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. 
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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.

 

Grace 

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.

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​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. 

First day back to school

I woke Ri up from her slumber at 6:45 am this morning. She had wanted to wake up at 6:30 am but I struggled to get out of bed for 15 minutes. Jon and I were rather liberal with our wake up times this Summer – getting up at 7 or 7:30 to get ready for work. We knew that would end today since the kids would be wanting to head out early for the first day of school. 

I got Rocco out of his kennel and took him for a quick walk in the woods. When I returned, Ri and Mario were dressed and preparing their lunches. Ri was packing salad and ranch dressing in her new containers. Mario was watching her. She walked over to the counter after placing her containers in her lunch box and began dispensing mini M&Ms into Mario’s yogurt. I had complained the night before that Mario needs to eat Greek yogurt to get more protein. But he refuses to eat yogurt unless he can dump the crushed Oreos or M&Ms in it. So Ri went to the store with me last night and bought a large container of Greek yogurt and a bag of mini M&Ms. 

“This will save you money, mom, because you can just pour the yogurt in a container and sprinkle a few M&Ms on for Mario instead of buying a bunch of separate yogurts that don’t have as much good stuff in them.” 

The girl is a born mother. Mario began pouring more M&Ms in his yogurt and Maria stopped him. 

“Whoa there buddy, that’s enough chocolate for you.”

Seriously.

They put their water bottles and lunch boxes in their book bags and slung the bags over their backs. They knew I’d need to take my pictures of them so they scurried outside to get them over with as quickly as possible.

   
   

They look a bit gawky for their first day, in a sweet way. Ri’s got the fifth grade “I’m growing into my body and it’s strange” look and Mario has the second grade “I’m way too cool for pictures look.”

But they broke loose once they hit their respective schools. Ri ran around with all her girlfriends laughing and playing. The pictures say it all.

   
   

I met up with Mario after some other moms got the crazy photos for me.

  
By the time I arrived, he looked like a little angel carrying a backpack and ready to conquer school.  

He had no desire for Jon or me to head into school with him. When the bell rang, he and a throng of kids rushed inside the doors anxious to see their rooms. Now, to keep that excitement all year…!

zoom zoom

Go, go, go, go. 

This is my default mantra. I have invested in many a self-help book to help me stay, stay, stay, stay but they have not worked. I’m hoping this year may at least bring one “stay”. Plantar fasciitis and a hamstring sprain will likely assist with this goal. 

And I wonder why Ri can’t sit still for too long … except to play barbies. She fidgets when she reads a book, which she really despises doing at this age. She chows down her food and is ready to move away from the table within ten minutes of the start of dinner. And Mario is even worse. He can’t wait until the commercials so he can wrestle with me until the show resumes.  And if we can get three bites of food in him before he pops up out of his chair to run around, it’s a miracle. 

“You did too much with them when they were little. It’s no wonder they always want to move.” I hear this from numerous friends and family. And I ponder “hmmm, should I have stayed home and read more to them on the weekends? Should I have not trekked over to Pittsburgh with them and showed them all over the city in a 48 hour period? Should I have made them have an obligatory hour rest period in their rooms? Should I have not walked down to the river with them every Sunday and trucked rocks home for us to paint all day? Should I have made them sit in the grocery store cart rather than let them roam the aisles and explore?

Ri and Mario headed to Boy Scout camp last weekend. My neighbor graciously took them on Friday night and I met up with them on Saturday. When I arrived in the morning, Ri was playing with two other girls and Mario was playing ping pong with a gang of boys. My friend approached me as I trekked through the door; she couldn’t stop raving about M&M. 

“They are so polite and listen to me more than my own kids! And they had a blast with all the other kids – they didn’t cry or get sad about you not being here at all!” 

She proceeded to tell me how they had no fear; they both hopped on their sleds and zoomed down the hills; helped prep for dinner; took on challenges in ping pong; and engaged with everyone. As we were talking, Mario jumped in front of me and gave me a hug. Then he was off for more ping pong. I didn’t see Ri until I took my bags into the girls dorm room. She was jumping back and forth on the bunk beds giggling with her friends. She was the ring leader. 

