Back to school

How the heck do Jon and I have a 7th grader and a 4th grader? Wasn’t Ri just laying on Jon’s forearm like a baby sloth and Mario bopping on my chest in the Snugli? How many times during those first years of life did Jon and I stare at each other in our sleep-deprived states and think “when will they grow up and be able to do things on their own?!”  

I remember heading back to work, tired as all get out from being up all night. A colleague walked into my office and laughed. She had kids that were grown and in college. 

“Up all night?” She asked already knowing the answer. 

I looked across the room at her and gave her a sneer. “When does all of the joy of having a kid come?” 

I was only half kidding. Of course, there were many amazing and joyful times when the kids were very young but it was such hard work. Both kids loved to be held every second and they were not good sleepers at all. It’s amazing how parents can get by on two hours of full sleep a night. We did it for over a year with each kid.

My colleague shook her head and smiled. “Before you know it, they will be grown up and you will miss these days.” 

I smiled thinking of my two babes who had hugged me so tightly when I dropped them off at day care that morning. I missed them as we spoke but couldn’t quite grasp how I would miss these days and nights of non-stop baby work. 

And here I am years later remembering that conversation with my colleague and understanding every word she said. I look at Maria and Mario and it’s hard to remember those days when they were just little nuggets. I miss being able to pick them up whenever I wanted to and love all over them. I miss putting them on my back and carrying them around the neighborhood to point out the different trees and to find as many squirrels as we could find in one block. I miss having them on my lap and reading picture books. I completely forget how tired I was all the time.

The morning of the first day of school, the kids woke up rarin’ to go. I made chocolate chip pancakes and eggs to celebrate the beginning of a new year where both kids go to the same school! Mario has been psyched all summer to be able to walk to school. They had their new bookbags all together, lunches packed, and hair brushed. They indulged my first day of school pictures on the porch and then headed off together to school. They wanted to walk together the first day, which warmed my heart. 


They came home after their first day of school and reported all went well. The next day, they got up late, threw on some random clothes and shuffled out the door after quickly downing a bowl of cereal. They were already out of the back to school honeymoon. When I asked for a hug goodbye, they both walked over to me and hugged me. They even told me “I love you” without any prompting. Yes, indeed, they are still my nuggets, just a little taller. 

Wait until tonight when I make them read with me before bed:)

Doctor

I love when I come home from work and the kids don’t have anything going on for the evening. We can sit down together and eat dinner, review our days’ activities, and go out for a bike ride or a rollerskating adventure before we settle down for the night. It’s like a bright red bow on a shiny silver box. 

It never fails that the kids do something to crack us up. Thank God Jon and I have them in our lives to keep us grounded when we get stressed with work or bills or other nonsense. Last night, Maria decided to roller blade and Mario decided to bike. Mario was taking forever while Maria, Jon and I waited out front for him. We kept yelling back “Mario, what are you doing?” He’d answer “just a second, be right there” and we’d wait another minute before we yelled back to him again.

Finally he biked down the driveway with a backpack on his back. He pulled up to Maria and I, and stopped his bike.

“I made sure I had all of the things we may need during our trip.”

He began to pull out numerous items: bubble gum, washcloth, band aids, water bottle, and a knee guard. He explained his concern for Maria being on roller blades since she usually only used roller skates. He was ready to help if she fell. He really does have a heart. Maria gave him a hard Maria hug and was taken aback with his kindness in thinking about her safety. 


We started off on our two block adventure. Mario stopped every 100 feet to ask if we needed water. Maria answered affirmatively each time because she thought it was so precious. 

We were rounding the second block and heading towards home when Maria faked a fall in order to have Mario play doctor. Mario had no clue she had faked the fall so when Maria yelled out “Doctor Doctor” he came speeding on his bike from around the corner. 

“What happened Ri” he asked as he pulled out the washcloth. She described how she twisted her ankle on the rollerblade and fell onto the pavement. Mario examined her ankle and her knee. Maria confirmed that it was her knee that hurt most of all. Mario poured water on it to start off with, and then he sopped up the water with his washcloth. He poked around the kneecap and wiggled it to see if that hurt. Maria screamed in pain and then winked up st me to show me she wasn’t really hurt. Mario got out the knee brace and strapped it on to her knee. He told us that we would have to wait a few minutes to see if her pain calmed down before we moved. Maria kept looking up at me slyly and smiling. She loves this kind of play with her brother, and he rarely engages in it with her so she had to absorb every minute. After some more consoling and a full check of the limbs, I told Maria that I thought she could make it home. Mario asked her if she was sure she was ok, and after Maria saw my “you better get up” face, she knew she better confirm that she was fine.


Of course, I knew she would take the opportunity to fall at least one more time before we got home because she so loved this time with Mario. And so two driveways before our house, she fell onto the curb and acted like she hit her head. Mario again came to her rescue throwing down his helmet and his bike and tending to her ails.  After her treatment, she begged Mario to give her a hug to make her feel better. He was in rare form because he readily agreed. These are the nights I dream of.

