DC

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

 

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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

Mario time

Last weekend, Maria and Alana went to Grandma Patty’s house, which left Jon and I alone with our boy. We had such a fabulous weekend hanging out with him. It’s nice to  only have one of your children for a day or two because it allows you to give your full concentration to that child and not be pulled in different directions. When the both of them are together you don’t get that intimate conversation that you do with just one. Not as though Mario was too intimate with Jon and I about his every day activities but we were able to get some information out of him. For example, I learned that he really likes a girl in his class because she’s “super cool and funny and always nice to him.” I also learned that he always talks in front of classes during his leadership session because his co-leader is too nervous to do so. That’s my boy.

On Saturday morning, I went on my run. I promised Mario I’d be back within two hours so he and I could take Rocco to the woods. He left with Jon and they did their car ride together where they get Starbucks and breakfast. Mario was ready to go when I got home. We bundled up and got Rocco ready. We ran to the woods, and Mario decided to look for Pokémon. He spotted one but it was through the trees across the tracks and over a busy road. We decided to go for it. I kept Rocco on the leash and we traveled through the trees, across the tracks, through more trees, and over to the main strip. It was exhilarating! Mario thought it was super cool to go the Illegal” way (yes, a bit disturbing). By the time we reached the strip, the Pokémon disappeared. We both just laughed about it because the thrill was in in the journey. As we headed back to the woods, we saw a train – yet another cool moment for Mario. Rack two up for mom.

When we got home, Jon was ready to take Mario to the archery/fishing store on the south side of Columbus. I was ready to clean the house and relax a bit. But Mario wanted all of us to go to the store together. After a bit of cajoling, I agreed to head down with the boys. I am so glad I did. What an experience to watch Mario in his element. He was so excited to show me how he shot his bow. The guys at the shop were mighty impressed with his archery skills. We went back-and-forth three times to adjust the tension level on his bow – I think he just wanted to adjust it each time so that it would give him another time to practice his shot in the store. I would typically be antsy but I loved to see him having such a great time. I would’ve stayed in the store all day with him just to see the joy on that face of his as he pointed out different things. He absolutely had a blast.


When we got home, we made sandwiches and hung out until I decided to get a 15 minute neck massage at Yi’s . Mario agreed I could leave for that time. But he made me promise when I got home we’d see the new Kong movie. 

Holy crap movie prices have skyrocketed! Granted, the boys only wanted to see Kong in IMAX 3-D, so the ticket prices were a bit higher because of that. It cost nearly $50 for the three of us to go see a movie and then another $25 just for a large popcorn and drinks. Insanity! I’m just going to ask for a movie gift cards for Christmas next year. But being together and watching that movie was worth it. Mario was so excited to have us by his side. At every scary scene, he would tell me that I could hold his hand and squeeze it if I got scared. Precious. And after the movie, we went home and chilled out together: watching a few YouTube videos, drawing a little, and watching some TV before bed. All things that make Mario very happy.


Leave it to the boys in my life to get me to relax a bit and enjoy the simple pleasures of life – ya know, like shooting a bow, looking at fishing gear, watching a Kong movie, and eating buttery popcorn. Loved this day with all my heart.

ER, ER, ER

We got to visit the ER for the fifth time in 12 months yesterday. Joyous. Mario went to bed on Tuesday night complaining that his lower abdomen hurt. He could not sit up without pain. If he turned to his left side, it does not hurt as bad. I felt around his lower abdomen to see if I could feel a hernia. I did not feel anything protruding so I rubbed his head and told him to try to get a good night of sleep. He brushed my hand away complaining that it really hurt and asking if he could skip school on Wednesday if it still hurt in the morning. The kid will do anything not to go to school. I left it that we would see in the am.
He woke up on Wednesday morning with the same pain. He could not sit directly up and his right side hurt to the touch. Luckily, Jon was home for the day so Mario could stay with him. Jon took him to the doctor’s office at 2:30, and called me at 3:30 to tell me that they were on their way to the emergency room. The doctor had checked out Mario and believed there was a “moderate risk” that he had appendicitis or a hernia. I met the boys in the ER at 4:30. They were still in the waiting room.

