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. 

None. 

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. 

Happy 10th birthday, Mario!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to school

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Anniversary no. 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doctor

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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