Maria nailed Tinkerbell. It was as if Tink swept into Maria’s body one evening as Maria slept. Maria fully brought out Tink’s feistiness and orneriness. She was magnificent.

When she learned of the play in December of last year, she wanted to be Peter Pan or Wendy so badly. Those were the two roles that she knew would be able to fly during production. She asked me to call one of the directors from the December play and see if she would coach her. She agreed to meet with her on two different occasions before auditions at the end of January. She prepared Ri on how to present herself at the audition, how to memorize her lines, and how to give life to them. Thank god she did because it gave Ri the confidence needed to rock her audition. She auditioned knowing that she would not get the roles of Peter Pan or Wendy. They had announced that you had to be under 100 pounds for those roles. My muscular girl would not make the cut.

We got a call back the night she had a sleepover with a few friends. I was going to wait to tell her about getting the Tinkerbell role until after her friends left the next morning. At about midnight, she came running into our bedroom asking if I had heard what role she had gotten. Two of her girlfriends spending the night had received calls from their parents telling them what roles they had gotten. So, I was forced to tell her. She was so psyched.

I did not go to any of her rehearsals. She did not want me at any of them. This, from the girl who was too nervous to audition two years ago and stood by my side until her brother auditioned and brought up the nerve in her to go for it (at that time, they simply had to sing “Row Row Row Your Boat). She likes that the rehearsals and shows are her time to shine. She does not want to be overshadowed or have the disruption of chatty parents (me) or little brothers. She definitely held her own with all of those actors and actresses. The few times I did go backstage to pick her up, she was jabbering away with her fellow cast members who I had never met. She loves that. She is completely comfortable making new friends. And they all love her. Who doesn’t though? Everyone Jon and I meet talk about how down-to-earth and kind Maria is to everyone she meets.

She worked her butt off the week of the play going downtown at 5 PM every night and not returning home until 10:30 or later. She was excited on opening night. Patty, Meg, I and Alana came to watch her. Her voice was a little raspy but she hung in there. She got home that evening and her ankle was bruised and swollen from jumping off the bed in these little flat shoes she had to wear. She drank 3 cups of hot tea to help soothe her throat.

She had her last soccer game on Saturday afternoon. I thought she may want to skip it, which I was against, but instead, she was all in. She is dedicated to her team. We all went to Easton to watch her and when we got home, Sarah and Elena arrived. She played with Elena until her ride picked her up to go to the show. Sarah, Elena, Jon, and my dad went to see her Saturday show. I stayed behind, much to my dislike, with Mario, who felt sick. He had a fever and we figured it was strep throat due to a couple of his buddies who had it the week before. He was bummed out, too, because he had wanted to see Maria in the play. Jon reported that she did fabulous. She spent the night with her three girlfriends who were in the show with her. I went over to the girlfriend’s house to hang out with some moms until midnight. The girls were still up when I left. I was a little worried about how she would feel for Sunday show but she deserved to have a little fun after a week of craziness.

She arrived home on Sunday morning at 8 AM. She had gotten up at her friend’s house and asked the dad to drive her back home so she could be with Elena. Ri roller skated and Elena biked up to Stauf’s for breakfast. Then we hit the park. We did not arrive home until 11 AM. My mom had arrived at that time. We went to the basement for a dance party while my mom gave Sarah a massage. An hour later, Maria had to leave us again to head to her last show. My mom and I arrived 30 minutes early and the line was already out the door. They had sold out of tickets. Luckily, I was able to get my mom a seat. Elena and I played at the park across the street. We met up with my mom at intermission and we were lucky to have somebody leave and give us their seat. I was so happy to see the second half of the play. Maria got a rousing round of applause at the end of the show with some people even standing up. The cutest thing was when we were getting pictures with my mom and a little girl came up to her to ask if she could get her picture with Tinkerbell.

Absolutely adorable.

And Maria was as sweet as sugar giving her a hug and turning around for the camera to pose for a picture. She’s a natural.


