7th grade dance

Maria mentioned going shopping for a dress for her seventh grade dance about a month and a half before the dance. Our weekends have been replete with Mario’s basketball games and Maria’s soccer games. We finally found a Sunday to shop. We decided to hit IKEA first to buy a couch we’d been wanting for six months, and then head over to the mall. But Ikea drained the entire family and none of us wanted to go to the mall, including Maria. She was willing to find a dress on the Internet rather than brave a shopping center (our type of girl). She perused the Internet off and on and reported nothing back to me. At some point, I realized we only had another week or so before her dance.

“I’m not spending $45 on shipping fees, Maria. So you need to find a dress in order for it to get here on time.” Sigh.

She found two black dresses off two different websites that I had never heard of before. She sent the sites to me and at 10 PM one evening, I got on the sites. They were ones that infiltrated you with 20 different advertisements while you were trying to check out of the site. They also wanted me to add my email address and personal information several times over. I was getting a bit concerned with the validity of the sites. But, I did not want my girl to stress out about a dress so I continued plugging away. After I completed the sales on both sites, I received email confirmations. The confirmation for the dress that Maria really wanted informed me that although they shipped within two days they may not have the dress for another couple of weeks. Are you kidding?! They did not tell me that information as I checked out, of course. The other confirmation email confirmed that it would arrive “soon.” Seriously? I spent the next hour trying to cancel my orders but had no luck. Frustrated, I searched for the dresses on Amazon. Why did I not look at that before I made the order? Amazon had the exact same dresses and I could get them in two days. I ordered them at midnight. What we do for these kids of ours.

Amazon came through, and we received the dresses two days after I ordered them. Maria loved one of them. She made a video for me trying both of them on and sent it to me while I was at work. It made my day. The dress she liked was classy. Black, off the shoulders, knee-length. Thank goodness. Jon and I are relieved not to have to worry about short, tight skirts and dresses at this period of time.

Two days before the dance, Maria, Mario, and I drove to Target to try to find black shoes. No luck. We tried two other places with no luck. We ended up back at Target. Maria pleaded for some stilettos but compromised with me on a pair of chunky heels. I bought her a little silver chain with a silver ball in the middle; I told her the ball represented the ball of energy she carried everywhere she went.

The day of the dance, Ri got her hair done at a salon. I had said no way to the request but Jon caved. He knew my horrible hair styling skills and felt bad for Maria. After her styling session, three of her girlfriends came over to eat pizza and get ready.

Maria allowed me to do her nail polish. Wrong move. I couldn’t even get that right. We had to have a girlfriend of mine reapply. She did cave in after the nail polish debacle and allow me to try her make-up. I succeeded on that front because she only wanted minimal application. I could handle that.

Next thing we knew, the girls went from Saturday morning chill wear to glamour red-carpet wear! Were these our baby girls?!

They we’re so excited to go to the dance. However, they wanted to keep their cool so they asked me to drive them around so that they would be dropped off at 6:38 instead of 6:30 when it started. Hilarious. Sure enough, there was a group of boys sitting at the picnic table when we drove by doing one of our loops. They were thinking the same thing.

I got a call at the end of the dance informing me that the girls would walk home. When they arrived, much to Maria’s dismay, her girlfriends told me that she danced with a boy. The boy being the boy that she has been friends with since she was in third grade. His nickname is Cookie and he is the sweetest boy in her class. They had video of the two of them dancing to the last song of the night. Again, hilarious. I liked that they were arms distance apart….

The night did not end for them, however. I had agreed that I would take them to a 10 PM movie. I dropped them off in their PJs. They said the movie was awful but they had a blast drinking their Icees and eating their cookie dough treats.

Mother/son dance

So, Maria had her seventh grade dance a couple of weeks ago. It was time for Mario to have to participate in a dance as well. I am sure he would’ve been fine if it was a boy/girl dance like Maria had but instead it was a dance where you had to take your mom! Yuck! All the boys acted like they could not stand the thought of having to attend this event even though I think deep down inside, they were more comfortable going with their moms then going with girls.

A mom of one of Mario’s friends was offered a limo ride from one of her neighborhood friends. She invited A bunch of her sons friends, including Mario. I knew Mario would think it was a fun idea and be in for it, but I was a bit on the brink. What were we setting our sons up for? They get a limo for their fourth grade dance? Will it be a jet for their high school prom?!

