Missing the chaos

Bike home. Take the pup for a walk. Take off work clothes and put on shorts and t-shirt. Bike to Mario’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Mario make tackles. Leave practice to head to Maria’s practice. Say hi to moms and watch Ri kick the soccer ball. Gather up Ri and her girlfriends and bike them home. Eat random foods for dinner: cmhslice of ham, noodles, cereal, Klondike bar, peas. Make the kids brush teeth. Wrestle with them. Scold them to settle down. Tell them a funny story from when I was little. Rub their backs. Turn off lights. Let the pup out. Kennel him. Eat some chocolate chips. Wash face. Brush teeth. Go to bed.

Just like I thought my evenings would be twenty-five years ago when I daydreamed about life after college.

This weekend marks the end of practices and games (at least for another month when basketball starts). Ri has four soccer tournament games – two on Saturday and two on Sunday. The first one on Saturday starts at 8 am and it’s 35 minutes away. Ugh. 

But as hectic as life has been, I find myself melancholy at the thought of it all ending. It’s a blast watching Mario in his football pads blocking Hilliard kids from tackling the receiver. It’s thrilling watching Ri get the ball and kick it to her team mate. It’s much more fun than watching them do homework or play Minecraft on the computer. And it gets our family up and moving. Jon assisted coaching Mario’s team and went to nearly every practice and every game. The boys all looked up to him and Mario loved having him around. Maria loved heading to practice to see her friends and her coaches. I loved being able to walk the pup without Mario whining that I “always have to walk the dog” (even though he stares into the computer screen the entire time he whines). 

But it does get tiring doing it every night. Mario on Monday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. Ri on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and/or Sunday. 

It will feel strange to walk in the door from work and have no plans. Be able to look over homework. Talk about our days. Make dinner. Sit together. 

Ha, who am I kidding? It’s Fall: we will be riding our bikes to the park and heading to La Tavola for an ice cream dinner. Or Ri will head to the basement with her frozen dinner to watch Say Yes to the Dress. Or Mario will go down to Quinn’s and snack. Maybe we will sit down together in Winter. Wait, there’s sled riding and playing in the snow….

   
    
    
 

Girls on the Run! 

One reason to have a kid: the indescribable pride you feel when they accomplish a task that they wrestled with for months.  It is a feeling that I could never get from my pup or my next door neighbor or work.  It is a combo of pride and love and excitement and joy and exhilaration.  This little creature who you have nurtured and held and loved and rocked has accomplished something all her own.


Ri joined Girls on the Run in March.  She dreaded the running part of the meetings, and would pray that Girl Scouts or Strings was scheduled on a day that she had GOTR.  But then I would ask her in the evening how GOTR went, and she would reply “oh, it was fine.”  As much as she was blasé about it, or even disliking it at times, I think she learned a lot from it over the 10 week period of time.  They taught about negative thinking and body images in the media and eating healthy.  They taught about standing up for yourself and others and being strong.  And they taught these girls that they could make a goal and accomplish it even if they didn’t particularly enjoy doing it. Perseverance!

During the last week, Ri has willingly gone outside and ran up to Grandview Ave. and back.  This is a mile run.  This may not seem like a big deal to many but it is HUGE for Maria Grace.  This girl had zero desire to ever run and I believe she believed she could not do it.  So to see her strapping on my MP3 player and jogging up the street and back brought me to my knees (literally, I fell to my knees in jest and Ri rolled her eyes and chuckled). She always keeps me guessing.


 She did not exhibit any concern about the race the night before.  She asked what she should eat for breakfast and I told her definitely not a DK donut (her usual Saturday treat with dad).  She ate a half of a ham omelette and a piece of toast.  Smart girl.  Her girlfriend, Norah, wanted to run with us since her mom wasn’t running in the race.  This was a great thing because the two of them are similar in their running styles.  We arrived at the event and found the Grandview Girls team. We had to buy running head bands and pin on our numbers and take the obligatory pictures. I really enjoy the kids and the moms that participated in GOTR. They were a lively group and helped keep the girls’ momentum and excitement going as we waited for the race to begin.