Sledding promotes good health. You get it all – you work out your heart by climbing up the hill, you work out your mind by trying to figure out where best to place your sled, and you work out your abs by laughing your butt off as you fly down the hill on your sled.

However, as much fun as it ends up being, it is a pain in the butt to get ready to sled. You have to throw on three layers of clothes (when it’s 5 degrees like it was for us), you can barely move around, and it’s impossible to pull on your boots without being able to bend at your waist. Then, there is pulling the sled out of the garage and hauling it to the car in the freezing cold. But the pay-off is huge.

Look at the smiles.

We haven’t gotten good sled riding in for a few years. We hardly got any snow last year, and the year before that the little bit of snow that we got came when both kids were out of town. I was scared half to death the first time we went down. I sat on a tiny circular plastic sled with Maria who is not shy about taking up almost all the space on it. My butt was barely in it when we took off. I just kept praying that we would not hit any rocks or ramps because I knew that my tailbone would hurt for days. The things you think about when you’re an adult. I would’ve been looking for that ramp when I was 10 years old.

We laughed so hard together as each one of us took some crazy fall or turn on the hill. I love all of us being together like that – being outdoors, being active, it’s my ideal day. And the one good thing about it being freezing cold all weekend was that the snow did not melt from the hill. Therefore, we were able to go sledding with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack through the weekend.

Elena had no fear going down the hill as long as somebody went with her. Sarah went on a little sled with Maria. She screamed as loud as I did when I went down with her.

Sarah and I even took a sledding trip together – both on a tiny little plastic sled. Thank God Sarah has no booty. Jack was a good sport as well. He went down with Maria a couple of times and watched each time the kids yelled “Uncle Jack, watch me!” They also had to impress their Uncle Jack by going down the abandoned hill that has all of the trees interspersed on either side. It scared me half to death but, live and learn, right!?

After sledding, I got cocky that we could build a snowman as well. The snow did not pack well at all for such a task but the kids still humored me and came outside. They shook their heads as I tried to pack down the airy snow. But they saw my strong desire, and decided they would help as much as they could. In the end it looked more like a snowman jabba the hut but it was something. How boring is a normal snowman anyway?

Ping pong 

Seriously? I have been running around all evening buying last-minute gifts, stocking up on cinnamon rolls and bacon for Christmas breakfast, returning clothes that didn’t fit and buying ones that hopefully will…. After two trips from the car to the house with arms-full of groceries, Mario comes from around the corner to beg me to sword fight with him using card board tubes from the wrapping paper. 

“Dude, you have to give me a second. I just brought all these groceries in and have to put them away and I still have to wrap things.”

“Just a minute, mom. Come on.”

I put down the pie crust and go in the family room to fight. We dance around the room until he jabs me in the chest. My tube breaks in half.

“It’s ok, mom. You can use two halves and I will just cut mine and use one.”

We play again and then I tell him I have to put groceries away. He asks if we can play again after I put them away.  I keep reiterating the mantra “he will not want to play like this one day, take it in…” but the competing mantra is yelling “you have 7 presents to wrap and cookies to make – get on it!”

We play again, several times. It’s 11:30 pm and I can’t function any longer. I decide to wrap in the morning. I turn off the lights in the other rooms and hear Mario ask “where’s my Mountain Dew?” I answer that it fell over in the fridge and so I tossed it. Mario proceeds to throw his arms up and dart back and forth in anger. “Seriously, mom, that was from St. Nick. I had been waiting to drink it!” (And yes, sadly, St. Nick brings out family soda). 

I tell him he doesn’t need Mountain Dew at 11:30 anyway. He stomps past me and upstairs. I stand there looking down the hall where he had just been begging me to play with him. How does that work? How can I put aside everything to be with him and then he is able to get so angry at me to just end the night by brushing by me? Ugh, so irritating. 

And then I have to be the bigger person and forgive him when he says sorry while laying with Jon (who undoubtedly told him to say it). I just want to say “whatever” like a sullen teenager. But I acknowledge him and jump in bed beside him tickling his sides. When I stop, he begs for more. All is good again. It’s like a ping-pong game when they are at this age. Here’s to more pings than pongs. 

