maria refused and was adamant that we needed to have a big breakfast at a restaurant before we left DC. We found a breakfast place called Founding Farmers, and it did not disappoint. There was a 30 minute wait which caused some hesitation in staying (we are not a patient bunch), but it was well worth the wait when we got the food. Maria got vanilla cream French toast, Mario got chocolate chip pancakes, and I got eggs and bacon. Each dish was amazing. Even Mario liked it, which says a lot. 

After breakfast, we walked to Madame Tussaud‘s. They had been wanting to go there since we arrived in DC. I was hesitant – it cost a boat load  of money and it was … Madame Tussaud‘s. What happened to us going to culturally relevant museums? In my dreams, the kids would spend hours asking questions as they looked at exhibits and gained knowledge about our history. In reality, they wanted to stand next to Taylor Swift and the Rock. But, it actually ended up being a lot of fun because the kids absolutely adored it. There was a special room that had the White House desk and the press podium – that was a trip. They also had a room where are you could make wax hands. The kids were intrigued with the process – Maria got right in and wanted to do it but Mario was more hesitant. You had to put your hand in ice cold water for 30 seconds then dip it into burning water then back into cold and back into burning water several times in order for the wax to form. Mario kept looking at Maria‘s face as she did it and kept wondering whether it was a good idea. But in the end when he saw how cool Maria‘s hand looked he decided to try it himself. His face was hilarious as he held his hand in the water. 

After Madame Tussaud‘s, we had about two hours before we needed to head to the airport. The kids were ready to just head back to the hotel and sit around but I refused. We were going to get in one last museum if it killed us. I made them walk down to the National Archives so that we could see the Declaration of Independence. When we arrived, the line was all the way around the street. The kids laughed at me, but little did they know I would make them walk farther. I got out our map and decided that we would go to the Natural History Museum instead. The line was not too bad there – we waited for about 10 minutes and got in. We were able to see the Hope Diamond, which the kids wanted to see because Jon has talked about it before. We also saw the skeleton remains  of a number of animals, including the gecko (now we know what Buddy’s skeleton looks like). Mario got mad about something before we left the museum – I think Maria made fun of him – so he took off and Maria took off after him. I lost track of them, and they ended up waiting for me outside of the museum doors. However, I was looking all over for them inside before I went out to find them. This resulted in me ripping them a new one, and Mario walking ahead of us down the street. I was in the midst of trying to get us all to make up and have a good rest of the afternoon when Mario accidentally knocked over one of the ropes lining a museum. I heard someone from behind me scream harshly “pick that up!” I saw Mario walk back and begin to pick up what he had knocked over. I turned around and told the man who yelled at Mario that he could have asked more politely. He responded back with anger. This resulted in us going back-and-forth together before we each went our merry way. I was astounded at the exchange. What a way to end our time in DC! Maria told us that she was getting ready to flip him off if he kept yelling at me. Mario talked about how dad would have really given him a piece of his mind if he was there. Ahh, a family that vents together, stays together….

We got back to the hotel into our last DC taxi at 4:30 for our 7:30 flight. We had been told that we better take off that early because of DC traffic. Don’t you know that we got to the airport at 4:50 so we had 2 1/2 hours to kill! Ugh. We spent them sitting on a bench outside of customs and engaging in writing contests. Ri gave us a prompt and we had 10 minutes to write whatever we wanted. My kids are quite talented writers. I could not believe what they came up with. They made fun of all of my stories, of course. We also engaged in drawing contests, which always makes them laugh. I readily admit I have no skills in this area.

With 45 minutes left before boarding, Maria got herself a huge slice of pizza and Mario got himself a book. He wanted to buy a scary one but I told him I was sick of walking him to his room in the broad daylight so he needed a non-scary one.  Then we had a freak attack over the loss of Maria’s phone. She came running up to Mario and I as we searched for a book and said that she lost her phone. Mario and I walked back to where we had been drawing and didn’t see it there. Maria frantically searched her bag and couldn’t find it. I was so irritated; I went up to a security guard and asked if anybody had found it. Nope. He took me to another security guard and in the meantime, I received a call from Maria‘s phone. Maria was laughing and told me that she had accidentally put it down near the books when she was helping Mario try to find one. My goodness – how do parents survive all of this drama?! Our flight home was uneventful, thank god. Maria wrote some more and Mario stared out the window. 

Jon was waiting for us when we got off the plane – ready to take us home. We spent an hour laying in bed – the four of us – listening to the kids recall stories from the trip.