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 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. 

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.

Fractured nose but not spirit 

And she took one to the nose on Sunday. The Universe had given her a break on blows to the head but decided she needed one to the slope of cartilage and bone on her heart-shaped face. Oh, my poor girl. But, as with everything, she took it like a champ.

Ri had not wanted to go to her softball double-header on Sunday morning. She has gotten really into soccer this season, and wants to concentrate all of her efforts on that sport. But Jon and I told her that she had committed to fall ball, and therefore, needed to finish out the season. In any case, there were only three more doubleheaders to play before the season ended. She obliged us and left in good spirits with Jon at 9:30 am for her games. 

I arrived near the end of the first game to see her get a hit to shortstop and thrown out at first. She walked over to where John and I were standing, and gave me a hug. “Did you see my hit, mom?” I told her that I had seen it and Jon chimed in that she got an earlier hit and made it to first. With those congratulated her and told her to get back over with her team. She rolled her eyes amusingly and skipped back over to her teammates. John left after the first game but not before getting her a big hug and telling her he loved her. Ri was excited because they had small packages of Pringles for snacks between the games. She sat with her teammates enjoying her sour cream and onion chips. 

Game two began shortly after the girls finished their snacks. I sat on the bleacher bench next to some friends. We were talking about the latest and greatest news and podcasts when someone yelled out “Maria got hit.” I looked out into left field and there she was curled up in a ball with five people surrounding her. I did not jump up immediately with the hopes that they were taking care of her and she was fine. But then someone said to me “she is bleeding pretty good, she may need her mom.” I hopped up and rushed out to see her. When I arrived, I saw a large pool of blood in the grass and four large washcloths soaked with my baby’s blood. It was coming out of her nostrils and from a gash on the top of her nose. Luckily, my girlfriend is a nurse and was able to both control the bleeding and calm Ri down. We were finally able to walk her off the field with washcloths under her nose to catch the continued bleeding. Once we hit the bathroom, the bleeding had slowed to the point Ri could hold a cloth up to her nose and it would not be drenched within seconds. She was so upset. I just knew she was cussing me out for making her go to the game. I was cussing myself out because now look at us – we were going to have to spend the entire day in the hospital and who knows if she’d play soccer again. Was there a way to turn back time?

Everybody was so helpful in gathering up Ri’s things and getting her to my car. We zoomed along the highway to the Utgent Care. Ri was so nervous; she did not want to get stitches. The girl who loves shots was worried about a few stitches.  The mind is a wondrous thing. She did not care at all about how she looked, all she cared about was not having to get those darn stitches. The team of medical folks got us in fairly quickly but then we waited for the doctor for quite some time.  I needed something to keep Maria’s mind occupied so we looked at the history of Elena on Instagram. Maria could do that once a day and never tire of it.

The doctor finally strolled in and took a look at Maria. She was friendly and answered all of Maria’s questions. The first question being “will I need stitches?” She answered the way Maria wanted her to with a resounding “no.” It was as if Maria had been carrying 100 pound weights on her shoulders and someone had lifted them off her. She felt around Maria’s face and neck and looked into her nose, and declared that she did not think it was broken. Thank goodness! She gave us direction on how to care for her nose over the coming weeks, and did talk about the possibility of a scar where her gash was located. Ri could have cared less about anything she was saying – not about the scar, not about any  deformity – all she cared about was that there was no stitches. 

We were excited to be able to leave. Maria had a date with her girlfriend to hold puppies that had just been born three weeks ago (Maria was addicted to them, and had spent most of the weekend holding them with her girlfriend). I was hoping to hit the tail end of Mario’s football game. 

But then the door creaked open, and the doctor poked her head inside. “I am going to have to order an x-ray just to make sure her nose is not broken. They should be in soon to get her.” My stomach dropped. I kept thinking “if the doctor did not think it was broken then she is most likely correct, right?” Oh, I did not want Ri to deal with a broken nose. Ri, true to form, was only concerned about those stitches. She asked whether a broken nose would require stitches. 

We got the x-ray and waited. About 45 minutes later, the doctor walked back in the room. She was smiling – that’s a good thing, right? As she smiled, she told us that Maria did have a fracture in her nose. Seriously? How are you going to smile while getting that news? While I viewed about the disjuztaposition of the doctor’s cues, Maria asked her “well I need stitches?” The doctor answered in the negative, which is all Maria I needed to hear. I could hear her on the inside saying “who cares if I have a broken nose, if my nose will be out of whack, if I have a huge scar, all I want is for no stitches!”

I felt a bit of a relief when the doctor informed us that the fracture may very well heal on its own. She thought that there was more of a chance that it would heal on its own then we would have to get surgery. That was the best I was going to do for the day and so I took it and ran with it. And so they came in and cleaned up Maria’s gash, gave us some tips on treatment, and told us to continue to keep an eye on the shape of her nose as the swelling went down. 

Maria made jokes on our way home, and begged to go to her friend’s house to see the puppies. You would not of thought that she just suffered a broken nose. Later in the evening, when she returned from her friends house, she did start to feel a little puny. I gave her Tylenol and a massage. She was asleep by 8:45 PM. When I came downstairs, I found a get-well note signed by her teammates as well as the $5 bounty the coach gives to the player that played best during the game. I also received a delivery of frosted animal crackers from Ri’s girlfriend (she knows Ri well). After times like these, I am always reminded of how great of friends Ri and I have in the community. 

The next morning, Ri woke up in a great mood. Surprisingly, and who’s had not swelled up beyond belief. It was definitely better but not as big as Jon and I thought it would be. She begged to play in her soccer game that evening but Jon and I nixed it. She was mad at first but then reasoned “if I can’t play 100%, then I really don’t want to play anyway.”  She sent me s text during the day informing me that her nose “didn’t look that bad.” She partied it up with her teammates on the bus ride to the soccer game and wanted to stay to watch the boys play after her game. She likes to ride the bus home with her teammates and the boys soccer team because they sing and act silly. She could’ve cared less that she had a big old broken nose going on. 

She came waltzing through the door at 8:30 at night singing and laughing and yelling “what’s up??” I asked how the game was and she explained that they lost. She said at one point somebody was complaining that they had a headache and she said “I looked at them and said ‘I feel your pain girl, look at this nose of mine!'” Damn, how I love our girl’s self-deprecating style. she can roll with some serious punches. I am not quite sure that Mario or many other kids would have such a great sense of humor and positive attitude in the same circumstance. 

But let’s not find out anytime soon.