Wrapping up Summer

So if the beginning of Sumner was all baseball fields and intense competition, the end of summer was all fun and games. A list of the activities we crammed in prior to an August 16 back to school date:

1. A dunk tank party – we hosted an end of the season dunk tank party for Ri’s softball team complete with lobster and steak (as promised by Jon and Stephen). Mario got to invite some of his buddies, too. However, the boys stayed away from the tank and engaged in Nerf battles for most of the night while the girls dunked each other non-stop. When the girls finally tired of the tank and decided to play barbies, the boys entered the picture and enjoyed the tank. Ri and the girls got their wish to dunk their coaches – I welcomed the water on the hot summer day but it is quite the jolt to drop down. My body cannot handle those quick motions anymore.


2. Akita! Ri headed off for her second year of Akita camp in Logan, Ohio. She loves this camp (compared to Camp “sucky” Laumann). They have a soap slide and a lake and crafts. She loves the counselors and has a group of local buddies she bunks with for five days. I wrote her a letter for each day she was there so that she’d have something to read each night (I’m sure she will remember that sweet gesture at some point when she’s a mother…).  She has absolutely no qualms with leaving for five whole days and being away from home. Good thing or terrifying?!


Ri also loved the fact that she got a big ol’ hug from Mario (and she snuck in a kiss) before she left on her adventure. 


Only after the fact did I learn that our sitter had ordered Mario to hug Ri before she left. Makes it a bit less sentimental but….

3. The Ohio State Fair! While Ri was off on her camp adventure, Mario and I hit the Fair. He was so excited to go with me. He had gone the day before with his friend and loved it (mainly because of the rides). He kept telling me about the pig races and how much I’d love them. The night before we were heading there, he came in the bathroom while I washed my face.

“Mom, are you excited to go to the Fair tomorrow?”

His blue eyes stared up at me. I knew he wanted me to be excited. I toweled off the water from my face and leaned down to him.

“I cannot wait to go with you, and I can’t wait to see those pigs!”

He beamed. 

We took off at 11:15 am. We didn’t return until 6 pm – in time for a sleepover party at his friend’s house at 6:30. He had us walking all around the rides’ area. We went on the Ferris wheel a few times much to my dismay. I still dislike that ride from my childhood horrific experience (stuck on top in a thinderstorm). 

Plus I hate heights. But I love Mario. 


The giant slide was much more up my alley.


I was doing ok ride-wise until we hit the scrambler. You sit in a two-person seat and buckle in. Then the cart goes zipping in all different directions at warp speed for what seems like a year. I cannot believe I was able to hold back my puke. I got off of it and could barely walk to the exit. Mario couldn’t understand why I felt so sick because “the ride was so awesome!” I had to lie on the concrete while fair-goers passed me, and try to get a grip. Holy heaven. I had even survived the Alien Spaceship where you stand against a wall and get thrown up and down with the magnetic force keeping you on your standing pad. That one through me for a loop when we stopped but I recovered after a few minutes. There was no recovering from the scrambler. Mario, on the other hand went back a half dozen more times. 


We hit the games like noone’s business. I brought extra cash because I knew he’d want to play and I knew I’d be suckered into playing – takes me back to my childhood at King’s Island when Beth and I would spend 50 cents over and over to win a stuffed animal. Except now it’s $5 a try. Mario was infatuated with the stuffed animal poop emoji (or the “terd” as I call it). His friend had won it the night before and he had his heart set on it. I think in the end we spent $50 for his terd. Lovely.


He also won a weinerman. Yes, “weinerman”is stitched on the belly of this stuffed animal. 

I loved one of the games at the fair: wipeout. It was a mini wipeout course where you had to jump over a rotating arm and duck under another. I took Mario on in it and beat him! Yea, I still got it…


Mario had to buy a spray paint cap to be a true fair-goer. He chose a “Team Mystic” hat because that’s his Pokemon Go team name (although he never plays anymore). He looked smooth.


But the best part of the day was, you guessed it, the pig races. We hit the tail end of one and they announced they had one more left – the pot-bellied pig race. The announcer looked for three volunteers in the crowd who had pot bellies. Two men were selected so he had to pick a lady, he said. I stuck my belly out and Mario and I cheered and I got chosen to represent Pig No. 3. 


Don’t you know my sweet No. 3 won the race?! I screamed with joy and Mario hugged me. You would think we both won a trip to Paris. But even better, I won a stuffed animal pig. It sits on my nightstand to this day.


I was sweaty, exhausted and stinky when we returned home but Mario and I had some awesome memories from the day that outweighed any stink (and a stuffed animal piggie)!

4. Grandma Ionno time. Both of the kids got to spend some time with Grandma Ionno and their cousins for a week. Mario is in seventh heaven when he stays with Patty because she makes cinnamon rolls and has mini donuts. She watches his you tube clips non-stop. She rubs his back all night long. He gets to stay up late playing with Gio. She lets them build forts and battle. 

