Mama’s day quiet

I vacillate between saying Mother’s Day is a Hallmark holiday and ridiculous, and feeling like I should be treated like a queen. This is the first year that I did not have my mom or stepmom or mother-in-law over for the day or have the kids hanging with me all day Long. I felt guilty. A bit sad. Glad to have time to take a walk. Lost. This motherhood thing can be an emotional roller coaster.

Really, I should be happy with how the day ended up. I got alone time with Maria. She took a two-mile walk with me and Rocco. Not only that – she actually conversed with me along the way. I thought on numerous occasions during our stroll about how happy I was in the moment – being with her and listening to her words. We didn’t get into any deep conversation about the meaning of life – we talked mostly about the puppies she was going to visit later in the day and about a book we had contemplated months ago about Rocco. I have got to get off my romantic notion that she and I will spend long afternoons talking about the state of this world or friendships or dreams for the future. Right now, I need to be satisfied with puppy talk. The most important thing is that we are together and talking. Later on in the day, we played cards and ate salsa and chips. She also biked to the library with me before seeing the puppies. This was more activity with her than I have had in months. Grateful.

Mario and Jon returned at 7 pm from hunting and fishing – just in time for Jon and I’s kickball game. Mario walked in the door and headed straight towards me for a giant embrace. “Happy Mom’s Day, mom” he said as he held me tight. Grateful. He also scribbled a quick poem to me after overhearing me tell Jon that I was a bit bummed to not get any cards from the kids. This was the first year I didn’t get a fabulous drawing or poem. As we were about to head out for our game, he stopped to tell me about a Langston Hughes poem that he wanted to print off for me. He thought I’d love it. He knows his mama’s taste.

And what about my duties as a daughter? Once kids turn 18, do you know longer have an obligation to give a poem? I talked with my mom, my stepmom, and my mother-in-law throughout the day to wish them a wonderful day. It seems we were all pretty good with time alone; in fact, that may be the best gift we could give each other.

Connection

I have been feeling under the weather for the last two weeks. Poor Mario begs to wrestle with me every night and I have to decline or engage in some lame, half-baked wrestling moves, which only frustrates him. I have learned it is better to just say no to his pleading. A year ago, he would have gotten mad and stormed up to his room.

But lately, he has processed the decline much more maturely. He doesn’t stomp as much. He’s willing to engage with me and consider other things to do. And if he only wants to do the activity I refuse, he lets it go more quickly and doesn’t wallow in self-pity. He has also taken on more care and concern for Jon and me. He worries that Jon is not getting enough exercise for his heart and continually lectures him about taking walks. With me, he is weirded out to see me sick and not able to jump around with him like I always do. He has taken on this matronly approach asking if I’m ok all the time. I was in a meeting the other day and he called after school. I answered the phone and spoke quietly to him to avoid interrupting the meeting. I got off the phone with him and he called back 20 seconds later. I answered again with a hushed voice as I stood to leave the room worried something was wrong. He sounded concerned as he spoke.

“Mom, I’m just calling you back because you do not sound good. I want to make sure you are ok.”

Seriously? A 10-year-old boy being so thoughtful. Maybe my expectations are way low for him but I was completely blown away by his attention. I think there were little Mario-hearts swimming around my head during the rest of my meeting.

Maria has pushed me away over the last month. She talks to Jon about updates at school or sports but rarely me. I heard from many a parent, and know from personal experience, that Ri would start to move away from me as she headed into teenage hood. It still doesn’t make it easier. I miss her asking me to watch a show or play cards. I miss her enthusiasm in trying to get Mario to play with us. Now, it’s Mario asking where Ri is and when she will be home.

On the other hand, Mario wants to do more things with me, which soothes the Maria sting a bit. He was all into Jon for a while but he has turned to me lately. I guess that’s the universe’s way of patting my head and telling me to hang in – one child drifts away but another drifts in. Ebb and flow. Mario and I have found a rhythm – we converse about basketball, school, rap music, you tube videos, and we crack each other up. I have some vivid memories over the past few weeks of us laughing until we nearly cried. He’s got my sense of humor.