  
The super heroes also kept our spirits up! When I saw Wonder Woman, I asked Ri to get a picture. She started walking over to her and I stopped her. “No, take my picture with her!” Ri shook her head. I eventually let her and Norah get a picture, too.



Finally, it was time to start the race.  We lined up with some other moms and waited for the gun to go off.  Waiting five minutes seems like 30 minutes when you are about to run a race.  But soon enough we were off and jogging.  Within 100 feet, Ri asked if we could walk a little.  This was going to be a long 5K.

But it wasn’t. It went by in a flash for me. Ri probably feels differently! She was not a happy camper most of the race – definitely feeling the heat and humidity as well as the pangs of running an entire 3.1 miles. We ran a bit and then set up goals to reach to walk a bit. But it wasn’t hard to get them both running again after some down time, which was a good thing. I just kept telling them that they were doing awesome and that the more we ran, the closer the finish would be. I kept trying to think about the end of my marathon and how much I hated the last few miles because I knew that was how Ri felt. But my girl kicked it into high gear when we turned onto Rich Steeet and she saw the Finish sign.


   She ran the race in 36 minutes, which is amazing for someone that has rarely run. I was beaming as we came to the end. How amazing is this daughter of mine to push herself to her limit even when she did not want to and end on a strong note? Love her to pieces. Jon and Mario and Patty were waiting at the end cheering us on and snapping pictures. That part is always so wonderful.


The girls got Popsicles and were relieved to call it over. They couldn’t believe how much they sweated (now Ri may have an appreciation for why I’m so sweaty after the gym). I spent the entire rest of the day with my heart up in the sky elated by my girl’s determination and umph and grateful for the women who put this program together. If it wasn’t for them, Ri would have missed out on conquering an activity that she never thought she’d accomplish.  How much I appreciate their efforts and confidence in the girls.

One more shot of esteem and dose of confidence for this girl. Let’s keep ’em coming.

Another Fall weekend

Another gorgeous Fall weekend. I can’t keep myself indoors – the pup is well-exercised these days.
Saturday was a bit rainy in the afternoon but I had errands to run anyway. I dropped Ri off at her birthday party way out in Canal Winchester (anywhere not within five miles of the house is far away to me). Ri took a very excited Alana to the party, too. Lots of gymnastics and lots of snacks.

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I bought a huge flower pot while I waited on the girls to plant my elephant ear plant in this winter. I think I got one that is way too big because it is drooping big time and looks close to death after only one day. I couldn’t get a green thumb if some planted it in green dye. I am pathetic when it comes to tending to plants.
I picked up Ri and Alana and took them to Alana’s house to spend another night with Grandma Ionno. Thank god for that woman – gave me and Jon a bit of alone time this weekend. We treated ourselves to lobster and crab dip at the Fish Market. It’s been a while and we needed it. Don’t we look relaxed and happy?!
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I went and saw the Judge starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. That movie could have been the dumbest movie on Earth and it still would have been worthwhile to see because of Robert Downy, Jr. Lordy, Lordy. But it ended up being a pretty good movie, absent him. And I cried my eyes out through the ending credits, on my way home and for 20 minutes at home. That’s what movies about family and perseverance and loss do to me. But Milk Duds and popcorn made it better.
My Sunday could not have been more joyous. I woke up to a four mile run while listening to NPR and then came home to take Rocco on a six mile run through the woods and around some of the Columbus Marathon route. The woods were magical with the multi-colored leaves strewn everywhere and the light streaming in through the branches of the trees. Hallelujah.
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I arrived home to my man trimming the bushes and I grabbed my rake to help in the yard. Strangely, I love doing yard work together.
The kids arrived home at 11 in time for Patty to hit church. I bundled them up and we headed up to First Avenue to watch the Marathon. The music blared and the runners sweated it out. I loved the vibe. The kids loved the face painting and ballon maker. Mario got his sword, of course. The rest of them got crazy hats. And they all got face paint – Ri went with an OSU theme and Mario went with a tiger. Alana got a cheetah and Gio got a scary skeleton.
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After 45 minutes playing around at those stations, we finally arrived at Stauf’s for a much-needed coffee. Mario had a dollar on him and asked me how much a chocolate chip scone cost. I knew what he wanted to do – treat me to a scone. He knows how much I love them. I told him I thought they were $1 and then motioned to the cashier that I’d pay for the rest. He ordered a scone. She bagged it up and gave it to him. He tapped me as I made my coffee and handed me the bag.
“I got this for you, mom.”
I loved all over him and told him what a sweet son he was and he ate all my words up. He loves being generous as long as the person acknowledges his generosity fully…!
We sat down at a table and played chess. He wanted to teach me all he has learned from his chess club at school. The girls played War and Gio played Dominoes.
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Patty met us at Stauf’s and we all walked home while cheering on the last of the runners (Mario’s take on the last runners: “they need to work harder so they aren’t last.”). Patty resolved to doing the Marathon next year so I’m doing the same (if I will ever let my leg heal).
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We went to Ri’s soccer game and I was loud and cheering her on as usual. I get so excited and can’t keep quiet. I was born to coach, I think.
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After the game, we finished up the yard and sat down to a family meal of chicken and twice baked potatoes (Patty is the queen of those babies!).
We ended the night with an epic jump in the leaf pile created throughout the day. Sophie and Pax joined in the fun.
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One more walk for Rocco, a bed time story about Danny the Diamondback, and a Klondlike bar, and the night was over. Goodnight.
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All in a Sunday morning