The weeks before the dance were very different than the weeks before Maria’s dance. There was no scouring the Internet to try to find the perfect suit for the dance. There was no running to Target and five other stores to find the best shoes possible. It basically went down like this: we had to be at DK Diner at 5:30. At 5:00, I stopped vacuuming the house and told Mario I was taking a shower. Mario continued to play his video game. At 5:20, I yelled for Mario to come upstairs and get dressed. He tried on a pair of jeans and the only button-down shirt he had. He looked ridiculous. He and I are meant to live in sweatpants and T-shirts. He tried to get comfortable in the attire but after a few minutes of trying to jump around and pretend like he was throwing a dodgeball, he commented that there was no way he would be able to stay in those clothes for two hours and play. I completely understood. He changed back into Adidas sweatpants and a “nice “sports shirt. I bit the bullet and wore a pair of nice shoes with my jeans and tank top. I think I’m going to start up a mother/son event where everybody must wear gym shoes, lounge pants, and T-shirts or else you cannot get in. We got to DK a few minutes late but he grabbed a seat with all of his buddies and took down a cheeseburger and fries while I chatted it up with the moms.

We left a half hour later to head down to Mario’s friend’s house. The limo came shortly after we arrived and all of the boys went running up to it like there was a celebrity waiting inside. The boys oooohhh’d and ahhhh’d for ten minutes, and then we all settled in and began our ride around Grandview. A few of the moms brought some champagne. I played some jams. We kept asking the boys what songs they wanted to listen to but no one would chime in. Therefore, they got to hear some good 80s and 90s jams. After about 20 minutes of driving around, the boys were ready to jump out and head to the dance. They were gone as soon as the limo slowed down and all of the moms were left barreling out of the limo and walking into the dance by ourselves. And that was pretty much how the night was spent. The boys went off and played dodgeball or football games and the moms stood around and caught up (actually, it was a lot like Maria’s dance that way:)).

Mario was ready to leave after half of an hour. He just wanted to head home and watch a show on the couch with me. Precious. I was right there with him but we had promised the other moms and sons a long night so we hung in there. Eventually, Mario ended up finding things to do and running around until 8:30 when the limousine picked us back up. We headed to the chocolate café for some malts and brownies, and then the sugar-infested kids danced in the limo for the next 20 minutes. The moms, by this time, were ready to head home and put on their pjs.

Mario and I thanked his friends mom for the limousine service and hopped in our little ball though to head home. I watched him play his video game for an hour when we got home, and then he asked me to carry him to bed. Yes, I can still pick him up and carry him up the stairs for bed. I think that was my favorite part of the evening (that, and doing the chicken dance with him in the gym!).

Partyin’ with the Ritz

Once our girl gets wind that there is a party, she is raring to go! We finally were able to schedule our annual dunk tank party for Mario’s baseball team and Maria’s softball team this year. It was pathetic that we could find no weekends in July or beginning of August to have the party because of all of the activities the kids were in during the summer. We ended up choosing the Sunday after the first week of school, and we had surprisingly great weather. 85° and sunny. 

But back to our party planner, Maria Grace. She began planning the party is soon as I told her the date. It’s all about the good food with her so she immediately looked up all sorts of recipes. But, alas, the Internet was trumped by the good old-fashioned recipes on a box. Yep, our girl found delicious appetizer recipes on the back of a Ritz cracker box. We are so proud that she represents our Reading, Ohio and Marietta, Ohio roots as well as she does! 

She found two recipes that she thought would be best for the party. One was a little bit more “posh” for the adults at the party and the other one was more likely to suit the taste buds of the kids at the party. The “posh” one included guacamole, sour cream and black beans and the kid one included pasta sauce, pepperoni and cheese. Both on top of a delicious Ritz cracker!

We drove off to Kroger’s to gather the ingredients. 

The crackers were a hit. Ri taste-tested a few of them to make sure that they were edible. She was proud of herself as she chimed “now those are some good Ritz crackers!”

They were gobbled up in minutes by the guests. Hilarious. The kids needed fuel before spending the next three hours in the dunk tank, and leave it to Ri to deliver mighty fine fuel there way.

hubby hits a home run

How do you keep 25+ kids from trouncing all over your house? Two words. 

Dunk tank.

Jon agreed to grill steaks for Mario’s baseball team if one of the boys got a triple play. Leave it to Owen to do it. Since we were having Mario’s team over, we decided to have Maria’s team over, also, to celebrate the softball season. I was busy trying to gather basketballs, soccer balls and corn hole sets while Jon was being more strategic and more aware of what the kids would really want to do. He was calling Ohio Bounce and ordering a dunk tank. And why not a bounce house, too?!