I feel grateful to have that connection with Mario as my connection with Ri loosens a bit to give her the space to explore.

Pittsburgh!

Who wants to go to Florida when you have Pittsburgh for spring break?

We again failed to plan a week-long spring break adventure with the kids. We were so on the ball when the kids were little and didn’t even know that they had a spring break – we went to Florida several years in a row. Now that they’re older and want to go places, Jon and I continue to drop the break ball and procrastinate. I did give them the DC trip for fall break though, so I don’t feel as bad.

We decided we’d hit Pittsburgh to visit sweet Elena and hang out with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days. Patty had invited the kids to Marietta at the end of the week to be with their cousins and celebrate Easter so Pittsburgh provided the perfect getaway spot for a few days. Maria wanted to leave at 6 AM on Sunday morning in order to get there by 9 AM. Mario and I talked get into leaving at 8:30 am. Mario told her he needed to play a little bit of his fortnight game before we left since he’d have no access to Xbox in Pittsburgh. I needed to walk the pup a couple of miles since I knew he would be staying inside with Jon while we were gone (although he loves it because he gets truck rides and pupucinos). We ended up out of the door by 9 AM, which I thought was pretty good.

I allowed the kids to stop at Starbucks and buy their pink drinks and a sandwich treat for the road. They had their blankets and phones, and were all snuggled in for the trek. Little did they know that I remembered to bring their books so that they could read a bit in the car. We had amazing driving weather – no clouds in the sky and a soft sun pressing on the windows. It made for a quick jaunt to Pittsburgh. We called Sarah when we were about an hour away to let her know we were close. She announced that there was an egg hunt at the Aviary. We told her we would head straight there and take Elena on the hunt.

The kids were excited at the thought of an Easter egg. They knew that they were going to miss out on the Grandview one we do every year since they would be with Patty during that time. We scooped up Elena from Sarah a few minutes after we arrived at the Aviary. We walked through the entranceway to find the Easter egg hunt. The kids were cracking up because it was just a small five foot patch of grass with a few eggs interspersed. Kids were told what type of egg to find (robin’s egg, bluebird’s egg, etc.). When a kid found the egg, he picked a plastic egg out of a big basket and opened it up to see what color ticket you got. A blue ticket got you a starburst; a green ticket got you a snickers bar. A bit different than what the kids had imagined. But they hung in there and made it fun. Elena thought it was awesome. We ended up planting ourselves there for a good two hours.

The kids got to fly a simulated flying machine. They were scared when they dipped down between tall buildings. It was hilarious to watch. They played in the penguin area with Elena. We went to storytime, which cracked us up due to the very animated older lady who read the book to us. We fed chickens after the book (the kids were pros due to MamaMeg and Peepaw’s house). We walked around to see the different birds, which Elena helped us identify. We ate lunch; the start of our fabulous eating routine. Here is Sarah and Jorge with all of their organics and granola, and here we are getting carry out pizza and chicken nuggets everywhere we go.

After the aviary, we unloaded all of our bags for a quick stop at Sarah and Jorge’s house. The quick stop included painting Easter eggs. Yet another activity that we typically do at the house before Easter but have been too busy to fit it in. I was happy that Sarah had went out and bought some supplies. After the egg coloring, we hopped back in the car and headed to Frick park. This did not go over as well as planned because we had worn sweet Elena out at the aviary. She proceeded to bawl her eyes out when Mario and I decided to play a little basketball together. But sweet Mario stopped playing in order to hold Elena on his lap and calm her down. Throughout this trip, I was amazed at his nurturing skills. Maria has always amazed me with her empathy and nurturing skills but those skills were not at the top of Mario’s list in the past so it was good to see him be able to go nurture his skills. We obeyed Sarah’s directive to have Elena back by 7 pm to put her to bed.