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7 am.
Ten years ago it would have floated by without notice or care. My pillow under me, Jon by my side, maybe a dream wrapping up in my rested head. Today, the house is bustling with kids’ footsteps up and down the steps, laptops chiming hello, and a pup barreling onto the bed for morning kisses.
Jon rescued me Sunday morning and escorted Rocco downstairs with the kids. That lasted ten minutes before we heard the charge of Rocco through the hall, up the stairs, and to our room. I lazily climbed out of bed, got dressed and lumbered down the steps with Rocco pushing his nose into my leg right behind me. The kids were on the couch playing Animal Jam on the computers. I gave them the “I am not happy you are on a computer and not taking care of a Rocco” look and they both closed the computer tops and pronounced “we want to take a walk with you!”
Ri got her scooter. I got the stroller for Mario in case he got tired of walking (the BOB is still our tried-and-true even though Mario is almost seven years old). We got Rocco and headed to the woods. We walked into a chirping, vibrant forest and I was elated to have my babies with me to experience such early morning goodness. They immediately dashed to the climbing tree and Rocco immediately whined and cried as they climbed the tree. He gets whacked out every time they scale it and watches them intensely until they are back on ground.

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Mario and Ri went to their second favorite tree that leans way over to the side. They love to climb it. Mario decided he was going to jump off of it rather than have me help him down. All I heard as I walked out of the meadow with Rocco was “MOM!” Ri was helping him up and he was holding his back. Great, he’s broken his vertebrae. But he shook it off for try no. 2. Here’s how that try went:
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Mario jumped.
Mario feigned death.
Ri laughed hysterically.
Lovely.
We picked him up and they both went up the tree for one last hurrah before leaving for Stauf’s.
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On the way out of the woods, Mario complained that his back hurt. Maria exclaimed “I’ll carry you little buddy!” He hopped on her back and the hysterics began. Rocco chewed on Mario’s shoe and Ri tumbled every other second. What cuties.
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We walked up to Giant Eagle and the kids went in while I held Rocco (who again whined like a baby when they left). I gave them my Visa (they are so independent) and they got a bag of grapes (they had to eat a handful before a donut) and two donuts. Stauf’s was trumped by GE donuts.
Next we headed to the church park. Mario freaked about Rocco climbing the jungle gym set. He worries like heck about that dog. He was nervous about him getting lost at Park of the Roses, too. He doesn’t worry about jumping from a tree but he worries about his pup. And Rocco worries just as much about him. Mario began to swing and Rocco dashed over and jumped on the swing as Mario swung up. Mario got scratched good. I yelled at Rocco and he came to his side immediately. “It’s ok, mom. He didn’t mean it.” He has his back.
We left the park and talked about zombies and softball pitching on the walk home. Ri promised Mario she’d take care of him as his nurse when we got home because he banged his knee at the park. I carried him upstairs to his bed and she brought band-aids and the computer to him. She fetched him water and listened to him talk about his animals on Animal Jam.
Meanwhile, I went down to sit on the deck with Jon and play gin rummy. He whooped on me but I enjoyed just hanging out with him in the shade of the trees.
Pretty nice Sunday, I must say. And all of this before 10:30 am!>