I walked to the check-in line with Mario to get a visitor badge. Mario wanted to cut in front of the three families before us but I held him back. As we stood in line, a mother approached us from behind. Her daughter was laying in a wagon. I said hello and she began to talk with me about her crazy drive to the hospital. I waved at her daughter and asked her name. The mother informed me that her daughter was diagnosed with cancer at seven weeks old. She was now almost 2 years old and cancer-free. But, she had lingering issues and that evening she couldn’t stop throwing up. The mother leaned down and pulled the covers over her daughter as she began to cough. She smiled at Mario and commented “at least she is loving the wagon ride.” 

Being a parent is rough. Seeing your child in pain and hurt is even rougher. I can’t imagine how hard it must’ve been for that mother to see her child through cancer starting at seven weeks old; yet, here she was with a smile on her face and iron-clad perseverance on her sleeve. Throughout the evening, as I started to get irritated at our wait-time, I thought about that little girl and her mom. How many times have they visited the hospital in two years? How many times was the mom scared her child may die? How many times did the girl get poked with needles? I told Mario what I was thinking so that he would hopefully take some time to ponder how other children were facing tough battles and empathize with their situation. 

They called us back to the room around 5 o’clock. We sat in the room for an hour and a half before the resident doctor appeared. Poor Mario got another female doctor – he was so embarrassed at having to be checked over by a female. After looking him over, she was also concerned about appendicitis, and ordered an ultrasound. Mario started to get nervous thinking about an operation if he had appendicitis. 

What if they take out the wrong Organ when they operate?” “What if they make me lose too much blood?” 

He was really working himself up and it took all our might to calm him down. We turned on “Outrageous Science” and watched all sorts of amazing science experiments being performed. The show calmed him down a bit.

Someone eventually came to take us to the ultrasound room. Boy, did that bring back memories. I thought about being pregnant with Maria and Mario and watching their little bodies on the screen. Pure joy. 

We headed back to the room after the ultrasound and waited, and waited, and waited. We continued to watch our science program. And then, the doctor showed up. Good results. No sign of appendicitis and no sign of a hernia. She opined that it was likely a pulled abdominal muscle that was causing him the pain. Mario was at once relieved but also a little bummed out, I think. I have a feeling he was hoping to tell his friends that he would need surgery (but somehow magically without actually having to get the surgery). You can’t have it both ways, bud.

As we waited for the discharge papers, Mario asked if he could not go to school again on Thursday. I asked him what reason he had to not go to school? He responded that he needed to rest his abdominal muscles. This kid. 

I told him that if he wanted to sleep in we would take him to school late because we were getting out of the ER so late. He responded that he may just sleep in until 3 in the afternoon for the first time ever in his life. Very cute, he is. Very cute.

Happy 9th birthday, Mario!

Mario turned nine yesterday. At least, he turned nine in biological years. In Mario years, he’s 21. 


If he could break free from the confines of his parent’s house, he’d do it in a heart beat. If he could head to the bar and drink a cold one, he’d be off. If he could head to the coffee shoppe and get an espresso, he would walk there in a second. If he could bike to campus to hang out with millennials, he’d grab his helmet and take off. 

This is not to say that he doesn’t still ask me to get him water or rub his back at night. It’s not to say that when he’s chillin’ on the couch he doesn’t ask me to sit next to him and snuggle. He even still let’s me squeeze and kiss him in private (he’d die if I did it around friends). 

But he has definitely hit an independence streak. I think he may deal with us until age 16 and then pack his bags for California and take off to hang with the surfer dudes and make vlogs. But he loves  money so much that if he did move out, he’d be one of those young, hip entrepreneurs who drops out of high school but makes millions.

So, how to sum up Mario’s eighth year of life? He loves you tube. He loves watching music videos. He loves playing video games with his buddies. He loves going to football games and playing on the hill with his friends and talking with the older kids. He loves wrestling and jumping all around the house. He loves sports. He enjoys biking by himself to the library or down to school. He still craves chocolate everything. He will drop all plans to go fishing. He remains a total character. He is compassionate and sweet, and loves to make people laugh.