Maria and Mario got the joy of reading her a couple of books and trying to get her to sleep. About 30 minutes later, Mario quietly descended the stairs and proclaimed that he gives up. “She just won’t go to sleep.” He left the job to Maria. And don’t you know, she eventually got the job done. Of course, she ended up falling asleep as well. But she did rise an hour later in order to chat with us and devour some pizza we bought. She knows she’s got to get to bed at a decent hour because the little one will be up at 6:30 am ready to go. And sure enough, you could hear her asking where Meemaw and Mario were before the sun rose. We got up, brushed teeth, put on some clothes, and got E in the stroller to head to Starbucks. We ate our sandwiches and headed off to Frick with the hopes it brought more joy after a full night of sleep. The slide was still a bit wet from the earlier rain but the kids still enjoyed it. We hung on the jungle gym and Elena loved having Meemaw and Mario sweep under her arms and glide her across the playground like she was a bird.

Monday with the only nice day predicted for the week so we decided to hit the Pittsburgh zoo. The joke while we were there was how many times we went by an animal habitat and there was no animal present. The kids had wanted to hit IKEA on Monday but I refused because it was going to be nice out, and I wanted us to get outside at least one day in Pittsburgh. Hence, they loved to find no animals in their habitats and rib me about it. Although there were less than the optimal number of animals out, the most important one was out: the monkey. That is the only animal Elena wanted to see. We also got to see a giraffe, elephants, and lots of pretty fish. I don’t know what Lanae enjoyed more – the monkeys or eating animal crackers at lunch. Of course Meemaw would not let Elena eat the crackers until she finished her grapes and peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Mario enjoyed laying down the rules as well. I think the lack of rules that Jon and I have instilled has made the kids want to enforce some (but only on others)! Heaven help their children…. Mario was dead tired by the time we left, which cracks me up, because the boy can play basketball for hours or wrestle for days. But you have him walking around the zoo and he complains that his thighs are killing him.

After the zoo, we headed to Whole Foods to get ingredients for dinner. Earlier that morning, Sarah had told us that we were on our own for the day and evening because she had to work and Jorge was in Philadelphia. Maria loved that. She was so excited about “playing house.”

I could not believe the prices at Whole Foods. We bought three zucchinis and they cost nine dollars – outrageous! As I was lamenting the cost, Mario grabbed a little chocolate pretzel out of one of the bulk bins. Elena caught him. She begged for him to get one with her. They both thoroughly enjoyed engaging in some sneaky maneuvers in order to get Elena a pretzel.

As soon as we arrived home and walked in the door, Maria was ready to cook. She told me to leave and take a walk – she had the house, and kids, handled (as if she was 20 years old). And sure enough, she and Mario handled everything perfectly. She made some kick butt zucchini muffins and started dinner while Mario played with Elena. I got to unwind with a walk in the park. Maria made a yummy pasta and spinach dinner for us, which warranted her a trip to Millie’s – her favorite Pittsburgh ice cream spot. It did not disappoint.

When we returned home, I had to jump on a call. When I walked into the living room, this is what I found….

To their credit, this only lasted for about 10 minutes, and then they were up and running around and playing “pioneers” together.

Mario called it quits for trying to put Elena to bed. However, Maria stood strong and succeeded in putting her to sleep a second night in a row. Rock star. The kids played Gin Rummy while I gave Sarah a massage. The next morning, it poured rain. I tried my hardest to get us to walk to Starbucks but I could not convince the kids. Once we started driving there, I was glad that they won. Rain was coming down in buckets. We sat in Starbucks and ate blueberry muffins and oatmeal.

The kids could not wait for our Tuesday adventure. We were finally heading to IKEA! You would think that Ikea was an amusement park the way they were acting. I had read on-line that they were hosting spring break activities at the store but that ended up being a coloring table for toddlers. But that was OK; the store itself provided entertainment. Besides, Maria and Elena really just came for the Swedish meatballs.