God love him. He knows how to throw a party.  Patty had been with us all week watching the kids while our sitter was out of town. Not only did she take the kids all over and play with them non-stop, but she kept the house clean, too. I really can’t get over her energy – and this coming from me – the energizer bunny! She was our savior and allowed for me and Jon to do all the other necessities: get the yard looking decent, buy groceries, prepare food. The kids scored big and got to head one block up to a friend’s block party from noon to 3 as we ran around getting ready for the onslaught of people (65 of them!). In addition to savior Patty, we nabbed savior Patrick who prepared all the hamburger patties, prepped the beans and made everything tasty. 

The dunk tank arrived at 3 and Mario couldn’t wait to get in it. He stood in the tank while the hose slowly filled it. 500 gallons of water later, the kids tried it out before the guests arrived. I had not changed out of my workout clothes so I let M&M dunk me, which thoroughly thrilled them. It was actually quite exhilarating. A bit frightening with the first dunk but then hilarious. 

And I think the kids would agree; they dunked one another for close to five hours straight! They would wait in line for 20 minutes to get a chance to be dunked and they watched intensely as one of them got in the tank and one of them threw the ball attempting to hit the bullseye.


There came a point when the kids’ arms started to tire. At that point, they would throw a lame pitch and then run up to the bullseye and push it with their hands. Totally unfair but they cracked up over it.  Except Mario. He did not find that fair so he stood by it and stopped kids as they ran up to hit it. 

The younger kids loved the bounce house. After most folks left, M&M and a couple of their friends went between the dunk tank and the bounce house. They basically created a homemade slip-n-slide because they were soaked when they jumped in the bounce house. How no one left without a broken arm is beyond me.


So, lesson learned. Let the hubby take charge of kid parties from now on because he knows how to rock it. Lots of good memories from that evening to last us. Definitely same time next year.

New Year’s Eve 2014

Jon and I brought in the New Year together for the 16th year in a row. In our beginning years, we’d be at the bars whooping it up. In the mid-years, we were settling down to nights at home in bed watching the ball drop. After the kids were born, we’d be lucky to stay up until 10:30 pm. Then the kids got old enough to understand NYE and we’d make a night out of it by getting snacks and playing games and watching Dick Clark or Ryan Seacrest on tv. Jon and I were looking forward to another NYE together because the kids were away so much this Winter Break. We missed them.
Ri got home early Wednesday after watching Elena at the farm. She and Henley stayed out there for a few days. Each time she returns home from watching sweet Elena, she has two words: “I’m exhausted.” But she loves every minute of it.



Mario returned home after a few days with Grandma Ionno and his cousins. He went ice skating with them and loved it.

Ri and I went out and got some chips and dip and we all planted ourselves down for the evening. We forgot about dinner though so at 6:30 Jon went out for KFC – that’s right folks, we brought in the New Year with chicken legs and mashed potatoes (Mario begged for chicken legs, his new favorite). No high class Mitchell’s for us. Looking back, I think it set the tone for the night…. At one point, Mario was play fighting Jon and wouldn’t stop when Jon told him to so Jon put him in a headlock and pronounced “this is a hillbilly night in this household!” Indeed, between the KFC and wrestling, we were on our way there.
Mario was pissy about not being able to play Call of Duty, Ri was tired and mad that Mario was pissy. I was irritated because I wanted everyone in a good mood and Jon was laughing at all of us. We got out the game of Life and started to play. But this was the look on Ri’s face.

Mario’s wasn’t much better and he wouldn’t look at me.

Then we heard a knock on the door. Quinn asked if the kids wanted to go down to his house to eat NY cheesecake and dance to a few songs. They both agreed and headed down. I told Stephanie to send them back by ten. I thought maybe friends would liven them up.
They both came back a half hour later looking sullen.
“We just wanted to be with you guys tonight and now we ruined it by going to the Markle’s house.”
They are crazy kids. We resumed our Life game and tried to liven them up. But boy they were both exhausted to the extent that Life didn’t even liven them up. Ri laid on the chair and Mario, Jon and I sat on the couch. We watched a little news and some awful NYE coverage on NBC, and looked over to find Ri passed out. Jon prodded her but it was no use. She was out cold.

Meanwhile, Mario was trying with all his might to stay up in order to get the dollar Jon promised him. He had heard the story of Uncle Patrick slapping himself and going outside to stay awake on NYE and he was trying all the tricks. He looked pathetic.

He finally couldn’t hang on and fell asleep at 11:35.