Some highlights from his eighth year:

1. Football games with his buddies and sideline passes with his dad.


2. Halloween trick-or-treating with his two friends (and mom not standing too close to them as they went house to house)…and a boatload of candy!


3. Serving Thanksgiving meal to homeless men at the Y and chatting it up with them.


4. Christmas morning opening presents – oh, the drama and anticipation!

5. A broken arm! At 11:20 pm on NYE, you ran into my friend’s dining room  holding your arm and crying that it was broken. Your friend had fell down on it as you were playing. Sure enough, it was. We sat at the hospital as the New Year was brought in laughing at you in your “high” state from the pain meds. 


6. You took care of Grandpa Ionno’s grave in Marietta.

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7. You went to Feed the Streets with me and walked a mile passing out water and lunches to people in need.

8. You went hunting with your dad and “had the best day of your life!”


9. You watched OSU hockey with your buddies in a suite with tons of cookies, and met Brutus!


10. You got all dressed up for Easter and killed it on the volleyball court.


11. You went on Spring Break with the Webers and Muellers to Hocking Hills. You went fishing and hiked. I met you there two days into break and we explored together. You loved taking risks and climbing steep rock climbs.


12. You cranked baseball this year – one of the strongest players!


13. You fed a baby calf and named it after a girl at school (romantic, just like your dad).

14. You starred in your first talent show singing “We will rock you!”

15. You became enamored with ball pythons.

16. You started sporting sweet Panama Jack hats.


17. You won Elena’s heart by making her laugh with your silly antics.


18.You kayaked and fished on Lake Erie.


19. You went white-water rafting, zip lined, and completed a mud obstacle course in West Virginia!


20. You blobbed your sister!

21. You swam in the creek at Park of the Roses with your pup!

22. You won a poop emoji at the Ohio State Fair!


23. You started third grade – your last year at RLS!


24. You celebrated your birthday with a bunch of friends at Get Air and a sleepover!


Happy birthday our sweet Mario. I hope this year brings you lots of learning experiences and lots of adventures. And guess what?

We love you (you weren’t here to say it before me:)!).

Lime and Cucumber Mario

The last two weeks Mario has stayed up until at least 10 pm but most nights until 11 pm.  He has been soaking up the winter break, and until today, has had no desire to head back to school.  Jon and I are still perplexed at what changed in the matter of one day, but he was cracking us up tonight. We fought to get him to take a shower but after he did, he was transformed.

“Mom, where are my new jeans you bought me?”

“They are in your drawer.”

“Mom, can you put my belt on them for me.”

I took the belt off the pair of jeans he has worn for three days straight and placed it on the new pair.  I wondered why he was asking me to do this since I had asked him the last two days to change pants. My question was answered when he called me into his room.

He had combed his hair over to one side. He walked up to me and leaned his body into me.

“Smell me, mom.”

I sniffed and the aroma of lime and cucumber filled my nostrils. He had used my body scrub on his entire body.

“I want to smell good for my first day of school tomorrow!” He had laid out his clothes on the floor so that his shirt was on the top, boxers under it, jeans under them, and socks under the jeans.  He has never done that in his life to prepare for school.  Was this Mario or an alien abductee?

Then he proceeded to ask me for an alarm clock he could borrow.  All I had was my watch.  I brought it into him and asked him what time he wanted to wake up.

“6:30 am.”

This is the time he typically awakes anyhow but I asked him why he wanted to get up so early since he doesn’t leave for school until 8 am.

“I have to wake up, comb my hair, put on deodorant, brush my teeth, floss, rinse my mouth with mouthwash, and get dressed.  I have to smell good AND look good on my first day back to school.”

Ok, Maria has never once been concerned about such things and she is in fourth grade. This Mario man is gonna be quite the high maintenance fella’ as he gets older. I don’t think it is gonna be Maria begging for her own bathroom…!

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Happy 7th birthday Mario!

Happy 7th Birthday Mario!