After IKEA, we hit to the Children’s Museum because it’s not a Menkedick trip unless you go non-stop for ten hours straight. I had debated on bringing bathing suits for the kids because I knew Elena would want to play in the water play area. But, alas, I had forgotten them. I figured Elena could still splash around in the area without getting too wet. Wrong. She wanted to go fill on under the sprinklers. You know Ri was right there with her caring less that her clothes were soaked. The surprise was with Mario who typically cannot stand getting one inch of his clothing wet. He not only ran under the sprinklers but he allowed Maria and Elena to dump water on his head (but not hear his shoes). to see him because you need to pack everything and it’s tight as possible! He did it all for Elena.

Mario also ended up enjoying the art area. He pooh-poohed it at first when Ri tried to get him to sit with her. He and I and Elena ended up at a table playing blocks for a while. But then he saw kids running their artwork through a drying machine and that intrigued him. I showed him one of Maria’s creations where she traced her initials and that sealed the deal. He ended up in the area for 45 minutes making three separate creations – one with his initials, one with the word “HI”, and one in tribute to his favorite basketball player, James Harden. It warmed my heart watching him and Ri. Elena was simply concerned about getting to the ice cream store. We had promised her ice cream after the museum.

The sendoff was bittersweet, as always. We bounced the ball with Elena out back for a while – she’s got some mad basketball dribbling skills. When we went inside to gather our belongings, she found a birthday invitation from her friend. It was the cutest thing ever. She danced around proclaiming that she’d been invited to a birthday party and then she asked all of us if we wanted to go with her. Darling girl. We did several group hugs and then took off squeezed in the Volvo. The ride home was long; we were all tired, It didn’t help that we filled our bellies with gas station food.

Once we got home, we felt a mixture of relief in being in our own beds but also sadness in missing our little munch. It’s like a tornado ripped through our lives for three days but it was a tornado filled with stardust and glitter and ballerina twirls.

A weekend to remember

I remember waking up at five in the morning every weekend. Jon and I would hear the wrestling in the other room and know that our early bird torturer had awaken. We would hold our breath with the hopes that she would fall back to sleep but alas, within seconds, she would start yelling for us. We would each whine to the other about having gotten up with her last until one of us finally gave in and kicked the covers off our bodies heading to get the child. Whichever one of us grabbed her did not matter. We both headed back to the bed with her. She sat up between us like a new, crisp book between two worn book ends. One of us sleepily turned on the tv and there she sat between us for an hour, sometimes two, watching episode after episode of Dora the Explorer. Dora was our volunteer babysitter while we “slept in” until the late hour of 7 AM. I’d begin to feel guilty after the fourth episode so we would slowly ooze out of bed like slime moving from one hand to the other. As we got dressed and Ri jumped on the bed, the same question ran through our heads: “when will we be able to sleep in and not have to spend every waking moment with this child?!”

Flash forward. The kids still aren’t late sleepers but they are able to get up on their own, make breakfast, and chill in the house until Jon and I wake up. It used to be that once we woke up, we were planning out the day together – going to the Conservatory, hitting the indoor pool, going to the park. But now, that is beginning to change, too. Maria wants to go to the mall and be with her friends or head to clay café to make pottery. Mario wants to go to the skate park with his boys or hang out and play video games. It is a much greater effort to find something that we can all do together. When did this happen? How were those days so long in the past and now they run so short?

I want the precious memories of those days from the past back again Without the early wake up time and the constant attention. When I would lift Maria out of her crib and she would wrap her arms around my neck. Or when I would gather Mario and put him in the snugglie for a 2 mile walk around town. He would hold onto my index finger with his little hand and just be as content as can be.

This past weekend, nobody had games or play practice on the schedule for Sunday. More importantly, the kids had been wanting a new couch for the basement. Therefore, they were willing to hang with Jon and me for the afternoon. We all jumped in the truck and headed to IKEA.