Unlike Ri, he woke up with Jon’s nudging and watched the ball drop – and then promptly fell back to sleep. He was getting that dollar.
Jon and I gave our smooch and hug to one another. Then I carried the kids to their beds and he let Rocco outside. I was nearly asleep when he came up to bed.
And so this year was brought in on a tired note. I was a tad saddened by the lack of fanfare and frivolity as we had in years’ past but with many things in life, my perspective changed after having time to reflect on the evening.
And here’s what I believe about NYE 2014:
It was a night that happened to come after many nights playing with cousins and staying up late and hosting holiday parties. Of course we were tired and barely able to keep our eyes open. Of course we were emotional and susceptible to outbursts about not being able to buy a house in Life. But we were together and persevering through the night together despite our fatigue. We still hugged one another at night’s end, and still woke up to laughter in the morning. We don’t need the pomp and circumstance to bring in the New Year; we are good with board games and potato chips.
In retrospect, this past NYE couldn’t have been more telling about how 2015 will go. This family will continue to grow together; love one another in good times and bad; enjoy the simple moments together; treasure all the laughter; and forgive one another.

Although we have learned a lesson for next NYE, skip the KFC.

Party planner

Ri has a career in party planning…starting now. She is hilarious with the things she thinks of for the parties we host – she’s much more creative and daring then me.
I picked her up from her friend’s house at 11:30 am on Saturday and we worked until 4:30 getting the house together for Sarah’s Kickstarter fund-raising party. The night before, Ri and her friend created bookmarks to give away as gifts to the women that came to the party. They wrote Vela in all types of styles and designs and the words “thank you.” They also added peace signs or words (“Vela is awesome!”). We stuffed the bookmarks into little paper bags and wrote Vela on the front of the bag. Ri explained that we needed a different design on the bag than on the bookmark because that livened it up more. She also thought we should add chocolate to the bag so I dutifully bought some chocolate squares to throw in.

Ri moved on to arranging the chairs in the living room for optimal talking space. I told her we needed a sign for the table where guests would lay down their books for the book exchange. There was no where to tape it on the table or wall so she created a sign to tape onto a book and then stood the book up on the table. Simple but creative. I love her so much.
She couldn’t wait to babysit Elena and another little girl, Sophia, whose mom was coming to the party. She did a good job as always in that area.

Her girlfriend, Henley spent the night, and I learned she is just as crazy as Ri. I came home from a quick walk with Rocco and found her with dangling earrings hanging out of her braces. All I could think was her mom was going to kill me when I called her from the ER.>

Rocco turns one!

Maria has been dying to host a birthday party for Rocco who turned 1 on July 19. We sat at Stauf’s on Sunday and looked at dog party ideas on Pintrest. At one point she found a dog party company that “brings magic shows to dogs in your own home.” She was cracking up at the thought. I swear the girl could be my 40 year old girlfriend with the way she makes fun of these things with me. She’s a nut.

We ended up buying a ton of doggy bakery treats and tennis balls to stuff in doggy bags for Rocco’s guests.
Tuesday was an insane work day. The party was slotted for 7 pm. It ended up that only one other puppy friend could make the party. Poor Rocco had to feel deflated….
Maria and her friend Kathryn worked tirelessly after Girl Scout camp to put together decorations and create party games. I got home right at 7 pm to find a table decorated on the deck with dog treats and streamers. They had a pin the tail on the dog game set up. Precious. Kathryn’s mom arrived with Hannah, a golden doodle pup. Rocco was his clumsy, goofy self hopping on Hannah and sniffing all over her. But she sang happy birthday with us and she made Rocco happy.



After the pups went to town on dog treats and cupcakes, the humans got to play games and win prizes. Mario won pin the tail on the dog.


He graciously allowed Elizabeth and I to have the prizes – lotion and nail polish. We then played a guessing game and called it a night. It was 8 pm by that time and I was exhausted after a long work day. Besides, I believe Rocco had been fed a doggy cupcake, three large bones and at least ten other treats by 8 pm and he was starting to look bloated. I should have been prepared for a night up with the pup when I looked at him that moment, but I was too exhausted to notice. I got the kids in the shower and prepared camp lunches. We all hit the sack at 10 pm. At 1 am, I heard Rocco whining. And so it started. Just like when the kids were babies, I was up every hour letting him outside to expel all of the treats from his stomach. I was a zombie when the kids came into my room at 6:20 am, and drank two energy shots to try to look alive through the day. The kids, on the other hand, sprang down stairs and were ready to roll out another day of camp. Even Rocco was running around like a crazy pup by morning time. So, birthday number 1 was a success. Rocco gorged himself. Mario won the games. Maria was very proud. And mom, as tired as I was, loved seeing everyone happy.