Last day of school.

I gave up my morning run to make pancakes and see the kiddos off to school on their last day before Summer Break. They were quiet and a but fatigued as they ate their pancakes. I asked them what they had planned for the day, and they both shrugged. Rocco had more pep in him.

I told them I’d pick them up from school and we could do whatever they wanted. Ri voted for Jeni’s and Mario cast a vote for the river. 

Much to Ri’s dismay, I made her walk to school one last time this year. I snapped shots of her as she left. She was a good sport about it and even gave me a few smiles. I can’t believe how old she looks!

I returned to the house to find Mario’s pancake untouched. Seriously, I don’t know how this kid grows without any nutrients heading into his body. I got on him about not eating and shoved a Z Bar in his bag. It was 7:40 and we had to hit the road if we were gonna walk to his school in time. Rocco was charged to come with us.

We started our descent down 1st Ave. talking about our favorite movies. Fairly soon into our walk, he held my hand. He held it nearly the entire way to school. Kids passed and he kept holding. Little did he know that this small gesture brought me such joy. We arrived to his school and he walked off to finish his last day of 2nd grade.

I picked Ri up at 2:40. All the fifth grade boys had taken off their shirts as an end of the year gesture and the girls were grossed out. They were gagging and pointing at the boys. Hysterical. 

We drove down to get Mario. Ri welcomed him as he walked out the door. He and his buddies wrestled around on the grass and then we left for Jeni’s. I had big plans to bike to the river but the kids wanted to drive. I gave in because Mario had his first baseball game at 6. We parked and walked the bike path to our river spot. Ri, of course, wanted to play her game where she stands on a rock in the river and we toss stones near her to see who can best splash her.

After soaking Ri, we raced each other up the concrete slope. Ri and Mario bickered over who beat who so then we had to time one another. But then they bickered about me not starting the timer on one of them fast enough. Ahh, siblings. 

We headed home to see Jon and get ready for Mario’s first baseball game. And Summer begins…! 

These days.

My ideal day is waking early for a morning workout and coming home to take a walk to Stauf’s with Ri and Mario. I love it because we are all present in the moment. We notice the cardinal tucked in the mid section of a bush. We squeal at the bunny darting out of a flower bed. We touch the needles of the pine tree in the alley and I reminisce to them about when they were babies and I placed their finger on a needle and yelped “ouch” and they smiled at me in delight. 

The kids still get excited to scope out a table at the coffee shoppe. They recently added high tables and bar stools to the shoppe so I knew they’d go for those. Mario steps up on the lower rung of the chair and lifts himself into the seat. Maria gets water for us all. I order bagels and a coffee. We sit at the table and play War and crazy eights (with Grandma Menkedick’s cards from 1963). When I win at the war between Mario and me, Ri laughs because I get one of Mario’s aces out of it. Mario reluctantly hands it over. This is the one place that the both of them remain in good spirits while playing a card game – must be the chill atmosphere.


It takes a lot for me to relax – as Jon says “you never stop.” But I can sit in that coffee shoppe with these kids for hours and have no desire to move. There must be some relaxer drug in those bagels.

Maria’s stomach was hurting her after she finished her bagel and chai tea latte – she spent a long time in the bathroom. I went to check on her after Mario and I thought she may have passed out. There she was looking miserable and holding her tummy. My girl likes to go at it in life – no matter if it’s partying at the pool or eating a bagel smothered in cream cheese. 

So what do I have her do to recover?

Bike to the river with Mario and me. I figured she needed to move that food out of her system so she needed to move her body in order to accomplish that. It would be worse for her to go home and lay down. Right?!

So there she was biking next to me looking miserable. Mario was up ahead biking away in his own little world, loving the freedom he had. We arrived at our old stomping grounds shortly after we departed. It seemed to take such a longer time when I had them both in the double stroller (hmmm, wonder why? maybe the 100 pounds I had to push slowed me down). Ri immediately went to lay on a big rock to rest her tummy. Sweet girl.


Meanwhile, Mario was in heaven. He loved looking at the different rocks and throwing them in the river. As we tried to skip a few, he said to me “I remember coming here in the stroller with you and Ri and eating my timbits.” The kid doesn’t remember much so I was excited to hear that he remembered our river trips. We searched for unique rocks after Ri rested a bit. Mario would find one and run over to show Ri and me. He found one with a fossil in it that he thought was cool. They both discovered round, smooth ones that they decided to paint for Emma on her first day of babysitting them. We watched the tiny birds fly in and out of their hive nests situated in the corners of the bridge overpass. Pure delight. These are the moments to slurp up and recall when you’re having an annoying day.