Maria and Mario tested every single futon and couch three times over. We battled a bit with Mario who was dead set on getting some furniture for his room as well as the basement even though we had said 20 times before that we were just going to find a sofa for the basement. Maria then got a bit stressed because she wanted all of us to focus on the sofa and the color scheme of the basement. We finally landed on a couch we all liked an hour later. But then we had to go find it in the self service warehouse, put the boxes on a cart, and take it to check out (because there was no way that I was paying $35 for IKEA to do it). Then, after we checked out, we were required to walk it over to delivery and assembly so they could tag it and give us a delivery date. We were all starving by the time we had simply loaded the boxes on the cart. The checkout line was 6 people deep. Ugh. We would have to have that daggone annoying virtue, patience. We all tapped our fingers as we waited in line, and listened to Mario complain about how he was absolutely starving (it doesn’t help that IKEA has a Cinnabon shoppe at the end of the checkout line). We did have some entertainment when a guy who was in front of us moved out of our line to a new line, and then, 5 minutes later, returned to our line butting his cart in front of us without even saying a word. Jon asked what he was doing, and he had the nerve to be a complete ass. The kids enjoyed watching Jon and him have a little chat….Whatever it takes to divert our attention from hunger. We finally made it out of there two hours later. We were supposed to go to the mall to look for a dress for Maria’s dance but even she had no desire to do it once we left IKEA. We are not the shopping family by any means.

Rather, we are the food family. We went straight to Steak & Shake. I had not been to that restaurant in forever – Jon and Mario go fairly often together after basketball. Their shakes were pretty darn good. And, most importantly, they had a super-ball dispensing machine at the front of the store! How exciting! Unfortunately, it wasn’t working so we ended up with a gigantic jaw-breaker to eat on the way home.

As we approached home, Ri saw our beloved bald eagle perched on top of the branch right off the highway. We have two bald eagles that live about a mile away from our house. Jon has been keeping an eye on them for the last few weeks but the rest of us have not gotten to see them. Jon took us to the spot where he watches them. We spent 20 minutes trying to zoom in on it with our binoculars. We got back in the car to find a closer spot.

We were all able to see it!

Was I really that excited?! Yes I was. I was back to the days when the kids would be jumping on a plastic tarp of piano keys and singing a song for us. I was planted back to the times when we would sit around the table and play Yahtzee. I had the best of all worlds – time with my kids with the knowledge that once we got home we could all migrate our separate directions and have some alone time.

Sledding!

Sledding promotes good health. You get it all – you work out your heart by climbing up the hill, you work out your mind by trying to figure out where best to place your sled, and you work out your abs by laughing your butt off as you fly down the hill on your sled.

However, as much fun as it ends up being, it is a pain in the butt to get ready to sled. You have to throw on three layers of clothes (when it’s 5 degrees like it was for us), you can barely move around, and it’s impossible to pull on your boots without being able to bend at your waist. Then, there is pulling the sled out of the garage and hauling it to the car in the freezing cold. But the pay-off is huge.

Look at the smiles.



We haven’t gotten good sled riding in for a few years. We hardly got any snow last year, and the year before that the little bit of snow that we got came when both kids were out of town. I was scared half to death the first time we went down. I sat on a tiny circular plastic sled with Maria who is not shy about taking up almost all the space on it. My butt was barely in it when we took off. I just kept praying that we would not hit any rocks or ramps because I knew that my tailbone would hurt for days. The things you think about when you’re an adult. I would’ve been looking for that ramp when I was 10 years old.

We laughed so hard together as each one of us took some crazy fall or turn on the hill. I love all of us being together like that – being outdoors, being active, it’s my ideal day. And the one good thing about it being freezing cold all weekend was that the snow did not melt from the hill. Therefore, we were able to go sledding with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack through the weekend.

Elena had no fear going down the hill as long as somebody went with her. Sarah went on a little sled with Maria. She screamed as loud as I did when I went down with her.


Sarah and I even took a sledding trip together – both on a tiny little plastic sled. Thank God Sarah has no booty. Jack was a good sport as well. He went down with Maria a couple of times and watched each time the kids yelled “Uncle Jack, watch me!” They also had to impress their Uncle Jack by going down the abandoned hill that has all of the trees interspersed on either side. It scared me half to death but, live and learn, right!?


After sledding, I got cocky that we could build a snowman as well. The snow did not pack well at all for such a task but the kids still humored me and came outside. They shook their heads as I tried to pack down the airy snow. But they saw my strong desire, and decided they would help as much as they could. In the end it looked more like a snowman jabba the hut but it was something. How boring is a normal snowman anyway?