The Last Unicorn

I can’t believe I bore two thespians. I couldn’t even fake spit for one scene in a 6th grade Nativity scene. Jon and I have played on many a sports field but never on a stage. I was in awe when they auditioned for small roles in Scrooge last November. They each got a role with a few lines throughout the play. I could manage that commitment. Then they auditioned for a kids-only play in March called The Last Unicorn. I had never heard of it although it was a tv show in the hey days of my youth – the 80’s. Ri and Mario had never heard of it either. 

They were like pros at the audition having just auditioned several months earlier. They felt even more emboldened because there were a lot of kids auditioning who had never acted in a play before.  We got a call later in the week from the director informing us of the kids’ roles. Maria got a lead as Molly Grue, the scurrilous maid. Mario got three roles as farmer, Culley and the Skull. I hung up with the director and informed the kids of the roles. Mario was excited because he got three different parts. He didn’t care how many lines were in each part; he was just excited that he got three different characters. Maria was upset because she didn’t get the role of unicorn and she only got one role. I told her it was a lead but she remained skeptical. 

She wasn’t skeptical after the first practice when they got their scripts. She was in most of the play and had paragraphs upon paragraphs of lines to memorize. What had we agreed to?! Both of them had substantially more lines than they had in the Christmas play.  I was both excited and extremely nervous for them. It can be hard as a mom to strike the right balance of wanting to instill responsibility and autonomy in your kids but also wanting to ensure that they are doing what is expected of them. There were many a night when they chose to watch a TV show rather than work on their lines. When I called them out on it, they would typically look at me and say “mom, it’s fine, we are good.” I gave them a night or two to respond with that answer, but then I would crack the whip and require some rehearsing. I felt for the other kids who were relying on M and M to know their lines, and I wanted them to do well in their first major play. They would rehearse once with me and then complain that they were tired and wanted to rest.

And sure enough, on the Monday before the weekend of the show, they went to their first dress rehearsal and had trouble remembering quite a few lines. I worried about how they were going to memorize the rest of their lines by Friday’s performance. That was it – no more balance! We came home and I forced them to rehearse their lines with me every chance they got. And sure enough, by Wednesday night’s dress rehearsal, they had pretty much memorized them all. Mario was still having trouble with his Skull lines, however, and was called out by the director for not knowing them. He made it very clear that he expected Mario to know them for the dry run on Thursday. Mario jumped in the car sulking and anxious the entire way home. I stayed up with him until 11 PM that night working on his lines. We got up the next morning and worked some more. I then came home early from work on Thursday and we rehearsed one more time before heading to the theatre.

It paid off. Mario nailed his Skull scene, and was so pumped. Thank goodness. I knew that he would be ok for the actual shows because he proved to himself that he could memorize and execute on his lines. Maria on the other hand, cranked out all of her lines by Thursday night and did not seem to have much of a problem at all. When she did forget a line or two, she improvised. 

We arrived home on Thursday evening at 10:30 PM. We had gotten home after 10 PM every night that week and were all exhausted. The kids were at once extremely charged to perform, and also extremely fatigued from nonstop practices as well as end of school activities. 

They had a full house on Friday night. A few of their friends came to watch them, which made their night. They both nailed all of their lines and were so impressive. One little girl approached Maria after the show and asked to get her picture with her. How precious. I worked backstage on Friday night, and was as nervous as can be. For two reasons, I’ve have never worked a show before and I wanted to see Maria and Mario do well. I had some good stagehands  who had gone through the process in the past so they barked out orders to me and I followed. The kids did not need me at all but every once in a while Mario would walk up to me and put his arms around me to watch the play for a few minutes from behind the curtain. 