Woman’s Best Friend

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This bundle of love was my running/walking partner all weekend. The kids have been loving life in Disneyworld between buffet meals, 70 degree weather, animated character greetings, and cool rides. Meanwhile, Rocco and I have been working it out in all this snow. We went for a total of 26 miles together over Saturday and Sunday – a marathon!
I realized how much I absorb when I run with the pup versus when I run alone. With the pup, I have no iPod. I am forced to concentrate on the trees, birds, clouds, yards. I think about writing that letter to my sis I’ve been wanting to write. I consider taking those hip-hop classes I always wanted to try. I smile at the fat robin trying to get her grip on the tiny branch bending to hold her. I am grateful for my folks and the lessons they have taught me. I appreciate all that I have been given and respectful of how fleeting it all is….

And then Rocco finds a stick and I get jerked to the right as he stops dead cold in the snow to chew away at it.

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I prod him along and he eventually rips off a small piece of the stick to chew as we carry on. He loves to run ahead of me and I don’t mind it because he makes me keep a pace. However, my dog trainer and hubby continue to razz me about making him heel. What I really enjoy is taking him to the woods by our house. It is about a quarter to half mile loop. I can typically let Rocco off his leash because the only other visitors have dogs who run off-leash as well. I have been training Rocco to heel when I first let him off leash or when we are approaching the bridge and I can’t see who may be up ahead. He’s doing better each day with it. But I love when I finally say “OK” to him and he is able to run free. He runs with such force – like a stallion – and he seems overjoyed with his ears flapping.

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And then he stops when he no longer sees me and waits for me to catch up. Such a gentleman. Then he lifts up his leg and pees on new territory. Such a gentleman. I love having a pup back in my life.
Ri and Mario have grown attached to him. Mario loves to wrestle with him and try to grab toys from his mouth. The last thing our trainer would recommend but it’s sweet to watch a boy and his dog play so hard (plus, Mario and Rocco get worn out, which is a blessing). Ri just loves to cuddle with him which is fairly hard to do because he is a bit of a loner when he decides to rest. But he has warmed up to Ri and often gives her kisses our of the blue.
I hope this little bundle of fur is able to see the kids off to college. I certainly don’t think we’ll have any trouble keeping him in shape after our runs this weekend.

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Labor Day Chaos

I am feeling this past weekend as I turn off my watch alarm clock that I purposefully set even later this morning with the hopes I’d climb out of bed and take a run. But the magnetic power of Ri on my right side and Mario on my left and Jon on the far right (thank god for king sized beds) drew me closer to the sheets and farther from my running shoes.

In my twenties, this would have happened because of a night of partying: shots devoured, beer guzzled, and feet moving to the beat. Now this happens because of traveling all over the state with kids in tow visiting relatives, swimming, playing, and stopping at McDonald’s for rest room breaks every thirty minutes. It’s exhausting. But we’ll worth it.

Mario rocked out his football game on Saturday with two touchdowns and two pulled flags. He was a superstar. Jon and I were so charged up for him because he had been getting so mad at practice about not getting the ball. I was like a crazed woman out on the field screaming like a lunatic for him. I can’t imagine what I will be like when he’s older.

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We left for Cincy later in the day with the hopes of heading to my old grade school’s festival and seeing some friends. Unfortunately, as soon as we hit the outskirts of Cincy a sheet of grey covered us and lightning and thunder came clammoring down on us. I hate driving in that weather and proceeded to white knuckle it to my mom’s house. Mario was fascinated with the lightning letting me know every time he saw a flash. Ri kept me in line: when I whispered “shit” under my breath after a car jerked in front of me, she scolded “listen lady, you need to replace that “i” with an “o” so you say shoot and not the bad word.

