Ri’s caramel hot chocolate dream drink

The boys went to the high school basketball game last night, while Ri and I worked furiously on her math and social studies homework. My gosh, I thought sixth grade math would be fairly simple- fractions, decimals, division. But I was wrong. I could not figure out the solution to three questions to save my life. I started to go a bit nuts. Maria, seeing me a bit irritated, decided to make me a treat. Here is a video of her explaining the concoction she created:

Yea, it tasted as good as it looks. It had all the foods I love – chocolate, caramel, whipped cream, ice cream, and nuts. I had to throw on a pair of elastic sweats after eating it but it was oh, so worth it. And I wouldn’t blink paying $10 for it (she changed it to $8 after I turned the video off). 

And the sugar high helped. I figured out the solutions to two out of the three questions and gave a daggone good guess on the third one. 

Too cool for school

My sis is a rockin’!  She is a superstar.  She is fab.

Sarah got the writing gene in the family.  My brother got the music gene.  And I got the left-brained, analytical gene.  But between the two of them, I have added some right-brained creativity to my world (I can draw a heck of a stick man).  Back to my sis, Sarah. Did I tell you she’s a superstar…?

Maria idolizes her and when Sarah is in town, she begs to be with her.  They do Stauf’s trips together, make collages, and take the pups on walks.  Everyone sees Sarah in Maria – she definitely has Sarah’s independent streak and her contentment with alone time.  I am hoping Maria laps up Sarah’s love of reading and writing as she heads into second grade.  Maria has framed pictures of Sarah (and Sarah’s pups) on her bed stand and she asks questions about her randomly through the week.  The other day she asked if Aunt Sarah liked first grade.  I told Ri we’d have to ask her next time she was in town, and Ri chirped “is she coming soon?!”  There is no doubt that Aunt Sarah is super cool in Ri’s eyes. 

And she is even cooler in her big sister’s eyes with all that she is accomplishing.  She recently wrote a post on turning thirty, and it allowed me to see a glimpse of the struggles that she is facing with being a traveler and being a married, mom-on-the-mind, thirty-year old woman. That she opens up to the world like she did in that piece and gives others the opportunity to ponder where they are, what they are doing, or simply get some enjoyment out of a good piece of writing, is, how can I word it?  Super Cool.  About a year ago, she started an on-line magazine, Vela, for creative non-fiction writing inspired by travel and women are the only authors.  No small task but she did it.  When I opened up Facebook this afternoon, she had posted that she was quoted in a Forbes article based on her role in Vela.  Huh?! I love that I can randomly scan Facebook and find out my sis was interviewed by a Forbes writer.  Gotta love that girl.

So, this post goes out to you, my little sis, for being one cool chick.  Take refuge in the fact that you have an adoring niece who will probably be begging to live with you in the next five years, and a gushing big sis who thinks you are awesome!

Distance really does make the heart grow fonder

Maria Grace stayed with Jon’s mom this entire week.  We went up for Memorial Day on Monday and she just returned today.  I swear she looks two years older.  She got four inches cut off of her hair during her stay with Grandma.  She greeted me with a huge hug and smile but when I asked her how her time was with Grandma and Alana, she responded “it was fine but I don’t want to talk about it.”  Huh?! I asked her if something went wrong and she looked at me puzzled.  “No, mom, I just don’t feel like talking about it.” 

Ok.  I am not ready for this response when just two weeks ago she would have went on and on about her time with Alana and her adventures with Grandma.  Well, maybe I exaggerate a bit – she has never been that talkative about her days; but she used to at least summarize them for me!  I let it go in order to just enjoy the moment with her – soak up her smile and her laugh.  Mario yelled “Ria” when he saw her and gave her a huge hug that lasted 30 seconds.  He had been asking when she’d be home for the last three days. 

One of the first tasks that Maria set out to do when she walked in the house was write a letter to Ann Curry.  Yes, the Today Show’s Ann Curry.  Jon and I default to NBC News in the morning, and Maria enjoys watching it, too.  She loves Ann Curry; she thinks she’s smart and stylish.  Her letter told her as much and she also added a sentence stating that Ann Curry helps her learn more about the world.  Precious.  I had Maria write Ann Curry’s name and address on the front of the envelope with the hopes that it does not get pitched since it is clearly from a kid.  We will keep our fingers crossed…! 