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Of course, we started it off right with a chocolate iced donut in hand. You have adored donuts since the womb when you used to kick each time I devoured one. You get your sweet tooth honestly. And you grew up loving to stroll to Tim Horton’s on Sunday mornings and eat ten timbits.

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What have you been up to over this past year?
1. You dove off the high dive like it was nobody’s business. You just walked to the end of the board and dropped off. Last year, you would rarely make it up all the steps and if you did, you’d never get to the end of the board. This year, you acted like you had been doing it for years! My brave guy.

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2. You learned how to play a mean Minecraft and Animal Jam computer game. I cannot get over how technology savvy you are. Your sis has assisted you with developing this talent. You can navigate the heck out of the World Wide Web and create worlds left and right on Minecraft.

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3. You continued to master your fishing skills! You fished at Uncle Mario’s, Grandma Ionno’s and Peepaw’s houses and always somehow caught larger fishes than them (at least that’s your story and you’re sticking to it!).

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4. You completed Kindergarten and started 1st grade! The beginning of Kindergarten was rough with lots of tears and pleas for dad and me to stay but you finished with a bang and now go to visit Mrs. Page every chance you get (you also wrote her a note at the beginning of this year that said “I miss you Mrs. Page.”). You are going into school all by yourself this year! We drop you off in front of the building, you jump out with your bookbag on your back, and wave goodbye. However, you are a little more ambivalent about school this year and would much rather stay home than head in each morning. Unfortunately, I have a feeling this may not go away in the next 12 years…

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5. You have found a best buddy in Rocco. We got him two days after your 6th birthday last year and you have loved on him and wrestled him ever since. You continue to fret about him every time we let him out back without his shock collar on him. You yell at the top of your lungs “don’t let Rocco out without his collar; he may run away!” And when dad pulls up in the driveway, you stop Rocco in the yard and hold him until dad stops the car. As much as dad and I tell you to not wrestle Rocco, you can’t stop yourself. You hide under the blanket and let Rocco pull on you and hop on you and then you wrestle with him all over the family room. But you also love to cuddle with him and give him smooches.

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6. You are playing tackle football! What the he–?! You look like a miniature pro in those pads. It’s strange how young you look in pictures from flag and how old you look just a year later. Not sure I dig that action….And you are no joke buddy. You love to tackle and you have taken your share of hits and popped back up smiling away. You are really loving it this year.

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7. You have dissed the stroller! You are now completely embarrassed about riding in it and refuse to do it. This didn’t happen until the Summer but it was a quick transition. One day you were letting me stroller you to Giant Eagle and the next, you were hopping out of it as soon as you saw a friend walking down the street – and swearing to never go in it again. I understand why you’d be over it but it still breaks my heart that the BOB is relegated to the dump.

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8. Not only did you go to your first Reds game, but you got your first professional autograph from Billy Hamilton and got a ball tossed to you from Billy Hatcher!

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9. You participated in your first Boy Scout Day Camp and loved it! Dad took you a couple of days and Grandma Ionno took you for a couple and I met up with you one afternoon. Your favorite activities were shooting with a bow and arrow, fishing, and creeking. You were so excited to accomplish the different activities.

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10. You got a bee bee gun and love to shoot it. You are begging for a bow and arrow from dad next…. You are a little outdoorsmen and if you could spend all day with your dad hunting, it would be an awesome day in your eyes.

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But most of all what I remember about this past year is your zaniness and fierceness and curiosity and desire to make people laugh. You are an incredible kid, Mario Joseph, and you bring joy to so many people. Dad and I marvel at your grit and perseverance and at how much you’ve grown in a year’s time (you finally got to 55 pounds for football!).
I hope you continue to find humor in yourself and life in general. I hope you continue to love making people smile. I hope you continue to want to learn new things (not just computer games!). I hope you have a great school year and challenge yourself. I hope you continue to want me to read to you before bed. I hope you are grateful for all you have and share with others. I hope you get to go hunting with your dad this season. And I hope you know deep down inside how much you are loved. We are so glad that you are our son and that you grace our world every single day. Happy Birthday (and yes we ended the day with more sugar – chocolate donuts and ice cream!)!