Lou and mom and Rod greeted us at the door with a tasty sheet cake awaiting us. We couldn’t wait to dig into it so we had Gracie and Liz over and sang happy birthday to Mario. He took forever to think of a wish but eventually blew out the candles so we could eat the world’s best food: sheet cake.

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The cousins played downstairs together for a while so mom and I could catch up on her new third shift schedule. I’m amazed at how well Grace and Ri and Mario get along. They played barbies and watched Spongebob (tv always bonds, heh?). At about 8:30, mom and I decided to head over to Nativity festival with the hopes it wasn’t canceled even though it was still raining. No luck. But we did get to go inside and see where I used to have lunch and music class. I was more excited to see it than the kids.

We made up for the disappointment of the festival by heading to Skyline at 9:15 at night. Nothing like 4-ways and coney dogs right before bed.

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One thing about my mom’s house is that she has really dark shades so you can’t tell when the sun has risen. On the other hand, she has Lou who inevitably pushes the bedroom door with his nose and let’s the light in that way. He performed that trick at 6:45 am on Sunday morning. I rose to go downstairs with the kids and had that feeling I typically get on weekend mornings when we rise that early: “how am I gonna get through this whole day??”

But we started it out well walking with the pups through the Timbers. Mario got to pet other dogs and Ri got to walk Willie. And our reward was home-made goetta and pancakes from Aunt Julie. Ri is such the Cincy girl – she loves goetta more than any other meat. After breakfast, we walked to the park with Grace. The kids performed shows for us at the amphitheater and swung on the swings. Mario helped me push Grace and Ri tried to morph into a two year old by squeezing herself into a baby swing. I was so irritated trying to get her out but had to laugh when she exclaimed “I’m making progress mom – I almost have one cheek out!” The girl is a trip. We eventually got her freed and she stayed away from the swings the rest of the time. Mario loved the creek. He must have thrown ten different sized sticks in the water to see if they would all go down the waterfall. The heavier ones didn’t and he noted that by sticking his finger in the air and calling himself a “great scientist!”

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After the park, we got treated to some Aunt Jane and Julie time…and we got treated to round two of cake and ice cream. Ri and Mario don’t know how lucky they are to have such a supportive and loving family. It warms my heart to see the aunts who helped raise me help me raise my kiddos.

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Next up, swimming! Thankfully, the kids wanted to go to the Timbers pool rather than Blue Ash so we threw on our suits and crossed the street. Mario showed off his dives and Ri and Gracie made a huge contraption with noodles.

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Our last dip in the pool until next year. We dropped ourselves in the bath after the pool and finally got the stink off Mario’s feet. He doesn’t wear socks with his shoes (“they don’t feel good with socks”) so his feet and shoes are disgusting. After baths, we reluctantly left the Timbers to head home. My mom was rightfully exhausted after our tornados came through but she always misses us as soon as we leave. Meg and Patty feel the same. You can’t wait for some peace and quiet but then you can’t wait for some chaos again.

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I was a few hundred feet from the highway home when I made a brash call to head to Nativity’s festival. I had to let Mario play Big Six. It was my favorite game as a kid and he was so excited about winning money. He loved it just as much as I did. Ri was ready to stop gambling after she won some quarters but Mario got bit by the bug and it took all my night to pull him away. They both ended up pocketing quarters in the end, and I lost $20. Never fails.

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The kids and I and Jon met back at the house at 10 pm and we all crashed hard. 5 am came way too early but I did my sisterly duty and picked up Sarah at the Mega Bus station at 5:30 am. And what did we do at 5:45 am when we got home? Went for a five mile run. Why not? It was actually a wonderful run with the moon shining over us. It almost makes me want to get up at that time every morning… but then it doesn’t.
We hit Stauf’s at 8 am with Jorge and dogs in tow. Again, I looked at my watch and thought “I’ve been going since 5 am and I have an entire day left to go. Ahhhh!” But it only got better from there.