After a few rounds of s’mores late into the evening, I laid myself down in my bottom bunk bed. I stared up at Ri sleeping caddy corner from me. Her head was inches from the edge of the bed and there were no guard rails. I leapt out of bed and scooched her body all the way over to the wall. I laid back down and chuckled. Here I am worried half to death about her falling from the top bunk yet I allow her to run free at the grocery store and barrel down the steep neighborhood hill on her scooter. 

The next morning, the kids continued their sledding fun. As we ate breakfast, they asked what’s on the agenda for the rest of the day. “Nothing at all,” I report to them. I see their pupils float up towards their eyelids, deep in thought. 





I

 

Old Man Winter

These days grow longer and longer. It is flippin’ freezing outside; you know it’s been a rough ride when you see the temperature will be 16 degrees and you are excited.  I can’t drag the kids outside with me in the evening to walk Rocco because I would be accused of child endangerment.  I can barely head out there with Rocco for more than fifteen minutes.  My poor toes have steadily remained purple through the days.  All I can say is that sweet Spring cannot get here soon enough.  I will embrace it and not let go.  I will not complain when we have 90 degree, humid weather this Summer.  Just get me out of this frozen tundra.

There have been some highlights to the last few weeks – thank goodness for these kids and their activities; they force us to get out when we would be hibernating.

On February 11, Maria had her first play.  She played Susan B. Anthony and had IMG_0601a whoppin’ three lines.  But she rocked it – she was one of the few kids who you could hear (thanks, Heile family).  She got on line and found a colonial costume to wear for the show and a hilarious white wig.  Grandma Ionno, Grandma Lolo and Aunt Sarah, Jorge and Elena showed up to see her in action.  She did not seem nervous as she waited for the IMG_0606play to begin; rather, she ran around with her friends and laughed.  She was annoyed with me and Grandma trying to get pictures of her.  She was nervous about one thing – that Elena would start wailing during the performance.  Elena tried to do that but Sarah swopped her out the back doors before she could get a good one out.  We cheered hard IMG_0617 IMG_0615 IMG_0623for her after the performance; she shot us a quick glance but focused all her energy on Luka (Bethany brought him to see the show).  Afterwards, we took the actress to Barley’s for her much loved ribs and beans.

On February 13, the kids celebrated Valentine’s Day at their schools.  Ri took in tattoos and Mario took in Sponge Bob.  I had bought them mustaches on a stick that said “I mustahce you as a Valentine.”  They were adorable.  Both Maria and Mario were appalled at the the thought of giving IMG_0647 IMG_0651them to the respective opposite sex.  “That would be so embarrassing mom!”  So back to Target we went for the tattoos and SpongeBob cards.  Boring.  Ri got ice cream sundaes at her party; she did not care that I did not come.  On the other hand, Mario begged me to attend his, which I happily did.  You can’t walk away from those parties with a sour attitude.  The kids are too dang cute and so excited about making heart-shaped towers and paper flowers.

On February 14, Ri had a pool party for her friend Janira at Westerville pool.  IMG_0669 IMG_0677 IMG_0683They stayed there from 12:30 until 5.  She got pizza and ice cream and cake and non-stop pool action.  When I came to get them at 4 pm, they begged to stay for another hour.  They all tried to jump in an inner tube together without tipping over, which failed every time.  But they had a blast and it was great to be in a heated pool area and see bathing suits!

On February 17, Ri had her skate party with 10 friends.  Mario got to attend, also IMG_0713 IMG_0716 IMG_0719 IMG_0730 IMG_0732(Ri let him use one of her friend passes for one of his friends).  The moms may have had more fun than the kids….  I was happy to see many of the moms head out on the rink with me.  The girls all did a great job skating and falling.  No broken bones.  Ri greeted all of the girls as they trickled in at different times – she is a good host.  Mario tried to help Rohan skate but it was not easy.  So the two of them ended up playing games the entire time.  Mario was not disappointed about that.