Ri started to peter out on us after a while so we called it a day and headed down the bike trail to home. Ri was my trooper riding her bike with a tummy ache. She wanted Jon to pick her up badly but I told her she could make it. I’m quite sure she was cursing me in her head but she did it and with each small feat like that, I’m convinced she’s gained another layer of grit. Mario was like a teenager biking far ahead of us but stopping at every stop light and waiting for a green light. He likes that independence. 

Maria looked at me when we pulled into the driveway. “Are you proud of me, mom?” “Absolutely”, I told her. 

I walked inside the house and Mario was guzzling water. “Hey, mom”, he said flatly sounding just like a teenage boy. 

Please let me not forget these days.

Growing up Mario


Yep, that’s slick boy handing out donuts to his classmates on Friday. Jon reported that he walked into the classroom, held up the box of donuts, and pronounced “Who wants donuts?” He beamed in delight as everyone yelled “Mario has donuts! Mario’s here!” I think he rather enjoys his ego stroked….


But oh, is he versatile. He goes from city slicker to country hunter in a flash of a second. He wasted no time getting his camo on and heading out to Big Mario’s woods to hunt turkey with Jon. He was dejected when they heard a few but Jon had unloaded his gun already. I am fearful for those turkeys when he gets old enough to shoot.


And if that’s not impressive, he has yet another persona – sweet, playful, curious Mario. We went to the river this morning to find cool rocks and I almost cried when he picked one up and admired it. “Isn’t this one beautiful, mom?”

My body could have melted at his feet. I told Jon when we got home that I am going to miss that innocent, precious five-year old boy who holds my hand and giggles as we throw rocks in the water together.

Jon mustered up five little words in response as he stared out the window: “I know what you mean.”

Down at the river

The bike trail led us to our rocky alcove along the Scioto River where we have planted ourselves on Sunday mornings for years. It provides a refuge from the traffic and the noise and the bustling of people grabbing coffees, grocery shopping or heading to church.

Ri and Mario transcended down the rocky bank towards the river staying alert for unique rocks. Mario threw a hefty stone in the water and watched the splash. He continued to find rocks progressively bigger in size to see how much bigger his splash would be. Maria hunted for rocks for us to take home for our garden.

I had considered trying out a new church today. I hunted for a few on the internet last night while the kids slept. I struggle with the feeling that we should have a gathering place on Sunday mornings where we worship beside others and sing songs and reflect. Jon and I have not put our energies in our local church for numerous reasons; the number one reason for me being that I feel like it’s hypocritical. I believe in women leaders, gay rights, womens’ choice and the church, at least at the highest ranks, does not. The non-denominational churches I found last night seemed promising but I still feel hesitant. And as I stood on the bank of the Scioto watching M&M, I couldn’t help but notice how joyful and soulful and grounded I felt being outside amongst the trees and water and birds.

When we walked together along the path and paused to watch a brown and yellow-spotted butterfly flutter around a bunch of flowers, I was grateful for the quiet moment with my munchos.

We came upon a part of the trail that had a clearing leading down to a wide patch of lily pads. When we passed the last large oak and the sky opened up, we saw all of the lilies spread along the river. A couple of ducks swam through them. The kids stared at the scene and Mario tried out his duck calling sounds (hilarious). Maria tried clapping to a beat to help Mario but still no ducks came our way.


On our way back to our stroller, Maria spotted a buckeye on the ground. Then another. We were under a buckeye tree. Mario found a nut eventually and took much pride in splitting it in two. The buckeyes inside were so shiny. I hit a branch with a throng of nuts and it was like gold dropped from the heavens. The kids scurried around grabbing the nuts and piling them up. The nuts brought great joy especially when Mario packed them in his sweater pockets and acted like a pregnant woman.



We laughed hysterically all the way back to the stroller as Mario kept “having babies” on the way back when the nuts fell out of his pockets. We dropped the nuts off at the stroller and headed down to throw more rocks in the river before riding home. Maria chimed “you need to take our river picture, mom!” We have a tradition of getting pictures at the river with each season. Fall is not technically here but it felt like it this morning at 50 degrees.


We left the river two hours after arriving – a tad longer than we would have been at a church – and felt all the more rejuvenated and full of spirit as we eased into a Sunday afternoon.

Sunday stroller bliss

Since Maria wouldn’t come home on Saturday night with me (no hard feelings, really – I loved listening to my own music and having an hour and a half of alone time!), I got to take a run with Mario in the stroller on Sunday morning.