Meanwhile, Mario and I wrestled.  He made me grab his leg each time he started to turn the DVD dial and then after I grabbed it, he shocked me with the electric waves coming out of his fingers.  I had to play dead for five seconds and then come back alive to do it all over again.  He could have played that game with me for two hours but I could only handle about 15 minutes.  I had to play a game of HeadBandz in order to get him off the wrestling kick, and then find his Spiderman costume for him to wear.

I got a massage in the mid-afternoon, which was a piece of heaven for an hour.  Is there anything better than a scalp massage at 3 pm?  And I could hire someone to rub my feet all day long and think it was money well spent.  I lifted myself off the massage table afterwards, and had deep creases along my face and legs – a sign of a good massage.  Jon decided to cook lemon chicken for dinner so we spent an hour preparing the chicken and the sides while the kids played on the computer and drew.  It was a very strange yet wonderful experience for us.  Strange to smell sweet aromas throughout the kitchen and wonderful to cook our own meal (the joke is that we have only used our pots and pans a handful of times since we were married in 2002). 

The kids even liked it!  And Maggie, hung over and all, enjoyed it, too.  After dinner, we rode our bikes up to the mailbox to deliver Ann Curry’s letter (and a b-day card to Grandma Lolo) and chow on some Orange Leaf.  Mario gave up on his bike at Stauf’s so I carried him the rest of the way (I am a sucker!).  Jon played on his new scooter for a bit; Maggie texted her friends and engaged in time trials with the kids; and I cleaned up.  A good ending to a long day.  I am excited to have Maria back with us even if she doesn’t want to divulge her week to me.  As long as I still get those hugs, I am ok.

Open House


Maria hosted Granmda Ionno, Mario and me at her Open House at school.  She had a clipboard with a checklist of everything she had to show us before the night was over.  We got to listen to other Fairy Tale about a big bad dog and a cat, watch her slide show on the blue morpho butterfly and learn a lot of desert facts.  She has accomplished a lot this year, and has especially excelled in her reading.  I can’t believe how well she is reading compared to the beginning of the year. 

She is a very good student and listens to her teacher.  She rarely ever gets in trouble, and when she does she feels horrible.  I think she is one heck of a student. While Maria was showing us her shoebox 3-D project (the blue morpho butterfly one that I helped with) she detailed how a girl in her class made fun of it.  She seemed really hurt by the girl’s comments, and for one minute, I felt like approaching the girl and giving her a piece of my mind.  I asked Maria if she told the girl how it made her feel and she told me she just walked away from her.  Maybe a better move in this instance since I can tell the girl is a piece of work. The mama bear comes out in me when I am told of those situations. 

Grandma Ionno tried to get up a few times to check on Grandpa but Maria begged her to stay and listen to her reading or watch her slide show.  She loves having family there to watch her.  After the event, we went to Panera for dinner.  Mario talked about inappropriate things and Maria talked about how it seems “like only yesterday that Mario’s hair was really thin.”  God love her – she cracks me up with her 60-year-old quips, and god love him, he is just insane.  When we came home tonight, she set all of her paperwork aside from school in order to show Jon when he returns home from out-of-town.  She was so heartbroken when she learned that Jon would not be able to attend her event but he made it up to her by promising her a double chocolate frozen drink at Starbuck’s.  He knows how to make up for his absence.

The dreaded art project

God help me.  It has finally happened.  I dreaded the day.  I had thought we may have escaped it since we are so close to the end of the year…. The do-it-at home art project. 

Jon and I are both left-brained people.  Logical, rational, linear.  Where are my right-brained sister and brother when I most need them? Ok, so I exaggerate a tad bit seeing the project was simply to make a morpho butterfly from the rain forest in 3D.  Doesn’t sound too hard. Right? 

We bought clay last weekend, and that ended up going nowhere fast.  We got the clay a bit wet to mold it better (my left-brained self followed the instructions to a tee) but then the clay stuck to the plate and then to our hands and then to the knife as we cut through it.  Maria was in tears within five minutes and I was ready to throw the clay at the wall if only it would have peeled off my hands.  We also thought about cutting out the morpho butterfly on construction paper and stuffing both pieces of paper with tissue paper.  I think that idea may have been our smartest but Jon thought we should use big sheets of paper at his office and nobody wanted to make the commute up there so we ditched the idea completely. 