On February 19 and 20, the kids got off school due to the extremely cold temperatures.  Bums.  They were so psyched up.  On Thursday, Bethany took them to Galaxy Games and Golf from 3 pm until 9 pm.  They played tag and hide-n-seek and Mario won 1000 tickets.  He was so pumped up.  On Friday, Mario feigned illness to stay home with Jon and Bethany and Ri went to COSI.  Not bad for two days off of school.

On February 21, we got seven inches of snow!  The world turned white and Rocco couldn’t get enough of it.  I am surprised his nose did not freeze off as much as he dug into the snow with it.  Ri and I took him on a walk up to IMG_0747Grandview Grind and he leapt with joy, literally, throughout the entire walk. We visited Ri’s friend and their new pup and Rocco found a playmate.  They played great together.  Ri ended up staying at Anna’s house while I walked Rocco home.  The neighbors were making a giant snowman in the front yard.  I walked in the door and told Mario we had to go sledding.  There is a small hill by his school that I knew was open.  He shook his head no and told me he didn’t feel like it.  I kept prodding him until he finally got on his jeans and sweatshirt.  He had to wear his Cabella’s overalls and coat since we don’t have any snow pants that fit him.  He was all stressed out about how he would look.

“No one else will be wearing this, mom.  I will look stupid!”

IMG_0774This boy is more concerned about his looks than I ever have been.  Jon and I reassured him that he would be fine.  If someone laughed, he should ignore them.  Each person is unique.  I don’t think he so much agreed with us than he just wanted to shut us up so he threw on his boots and headed to the car.  It was IMG_0779 IMG_0775 IMG_0767funny because Ri showed up with her friend, Anna to sled an hour after we arrived and she had on a huge pair of brown bib overalls that did not fit her at all but she could have cared less. They all had a blast going down the hill, engaging in a massive snow ball fight, and making a ramp to jump over.

It was so beautiful today because although we had seven inches of snow it was 33 degrees so you could go outside without your face freezing off.  Tomorrow the high is 23 degrees and I think it starts to plummet even worse Monday on.  I keep telling the kiddos to have dreams about Spring flowers and birds chirping and open windows with a warm breeze wafting in, and maybe that will help move old Man Winter along.

But we’d be amiss if we did not thank Old Man Winter for giving us the snow to play in today.

 

 

 

 

 

Roller skating

I vaguely remember roller skating as a young girl. I don’t think there was a rink near my house so if it wasn’t within walking distance, I was typically out of luck. I don’t remember particularly hating or loving skating. What I remember is the strobing lights and the music. The sweet top-40 tunes streaming from the speakers and the blue and white and and red and green lights circling around the rink. I remember feeling happy and I remember feeling giddy when love songs would come on and all of us girls would stand around giggling while sneaking peeks at the boys. It was all so new and wildly strange.
All these feelings came rushing back to me as I stepped into US Skates with Ri and Mario this week. They were playing top-40 songs and the lights were strobing. Holy cow – what a blast from the past. These skating rinks have not changed in 30 years. They still play the same genre of music, have the same wood floors, the same leather skates, the same goofy employees with their serious monitoring of the roller rink like they are overseeing the Royal Palace, and the same painted cement walls to grip when you are about to fall on your face.
Ri did surprisingly well on the skates. She started slow but moved up her pace as time wore on.

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Mario did good, too but he wanted to keep “moving up” in skates. They had “speed skates” for $1.50 extra and he begged for those. He tried those and swore he went faster (even though he really didn’t). Then he wanted roller blades to try out. He begged and begged for me to buy the blades after he saw a sign saying “we sell skates.”

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He finally got through his head that we were not buying skates and sulked a bit but then he couldn’t resist taking one more round on the roller rink with Ri and I. As I glided along the far side of the rink and watched Ri and Mario working hard to skate and balance on the other side, I chuckled at how crazy life was: here I was at age 42 back on the rink like I never left – still loving the lights and getting down with the top-40 music, and watching my kids jam in their little heads as they rolled around and around the rink.

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