Meg and dad came on Saturday night. They had another full house to watch them. Saturday nights are always the best night because you tend to get the rowdy crew who likes to clap and laugh hard. The kids got more into their characters on Saturday night, too. Maria was more animated in her speech, and Mario tried to make people laugh with all his gestures. I stayed behind stage again on Saturday night and was a little bit more comfortable with my tasks. Maria was starving that night; luckily I had brought peanut butter pretzels and a few other snacks. She gulped down a handful of pretzels and looked at me in distress. 

“i’m still so hungry, mom. I can’t think about my lines because I’m so hungry.”

I froze. Oh my gosh, What if she worked this hard and now gets out there and forgets for lines because she’s starving to death? I gave her two more handfuls of pretzels and told her that she could get through it and we would have a huge Dairy Queen blizzard afterwards. She walked away to get to her place for the next scene. About 10 minutes later, I walked over to her to see how she was holding up. She turned around and gave me a big hug and told me she was fine. As I walked away, she added “I love you, mom.” Melt. 

A few minutes later I was behind the stage trying to find a sword for one of the actors. Mario was nervous about going out as Skull. I told him he was going to do great. He wrapped his arms around me and held onto me for a minute while staring at the wall. I didn’t make a move but rather breathed in the moment. Here were both of my kids conquering their fears and going out on stage to entertain people. I was so incredibly proud – and in awe – of the both of them.

They rocked out Saturday night. They had an even better time performing due to the involvement of the audience. 

We hit the DQ afterwards, and Maria and her friend spent the night at our house while Mario and his friend spent the night at his friend’s house. It was probably not the best idea in hindsight since we had one last performance on Sunday afternoon but after all the practicing, the parents felt like it was well-deserved and well, why not?

Sunday’s performance came way too quick; the kids looked exhausted. My mom and Patty came up for this performance, which had a pretty packed house as well. The kids recited all their lines perfectly and added even more spunk to their performances for the final show. Mario had everyone laughing with his gestures and with his animated movements. Maria had everybody feeling for her character with the intensity of her acting. She also had Jon and I cracking up with her fairly routine yawning while standing on stage. There were quite a few scenes where she just had to stand and listen to other actors. We would catch her sporting a huge yawn followed by a tiny one. At one point, she had to say a line and she was in the middle of a yawn. She was somehow able to make it look natural. A true actor, she is!

We stuck around after the show to clean up for a couple of hours, and then ended the night with some Greater’s ice cream along with others in the cast. I am thankful that the experience allowed them to meet other kids outside of Grandview. They also got to act again with a few of the 20-something actors that were in the Christmas show. They look up to them, and Mario is fascinated with one of the male actors who is just as silly and physical as he is. 

I received quite a few compliments on how well the kids acted. One of Mario’s friends told his mom that Mario made him want to try out acting because Mario looked like he was having so much fun. At the last show, one of the actors who had a daughter in the play approached me about Maria. She told me how much she appreciated Maria taking her daughter under her wing during the show. Her daughter tends to be very shy and a little backwards around people, but Maria continued to engage with her through each play and she eventually opened up with Maria. She just could not say enough about what a huge heart Maria had and how impressed she was with her.

Recently, my colleague and I were talking about all things motherhood. At the end of the conversation, she said “you have two great kids.” It’s a remark I take for granted like hearing “your hair looks good today.”  I worry myself sick some days about whether I’m doing enough with these kids, teaching them enough, exposing them to enough. I’ve got to get better at giving myself some praise as well; patting myself on the back and confirming that I’m doing an alright job. The kids are happy; they are active and healthy; they open up their minds to different activities; they love with all their selves. Heck, they just finished a fricken play where they had to act on stage in front of strangers. I would have never done that at their ages. 

Now, if I could just get them to routinely clean their rooms….

Lattes and swings

Sundays can be rough for me. I know I have to get up early the next morning, start a new work week, make sure the kids get homework done, take them to practices, make lunches … but they become much more tolerable when I can start them with a Stauf’s coffee and scone with my babies. 