We landed on colored molding clay which was a lot easier to mold than the grey modeling clay.  Ri and I worked on two wings for the butterfly after reviewing internet pictures.  I thought for sure that Ri would freak at the wings that I (we) made for the creature but I think she was too tired to complain at that point.  We were out of pipe cleaners for the antennae so we used Q tips (cut off the ends) instead (they don’t have that cute twist but whatever…).  Next, Maria had a great idea for the shoebox that would be the butterfly’s home.  She drew trees and put real leaves on them and then stood a paper tree up in the front of the box so the butterfly could perch in it.  After a bit of drama about getting the butterfly to stick on the tree (she takes pride in using scotch tape everywhere) , she had our creation and, most importantly, she was happy with it.  

Jon and I were, too.  After all, it is quite a piece of work for a lawyer and a business executive.   



Ten Reasons to be Grateful For Today…

1. Gorgeous powder blue sky with cotton ball clouds and 70 degree temperature = perfect biking to work weather.

2. Lunch with Mom at Mario’s school – free Panera with a big chocolate chip cookie!  Running around the playground with Mario, spinning in plastic seats and playing tag in the muscle room.  Mario made me a gorgeous beaded necklace so “I can remember him every time I wear it.”

3. Playing soccer with Maggie and Mario in the back yard (except when Maggie stole the ball from me and scored)!

4. Figuring out which drapes to get for the living room window and hall window.  So exciting to branch out and take a walk on the wild side!  I am not matching the color of the drapes with the furniture – crazy!

5. Seeing Jon on a scooter that his friend wants him to buy.  He looked like a ten-year old who just got the present he begged his parents for all year.

6. Taking Maria to school and listening to Jack’s CD in the car.  Maria asked if Jack wrote one of the songs after he broke up with Chelsea.  I told her I was not sure and that we should ask him since we have the good fortune of being related to the singer of the band!  She stopped me in my tracks and told me that we should not ask Jack such a question because it may make him sad and she doesn’t want to see her uncle sad.  Also, loved seeing her in the cowboy boots that Grandma Meg got her for her b-day! 

7. Going for a bike ride with Mario; he still fits in the baby seat on my bike!  We biked all over Grandview; hit the park for some slide tag and Giant Eagle for a flower to plant outside. 

8. Watching a yellow finch land on the branch of a japanese maple tree.

9. Talking to my mom about her new pup, Lou, and how everyone at the doggie day care thinks he is the best dog ever (so funny to see her as such a proud doggy mama!).

10. Eating Orange Leaf’s brownie batter and birthday cake yogurt with oreo and graham cracker topping.  Mario got his pineapple, as always. And sitting outside together talking about desert animals.

Muscle Man and Coach

Mario officially turned into a muscle head tonight.  It started while Jon and him were outside grilling steak and burgers for dinner.  Mario found a set of five-pound weights in the garage and he started curling them.  Jon called me outside, and I stopped in my tracks.  There was my 40 pound son pushing weights over his head and grunting like a power lifter.  I can’t tell you how proud I was!  He is taking after his mama!

Jon called me out a few minutes later and I found Mario with no shirt pumping iron.  He informed me that he lifts better with his shirt off. Of course.  We sat down to eat, and he begged me to wash his weights so he could take them to his room.  I can only imagine opening his bedroom door and seeing him lifting weights in his sweats while jammin’ it out to Black Eyed Peas.  In the middle of eating, Mario turned to Jon and asked “Can I be done with my food so I can go outside and lift weights?” 

After eating a few more bites, he and Maria went outside.  Jon whistled at me as I cleaned the dishes.  I walked over to the back door and there was sergeant Maria belting out commands to Mario. 

Coach and lifter“First you do ten weight curls. Then you go to the horse and balance. Then you run to the back yard. Then you hit the baseball and sprint back. Then you go to the front porch and pump your arm. Then run back.”  Mario soaked in every word and performed every activity shouted out.  With each activity, Maria would yell “Ok, Mario, move to the next!”   When he finished, she patted him on the back and told him “good job.” While Mario has got a lot of my energy and drive, Maria has a lot of her dad’s commanding style.  She has no problem barking orders to Mario and making sure that he abides by her commands.  She also has Jon’s concern for people and knows when praise is needed.  When Mario returned from his obstacle course, she knew she needed to pump him up and tell him good job. 

I our initial thoughts about these two crazy kids remain: Maria will be the executive calling the shots behind her mahogany desk and Mario will be the pro soccer player (or weightlifter) playing his heart out.