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Mario-isms

Patty watched Mario two weeks ago and couldn’t help but write down a few “Mario-isms” as she calls his quotes. Here ya go…(my commentary to Patty’s narrative is in parenthesis).

Mario was getting dressed, picked up a shirt and said “Don’t even think of me wearing this, it is too small, I don’t know why Mom keeps packing it.” I said, well you could give it to some poor little boy to wear and he said “no, I am going to sell it.”

(Mario is quite the capitalist. He wants to sell anything in order to get money in his pocket. His latest has been to work on birdhouses (with Peepaw) to sell for $90).

While we were going near a pair of Canadian Geese’s nest where they are hatching an egg, the geese kept hissing at us and coming toward us and we kept running away. We went on the bridge which is above the nest and the geese were still mad at us for being too near them. Mario yelled to the geese, “I am a citizen of mankind, I am only trying to help you protect your egg.”

(He is insane).

While he was eating breakfast, he looked out of the sun room windows and saw a huge bird sitting on a rock at the pond. We went on the patio and the bird took flight, the wing span was enormous. Mario excitedly said, “I know what that big bird is, I saw it on WildKratts, it is a Harris hawk they will eat geese and other birds and animals.” I don’t know if that is the spelling of the bird’s name, but that is how it sounded. Anyway, later we were walking around the pond and saw some whitish bird feathers on the ground. I said maybe the Harris hawk had eaten the bird. Mario said “no, Grandma, they won’t eat anything that is white”, he took hold of the white scarf I was wearing and said, “they wouldn’t attack you, Grandma, because you are wearing this white scarf.” I asked him if he knew why they wouldn’t eat anything white and he said “will there is a legend that a white snake attacked and killed a Harris hawk and that probably is why they are afraid of white.” (I don’t know how true the legend is, but it a good story.)

(I will let him watch PBS WildKratts any time because he learns so much from that show – he tells me about animals I have never heard of in my 41 years).

I taped the inauguration of Pope Francis and while Mario was here, I would watch it (in pieces because of its length). I told Mario to look at the man at the altar and I started tell him who it was, before I could explain who it was Mario said “I know that is the Pope and he is important. In our States, the Popes wear red”. I explained to him that they were cardinals, etc. He said “okay Grandma”. He apparently had seen the election of the Pope and it stuck with him.

(When he was on the computer and the news popped up, he saw the Pope and said “Grandma really likes that man.”).

While on the I-Pad he was checking on his program/game about the Simpsons and wanted to buy some “donuts” (These “free”games are sure not “free”, they entice the kids to play and then they entice them to buy stuff to advance to the next level, in this game it is donuts) anyway, he currently had 107 donuts and wanted me to buy more. I said no, we will earn them a little at a time. Well, Mr. Impatience doesn’t want to wait so he was bargaining with me to buy the donuts. He held up his index finger on one hand and then tried to make two zeros on the other hand to make the sign of 100 and then add seven. (He was so serious and cute while trying to show me the number 107 on his fingers) and then if we buy 100 more how many he would have and then proceeded to tell me what he could get with that many donuts. Smart kid. I put him off buying them. He finally gave up on me.

(He has perseverance when it comes to money).

While running in the house, he slipped and fell forward (didn’t hurt him) but he smiled and said “I think I just cracked my donut” and laughed and laughed (so did Joe and I). What an entertainer!

(He calls his privates a range of names – lately he says “I crushed my batteries.” Interesting).

When he and Maria were here, I kept getting after them to eat healthy things (apples, and other fruit), so one day he was eating lunch and had trail bologna and cheese and I had given him some potato chips. He said he wanted more meat and cheese, but didn’t want to eat any bad stuff for two days, so didn’t eat the chips.

(He is definitely conscious of his body image. He ate a ton of cake the other night and his stomach was distended. He lifted up his shirt and said “I can’t do that again. I look horrible.”).

And there we have it. He keeps us all laughing, that kid. Thanks, Patty, for recording It all.

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