Of course, we all enjoy different modes of transportation to Staufs: Maria roller skates, I walk, and Mario bikes. Ri talked about a trip to California and how excited she’d be to visit the Kardashidans’ house. Mario wants to hit Hollywood with the hopes of being spotted as the next heartthrob movie star. Always interesting conversations heading to Staufs. 

At Stauf’s, Mario decided that he wanted to try a latte. The boy wants to be 25 years old so badly. I decided to allow him to try it with the thought that he would inevitably hate it and then I could drink it. It was a piece of art when it was delivered to us. Maria had to Instagram it.

Maria got her everything bagel and onion cream cheese, Mario got his black Russian bagel with cream cheese, and I got my yummy chocolate chip scone. We decided to play the political question game that Stauf’s houses in a game cabinet. The first question was “what foods best embody America?” Without hesitation, Maria shouted “hamburgers and fries!” Mario went with hot dogs and apple pie. The next question was “describe a holiday you’d create.” Maria said that she’d create a “giving” holiday in June that would be exactly six months after Christmas. It would be a holiday where everybody would give to the poor and the needy and not take any gifts themselves. Sweet. Mario pondered the question for a bit and then decided that he would go with the “after Super Bowl holiday.” He was looking out for his immediate interest.

After Stauf’s, we hit the old church park we used to go to all the time. We even managed to still be able to all go down the enclosed slide together.

But the most fun was the swings. Mario started a jumping contest. He had me give him an underdog push and when he got as high as he could, he’d jump off – sometimes on his feet and sometimes on his side and sometimes in a roll. Ri was nervous but then did her typical Ri move – she swung her arms and stood tall and pronounced “if Mario can do it then I can do it!” And she did (although she did land on her side the first time but quickly shook off the pain).

We spent nearly an hour trying to choreograph a simultaneous jump. This is as good as we got.

Not bad, heh?!

The sun was shining as we walked home, and I couldn’t have been happier. Now, to just keep this feeling later in the evening when Sunday evening blues creep in….

A Steampunk Christmas Carol 

I am still flabbergasted that the kids both performed in a play last week. How did these kids that came from two raging athletes ever acquire acting skills?! 

I still remember the first night we went to audition. Maria had called it quits as soon as she saw an eight-year-old boy bellow out five different tunes perfectly. Mario was right behind her. But then Mario’s friend showed up and sang a quaint little tune – happy birthday – and Mario felt like he could at least crank that song out. He followed his friend and sang “jingle bells”; his bravery allowed for Maria to feel comfortable enough to  stand up and sing “row row row your boat.” 

And with that, we were thrown into the world of acting. A completely foreign world to Jon and me. But the kids looked as if they had performed in plays 10 times over. They went to practice and picked up their lines. They made friends with the other actors. They ingratiated themselves with the director.  
I was surprised that they got roles with speaking parts since this was their first play. They only had about three speaking parts each but hey, that’s something for their first gig. And they were in a good deal of scenes. I loved watching them perform at the community center; I never felt comfortable performing in front of people so it amazed me to watch them perform so effortlessly. 

The last week of practice was intense. They had practice Monday through Thursday from 5:30-9:30, but they didn’t complain a bit. Ri especially enjoyed it. She loved the entire process involved in putting on a show – from setting the stage to putting on make-up to ensuring props were situated correctly, to performing. Mario, on the other hand, seemed to love only one piece – being on stage and getting the crowd to laugh. He hammed it up as much as he could enjoying the smiles and laughter from the crowd. 

I went to the final practice before the dress rehearsal on Thursday night and remember sitting with another parent and thinking “how will this play come together?” The parent next to me had done theatre in her past and reassured me it would come together just fine. And so it did. It came together wonderfully. 

Meg and dad and Patty and Patrick’s family came on opening night. We bought roses for both kids.  They performed like pros and were so excited after it ended. They couldn’t come down off their acting high!

