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.




The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  I signed up to coach Ri’s softball team and had to participate in “the draft” and practices for the last two weeks.  The kids had their last week of school prior to the Memorial Day weekend (yes, they get out way too early), which consisted of school parties and fretting about presents for teachers.  Oh yea, and Jon was out of town all week.  But we persevered with just a few rough spots (really rough).  The kids biked (Mario) and scootered (Maria) to school every day during the last week of school, which was a god-send since it allowed me to start my day with some fresh air.
The last week of school was nuts.  Maria had an end-of-the-year party at McKinley Park all day on Thursday.  They wore bathing suits and took down tennis rackets and water guns.  Ri was not happy about the fact that they had to walk to the park from school – she begged to take her scooter.  By the time I made it down at noon, she was playing “family” with Riley and Anna and hanging close to Mrs. Pharion in the shade (she likes hanging with adults and listening to the conversation).


They all looked so tired – teachers and kids – and I knew softball practice would be dreadful that evening.
I got to Mario’s room at 1:45. The moms told me he had been looking for me the last ten minutes. He glanced over as they told me and ran over to give me a big hug. We worked on postcards and decorating frames. The boys ran around like nuts while the girls sat in place. Why is that?! Mrs. Page passed out “candy” awards to each kid. Mario got a peppermint patty award because “he is a burst of energy every day!” Who does that sound like?!


Friday was clearly going to be a free-for-all day for both teachers and students after Thursday’s insanity. Ri got to watch a movie and Mario got playground time most of the day. I picked them up with Patty at 2:50 and they were charged up. School was officially out! Grandma took them to get DQ and they played with Sophie and Quinn. Mario declared “It’s summer, we don’t have to do anything!” So he wishes….
Friday was a much better ride-to-school day than Thursday. The kids goofed around together and gave me a sweet picture to remember their last day of third grade and kindergarten.


Thursday was not quite as sweet. Mario woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was pissy the entire ride. I asked for a picture of him and Ri and he refused to look at me. After the third time asking, I said “fine, be that way, Mario.” The inflection in my voice told him I was disappointed. This creates quite a conflict in him. He wants to stay pissy but he doesn’t want to disappoint me. He stopped his bike and told me I could take a picture. When I went to take it though, he wouldn’t smile. So I said “forget it” and kept walking. He started crying and telling me he was just about to smile. He then flew past me on his bike mad as heck. We got to the school and he waited for me. I knew he wanted me to ask for another picture. He plays these games when he’s mad. Instead, we dropped Ri off at her classroom and went to his room. I said goodbye. He ran out as I left and said sorry and begged for a picture with Ri. This kid. Of course I did it (even though he still didn’t smile big) even though I probably should have told him too late to teach him a lesson that he couldn’t get his way all the time.

And just like that, no more bike rides to school for two and a half more months. Now the bike rides are to Stauf’s for Black Russian bagels – yum.

On Saturday, Ri and I walked in the Memorial Day parade for our Reds softball team. I love this parade in Grandview. It has such a small town feel with everyone lining the streets and waving at you. We bought bags and bags of candy for the girls to throw and we still managed to run out blocks before the end. The girls chanted “We are the Reds” throughout the parade. It was a blast.



Patty and Jon took Mario, Gio and Alana to watch the parade and scream for Ri. They got three full Kroger’s bags of candy. They were very happy campers. It was insanity when we got to the field. The kids were all hoarse from screaming the entire parade route. I was exhausted from working out at 7 am and then sheparding the girls for two hours. Parents were everywhere looking for their kids. Kids were begging for water. Craziness! But opening ceremony was awesome with the Star-Spangled Banner and old plane overhead and Ri by my side and all the kids ready to play ball. I’m a sucker for that stuff. We headed directly into our game at noon. There was confusion about who was home team so Jon jumped in to do the concession stand. Mario loved helping him. When the game ended, Jon pronounced he never wanted to see a hot dog again.
The girls were a little shell-shocked their first game. They didn’t look comfortable on the field and the pitchers were nervous. The girls didn’t bat as strong as I would have liked either. But I think it was first game nerves. The good news is that we came back from a 6-1 deficit to make it 6-5 in the end.
We were all popped afterwards. Jon’s feet hurt, my back ached, Ri was hot. So Jon and Patty and I sat on the deck and chilled (after I mowed the grass!). The kids played on the computer and ate parade candy.

On Sunday, we found out the pool was open so we flung on our suits and headed down.

And guess who jumped off the high dive without flinching?

Last year, he’d climb up a few steps and stand there terrified, and I would have to help him down. Amazing what a year will do. Ri continued her high dive jumps – this year doing mid-air splits. She was so proud of her little bro after he jumped off and told everyone we ran into afterwards.
On Monday, we traveled down to Cincinnati for the long-awaited pool party at Aunt Susie’s and Uncle Kenny’s house. Oh, how the kids were dying for this party. They love having a private pool to play around in with Jon and me and the cousins. We brought Rocco down with us after Susie invited him (she is the consummate dog lover). The kids and I threw on our suits and jumped in without five minutes passing from stepping into the yard. Guess who joined us? Yep, Mr. Rocco. He loved the pool, and refused to get out. I tried to pull him out to take a breather after 20 minutes and he hopped right back in when I turned my back.

Mario and I suffered serious cuts from Rocco’s nails as he swam by us but it was a joy to see him in his element. We had to pull him out for the spectacular pool volleyball game. The Heiles against the Non-Heiles! The Heiles dominated, and Jon joined me for some post-game fun.
And it remained all fun-n-games until one of the many dogs playing at Susie’s house decided to let loose on Rocco. Rocco was engaging in his friendly antics, sniffing butts, when one of the dogs attacked him. His ear was sliced and face gashed and blood was everywhere. It seriously was like a murder scene. Jon and I had specks everywhere on us. Mario was mesmerized with all the blood and Ri was scared too death about Rocco. My mom and Rod and Mario and I jumped in the car and headed to the emergency vet at 5 pm. We ended up there until 9 (par for the course on a Memorial Day). Luckily, they were able to glue Rocco’s ear. He also got to leave with a cone.

Yep, it’s not a party until someone leaves in a cone. At least mom and I got some quality time together. And Mario learned how to make some killer Keurig coffee and tea.
Rocco keeps us laughing with his inability to maneuver around objects with his cone head. Ya gotta laugh at this crazy life or else you’re screw–, no I mean, you’re coned.

Girls lunch out

Ri wanted to take some girls out to lunch for her birthday this week and the only day we could do it was today. I thought rather than spending $100 on Panera (which is seriously what it would have cost between smoothies and meals and desserts), I’d buy a pizza and take them back to the house.
What a hoot it was to watch them. They are a more calm goofy than Mario and his buddies. One thing that both cracked me up and scared me too death was this scene:

These are Jon’s old beer cans he has collected since he was in his 20’s, and they found it hilarious to act like they were drinking out of them. I have a feeling I may get a photo just like this one when they are home from college and having a summer reunion.
I loved that they devoured the entire large pizza and them devoured the candy and cookie jars while we sang happy birthday to Ri. They have no issues with taking down some grub and I hope it stays that way.


They still enjoy playing with barbies, and we’re laughing about how messy Ri’s room was – I told Ri it’s pretty telling when her friends say her room is messy! Still didn’t faze her a bit though. We topped off the lunch with candy and leis, modeling, and lots of laughter and singing in the car on the way back to school.

Got ’em back to school a few minutes late but I have a feeling that they will be able to schmooze their teacher and avoid trouble….>