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We drove up to Marion to have a family celebration at Patty’s house with all of Jon’s brothers and some of their kids. We also visited Jon’s dad in the rehab center. The kids love seeing their cousins. It never ceases to amaze me how close they are even when we don’t see each other for months. They fished on the bridge into the pond, swam at the country club, and played in the basement. Maria cried and cried when we had to leave. I got to chat with Jon’s brothers and wives and Sherry and Micah and reminisce about old times and laugh about new ones (Micah and Sherry and Mario comparing biceps size (Sherry won)). Patty and I got to experience Mario holding her hand as we walked through the rehab center and saying “this is a nice place for grandpa to be.” It broke her heart. And Maria giving a gentle peck on Joe’s cheek when we left for the night. We have some sensitive, empathetic kids.

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And here I am on Tuesday night forgetting about the lethargy I felt this morning and grateful for all of my family and the joy they contribute to this one amazing life.

Thank god for BOB

Monday morning I woke up and found Mario staring at me.  His little face was 6 inches away from me at the most.  His tender eyes looked straight into mine.  What a doll baby, I thought.  I laid with him for a few minutes just staring back at him enjoying the silence and stillness of the early morning next to my son.  And then he spoke: “can I go on a run with you, mom?”

I crawled my tired self out of bed contemplating whether I would say yes or not.  I enjoy my solitude on my morning runs while I listen to NPR and think through my day.  But Mario sat up and clasped his hands together and begged and begged.  “Please, mom, I will be good. Please let me go.”  I got dressed and scooped him up and we went downstairs together.  I made him a graham cracker with peanut butter and gave him the iPad and we were off.  A good four mile run with a stop at Giant Eagle for a donut (yeah, my healthy addiction to exercise is tamed by my un-healthy addiction to sugar).   When we got home, Maria was microwaving some macaroni to eat for lunch.  The girl slams out her lunch everyday with no help from me or Jon.  She is good. 

The next morning, I woke up to two little people laying on either side of me.  Maria was towards my back side and she poked me with her finger.  “Can I go on a run with you today, mom?”  Of course, being Ms. Fair, I didn’t feel like I could say no since I had taken Mario the day before.  Mario piped up after hearing Ri and begged to come, too.  I agreed that they could both come with me, and we were off for Round Two.  Of course, strollering Mario is a rather easy task.  Forty pounds feels like a feather to me after carrying my muscle girl for all of those years (she was forty pounds at age 2 and a half!).   But put Maria and Mario in the stroller and it gets to be a workout.  I am essentially pushing 110 pounds of human weight.  The BOB site warns against going over 100 pounds in the double stroller but we have gotten away with it for a while.  That stroller was the best purchase I have made since having these two babes.  It has taken us everywhere and has to have over 1000 miles logged on it easily. 

We did four miles and also made a stop at Giant Eagle for donuts.  We played the animal guessing game together and talked about what our favorite foods were to eat (imagine, donuts!).  When we got home, I tried to help the kids out of the BOB but they shooed me away because I was “so sweaty.”  I told them they would be just as sweaty after they strollered their kids around.  Maria responded: “I will drive.”  Then she changed her mind and decided she would bike because it is not as bad for the environment and you don’t sweat as much.  Always thinking. 

Last night, I told them both that I had to go on a run today by myself.  They both agreed that they would not beg to come with me.  When I woke up this morning and began to descend the stairs, I heard Mario cry “Mom?”  I walked up the stairs to his room.  He looked at me in distress and cried “I just can’t stand the thought of not going on a run with you, mom! I can’t stand it!”  I walked him into Maria’s room because her light was on.  She was lying in bed and I laid Mario next to her.  She loved that.  I kissed them both and told them I would be back in an hour.  They laid there without any complaining.  Little darlings.  When I returned home, Maria was pouring syrup on a waffle she made for Mario and Mario was playing on my iPad.  I asked Ri how the morning went, and she told me that her and Mario sat on the front steps and watched the sun rise.  Huh?! 

I looked at her awkwardly and she looked back at me and said “What?  Mario wanted to see the sun rise!”  I love these crazy kids so much (so much that I will still stroll them around at ages 7 and 4!).

The many uses of the BOB:

Chillin’ out!

Mario taking control!