Saturday night’s performance was the best because the audience was so into it. They laughed and clapped and made it lively. I heard there were former actors with the Theatre Company who were in attendance and got the audience going. Whoever they were, I thank them because it really did liven up the entire show. Mario loved the attention…

My mom and Sarah came to the Sunday matinee. Ri was excited to see Elena but she was also so tired. Both of the kids were exhausted from 6 long nights working on the play. The feel of the last show was one of gratitude and relief that they had made it through to the end. It was much more low-key than Saturday. But they both again did a marvelous job reciting their lines with more power and conviction each day. However, Ri tripped on her costume during the matinee and ended up with a black eye because the ghost mask rammed into her. Poor thing. Nevertheless, in true Maria fashion, she just kept on going despite the obvious pain. 

After the play, we got the pleasure of cleaning up for 3 hours. Ri and Mario pitched in with the other kids and the adults tore down the set and picked up all the props and trash. We were all spent by 7 pm. But the kids had been promised Greater’s so off we went for ice cream. We talked at Greater’s (over brownie sundaes) until close to 9 pm before calling it a night. The kids hugged their fellow actors goodbye. I think they really enjoyed the experience and both want to audition for the next show in Spring. I am just pleased that their eyes got opened to another activity and that they were so capable of embracing it. 

Proud parents.



I listened to a podcast yesterday morning and the speaker was talking about pulling up in his driveway and seeing his three kids playing in the yard with a big beachball. He described how he watched them giggle and toss the ball, and how joyful it made him feel. He further described it as a happiness that was so magnificent it seemed undeserved, or as he saw it, grace.

I have been blessed with those moments  on quite a few occasions; mostly when I’m surrounded by family. And it is just as he describes: a happiness that is so full and rich and grounding that it feels it should not be deserved.

It happened last week when I took the kids to an audition for a local play, A Christmas Carole. Neither kid has ever wanted to act before but in the last month or so, Mario became interested, and then Maria followed him. I had no idea what to expect since I’ve never been in theater. I got some tips from my colleague who acted in community theater when she was younger, and I asked a mom in town what she experienced when her daughter tried out a year ago (I have a sneaking suspicion that Mario decided to take up acting because of her daughter…). She told me that the kids would just get up and sing a little bit of a song and recite a few lines. So that is what I told Maria and Mario to expect. 

The kids were so excited when I got home from work. Maria was decked out in a black dress with pearls and Mario was dressed in a button-down shirt and khakis.

We walked into the community center and they had already started auditions. As soon as we walked in a boy stood in the front of the room with a tweed jacket on and asked if he should sing the song in the soprano or the tenor voice. Maria’s and Mario’s jaws dropped to the ground, as did mine. Then a woman followed up after the boy singing a beautiful tune. Maria looked petrified and shook her head sideways.

“I am not doing this, mom. No way.”

Mario just stood in awe.

There were quite a few folks waiting to be called so I hoped that some of them were winging auditions like us and were amateurs. I got my wish a few kids later. One sang “happy birthday” and another sang “jingle bells.” The kids felt somewhat relieved. Mario’s friend Addy showed up with her mom soon thereafter and went before Maria and Mario so they could continue to get comfortable in the surroundings. She sang “happy birthday to you” and Mario felt much better. He walked up next and sang his jingle bells song. He kept his chin up and sang at a respectable decibel level. I know he was a bit nervous compared to when he was practicing with Maria and me. After he was finished, Maria decided that she would go ahead and do it, too. She sang “row row row your boat” and even used voice inflexion. She has a really pretty voice. After she finished, Mario walked up to her and gave her a hug.  I wanted to weep at his warmth towards his sis. I was just so relieved and glad the both of them at least gave it a try and did not let fear hold them back.

After singing in front of the theater director, they had no problems reciting lines with other actors. Maria was incredible with her word tone and her movements. I was very surprised at how well she did. Mario did well, also, but I think he was assuming there would be movie lights and Hollywood actors at the audition. I think his big goal is simply to be on a movie screen as a cinema hunk.

​As I stood in the back of the room, my heart swelled over the bravery these two kids exhibited by showing up at a blind audition where they knew nothing about what would happen. They overcame their fear and anxiety and performed. I couldn’t have been prouder.