Give that Job to the mom

If you want to get multiple tasks done quickly and effectively, call a mom. Without a doubt, she will be able to crank out the job better than anyone. 

My Christmas Eve night this week:

Arrived home at 7:30 PM from Cincy.

Unloaded the entire car full of boxes and gifts.

Dragged a mini refrigerator and a huge cozy seat up the stairs and into the kids’ rooms. 

Assisted the kids with unpacking the mini fridge and getting it set up in Mario’s room. 

Assisted the kids in unpacking Maria’s cozy chair and setting it up in her room. 

Cleaned Mario‘s room under his bunkbed and near his closet so that Maria would have a space to sleep. 

Took four loads of clothes and other random items up to the attic. 

Gathered winter clothes from the attic and brought them back downstairs. 

Cleaned the clothes off of Maria‘s floor. 

Hung up my clothes from Cincinnati. 

Cleaned the top of the kitchen counter. 

Fed Rocco. 

Took Rocco on a two-mile walk. 

Helped the kids make sugar cookies. 

Unpacked all of the gifts from Cincinnati and put them in their respective rooms. 

Wrote two letters to family members to put on their gifts. 

Wrapped the remainder of the gifts – seven in total. 

Drove to Walgreens to pick up some last minute items. 

Drove to CVS to pick up other last minute items not found at Walgreens. 

Drove to the liquor store to get a 40 ounce (just kidding – I wish). 

Went to bed at 11:15 pm. 

Seriously, all a mom should have to do is put “MOM” on the top of her resume and the job is hers. In the matter of minutes, we can wrap a gift, cook dinner, solve a math problem and clean up spilled milk. We can also answer any question posed such as “how do you start the dishwasher” or “how many teaspoons are in a tablespoon.” 

Put us in a board meeting and we would run the roost. Give us a managerial position, and we’d bring up the profits. Bottom line: shit would get done – and done well. 

Ping pong 

Seriously? I have been running around all evening buying last-minute gifts, stocking up on cinnamon rolls and bacon for Christmas breakfast, returning clothes that didn’t fit and buying ones that hopefully will…. After two trips from the car to the house with arms-full of groceries, Mario comes from around the corner to beg me to sword fight with him using card board tubes from the wrapping paper. 

“Dude, you have to give me a second. I just brought all these groceries in and have to put them away and I still have to wrap things.”

“Just a minute, mom. Come on.”

I put down the pie crust and go in the family room to fight. We dance around the room until he jabs me in the chest. My tube breaks in half.

“It’s ok, mom. You can use two halves and I will just cut mine and use one.”

We play again and then I tell him I have to put groceries away. He asks if we can play again after I put them away.  I keep reiterating the mantra “he will not want to play like this one day, take it in…” but the competing mantra is yelling “you have 7 presents to wrap and cookies to make – get on it!”

We play again, several times. It’s 11:30 pm and I can’t function any longer. I decide to wrap in the morning. I turn off the lights in the other rooms and hear Mario ask “where’s my Mountain Dew?” I answer that it fell over in the fridge and so I tossed it. Mario proceeds to throw his arms up and dart back and forth in anger. “Seriously, mom, that was from St. Nick. I had been waiting to drink it!” (And yes, sadly, St. Nick brings out family soda). 

I tell him he doesn’t need Mountain Dew at 11:30 anyway. He stomps past me and upstairs. I stand there looking down the hall where he had just been begging me to play with him. How does that work? How can I put aside everything to be with him and then he is able to get so angry at me to just end the night by brushing by me? Ugh, so irritating. 

And then I have to be the bigger person and forgive him when he says sorry while laying with Jon (who undoubtedly told him to say it). I just want to say “whatever” like a sullen teenager. But I acknowledge him and jump in bed beside him tickling his sides. When I stop, he begs for more. All is good again. It’s like a ping-pong game when they are at this age. Here’s to more pings than pongs.