I was able to crank out about 4 miles before we headed to Tim Horton’s for Sunday morning donuts. And it was another stroller ride where Mario never asked for the iPad but instead talked with his mama the entire time. Beautiful. We played the animal guessing game for most of the trip. He always guesses pig, frog, and monkey when he is guessing my animal because they are my favorite. He’s getting better about asking actual questions to figure out the contemplated animal after he runs through “mama’s favorite list.” He asks if they live in a jungle or farm, if they have fur, if they are fast. His animals I have to guess about are typically from Wild Kratts and obscure as can be. The honey badger, blue morpho butterfly, scorpion…. He’s so proud when I need help in guessing it.

The Wild Kratts show is a nice little educational tool that Grandma Ionno found. Mario gives me more insight into the animal planet from watching that show than I could find on my own (did you know the orangutan has sore arms from swinging and picks off aloe from trees to massage into his arms? Brilliant (both Mario and the orangutan))!

When we arrive at Tim Horton’s we are greeted by a flock of geese protective of their little ones. Mario jumped out of the stroller and began following them. He knows the wrath of the mama goose if he gets too close so he kept far enough away not to receive her treatment.


After the donut store we decided to head to the river to collect more rocks. The lack of rain created a rocky bank for Mario to step onto and the amount of mussels and clams amazed us. We could have been on Cape Cod (ok, I exaggerate a tad). We must have played on that bank for 45 minutes and it felt like 10. I love those times with Mario where we just chill – throwing rocks and staring at the water to wait to see a jumping fish. He does good for my need to be more calm.

On our way back to the stroller,a passing runner told us there was a turtle a few 100 feet back on the trail. We were all over it. We found “Cutie” (as Mario named it) off the trail soaked in mud. We caressed its shell but stayed away from its mouth to avoid a possible finger crunch.


On the way off the trail, we picked a few wildflowers to take home for Maggie’s party. I put them in the seat next to Mario in the stroller and he kept getting irked by the flowers falling on him. I said “flowers, you better stop falling on Mario, do you hear me?!” Mario loved that exchange and began to play the role of the flowers saying “we won’t listen to you” so that I would “have a talk with the flowers” again. This exchange lasted the entire way home.

Taking it easy?

My girlfriend texted me in a frantic state this morning asking if I could pick her son up from after-school care. I had planned on working until 5:00, Jon was going to pick up Maria, and it just would not work well with our schedules. I called her to tell her the situation, and we hung up. Then I went to work and had to deal with a bunch of idiotic matters. I felt drained by 11 am. So, at 11:15, I texted my girlfriend and told her that I would get her son, Zach at after-school care. She thanked me with a text containing a bunch of exclamation points. I figured with my frazzled state I needed to take it easy, and take a couple of hours away from work (I knew I’d be answering emails after the kids went to bed anyway).

At 11:45, I visited Maria during her lunch time and watched her destroy her her sandwich. She got a grilled cheese (that was actually on wheat bread) and she tried to rip off the bread in order to smother ketchup all over it. The first ketchup packet squirted all over her shorts. The second, all over her plate. She resorted to dipping her sandwich into the ketchup pond but decided that the wheat bread was too “yucky” to eat (she has her dad’s taste for white bread). I was surprised to see her eat her tomato soup, but after a few bites, she gave it up, too. Luckily, I had brought some mini oreo’s for a treat for her and her friends. I had brought nutter butters last time and got lambasted because they contained peanuts and Maira sits at the peanut-free table because her friend, Janira is allergic.

I finished my afternoon meetings early, and got Maria. She could not wait to pick up Zach. After we picked up Zach, we went to Mario’s school. Mario loved seeing Zach, and began wrestling him as soon as he met eyes with him. We decided to head to the river down from Mario’s school. There is an area off the bike path that has a ton of shells and rocks for the kids to gather and throw. It was a total hit for Mario and Zach. Maria was interested for a bit but was too worried about trying to get Zach’s attention. She kept pleading for Zach to “come over to her because she has a secret for him” but he was too busy running in the river (yeah, his mom is going to love me). Maria finally realized how to get his attention – lift up a huge rock to elicit a world of shells and cool rocks. They picked through them together for a while, and Maria was in bliss. Mario, meanwhile, found a rock in the water and acted like he was “surfing.” After an hour, we took off to the car and headed to Wendy’s for come chicken nuggets (yeah, I know you health nuts out there are cringing right now) and home for a picnic on the deck.

Following the picnic, we rode our bikes to Zach’s to drop him off wet, yet safe, to his mama. Upon our return to our house, we took the fastest showers ever (“just worry about the main body parts – privates, underarms, feet and face!”). We all got in our nighties and slipped onto the couch for two goodnight stories.



River rascals

We skipped to the river and
held hands down the rocky hill
To the bank
full of treasures
Shiny black rocks
White shells
Snake skin and river mollusks
We jumped on boulders and splashed
In the cool river water
But when I try to take that
sweet darling photo of you
I Get This?!