Ri loves Patty’s spaghetti and meatballs. She loves playing water volleyball with Patty and her friends and chatting it up with all of them. She and Alana play barbies and roller skate and play on their phones. 

I am convinced Patty has super powers – how she can handle these kids for days straight without needing a break is beyond me. And it’s not as though she sits around and they play by themselves. She is running around with them, swimming with them, listening to all their stories, racing them down the street. They are lucky to have her in their lives, and have the opportunity to hang out together for days in a row.


5. Strength class. I signed the kids up for two months of strength class at my gym. I wanted them both to learn good form when lifting weights and running. They enjoyed it for the most part – they told me it’s hard to be motivated at 9 am on a Summer morning – but it woke them up and it was only two days a week. They missed quite a few since they were at camp and grandma’s house. But Mario accomplished his goal of rope climbing and deadlifting and Ri accomplished a 45 second plank. 


It was hilarious to see them squat and lift weights. Little bodybuilders in training. 

6. Elena time! Ri headed out to Pittsburgh with Sarah for a couple of days and then I met her out there on a Saturday. She learned how difficult and tiring it was to take care of a toddler. And I remembered how difficult and tiring it was when I got out there…! But it’s also a lot of fun to hang with the little muncho and listen to her talk and watch her act. She’s getting closer to her Aunt Mary and cousin Ri. She will be spending the night in no time.

We played with play-doh non-stop. I brought a baby doll for Elena when I came on Saturday and she squeezed that doll to death when we took it out of the package. We all sat around cooing over how cute she was with her doll as she cradled it and laid it on the ground, hovered over it and kissed it over and over.  We left the doll to take a bath and when we got back to play with the doll – all cleaned up – Elena took a different approach to care for the baby. She tossed the baby to the floor over and over and cracked up. Ri did, too. The cooing was replaced with some concern…! I have heard she’s back to loving the baby at times (but still chucking it at other times)!

7. Park of the Roses. Mario had quite a few sleepovers with his buddy Zach this summer. I like Zach because he’s always up for an adventure. We decided we’d hit Park of the Roses with Rocco one Sunday afternoon. The boys wanted to find crawdads. While we didn’t find crawdads, we did find an owl. The owl was perched on a branch above the creek staring at us with those huge wise eyes. I spotted him but the owl flew away before the boys caught a glimpse. Luckily, it didn’t fly far and the boys were able to run over and see it on another branch. It stared at us the entire time we stood before it. 


It was a hot day so the boys decided to take off their shirts and dive into a pool of water in the creek. They sprung up after going under head first yelling about how cold it felt. But they did it again and again. Rocco joined them. 


We ended the walk finding a snake skin that impressed the boys, and one happy pup soaked from his jaunts in the water. 

8. Celebrated Rocco’s 3rd birthday! We took advantage of having Lou around to celebrate Rocco’s 3rd birthday. The kids bought two birthday cookies and a few extra treats for Rocco and Lou to celebrate. We sang happy birthday to the birthday pup and he went to town on his cookie. He’s such a good boy – he didn’t even go after Lou’s treat when we set down a treat in front of him.. He’s so mature at three:)!


So there you have it! Summer break is officially over and the kiddos are back in school for another year. I’ve been waiting for this for the last couple of weeks – feeling like we needed structure back in our lives again. But now that we have it, I miss the spontaneity and casualness of Summer. I take refuge in the coziness of Autumn, however, and evenings sipping hot chocolate and playing board games.

Roller derby girl

Grandma Ionno bought roller skates at a garage sale for $2. Alana and Gio were with her at the time so they scored the skates. They brought them over to our house a couple of weeks ago to show them off. Maria begged to use Gio’s skates so she could ride with Alana. He graciously let her borrow them, and then agreed to let her buy them for $10. She loves skating. I’ll come home from work and she’ll be skating down our driveway trying to turn the corner to the sidewalk. She and Alana made up skating routines when Alana stayed with us for a few nights. One night I came home from work and cracked up at the two of them – they looked like total roller derby chicks. Maria especially with her short shorts and muscular legs, and her look of fierceness. 


There is no doubt she’d be taken in the first round of eleven year old derby draft. Mario watched her having so much fun that he begged to get a pair of roller blades. Maria begged on his behalf since she always helps him out with his pleading, and because she wanted someone to ride with when Alana went back home. Mario was not quite as smooth on his blades as Ri was on her skates. And he wasn’t quite as addicted to them as Ri. 

But he continued to give it a try, especially because he got to try it in our kitchen one night when it was raining outside. I had stalled them from going outside until I finished dishes.

“Now it’s raining, mom, and we can’t skate.”

Alas, mom comes through and pushes the table out of the way so they have some room in the kitchen to skate. The small things in life that bring joy.


They had me cracking up the way they were running into the counter and table. That is, until Mario rammed into me as I sat on the family room floor watching them. He took out my shin, which has yet to recover, with his roller blade. Ouch. He called it a night after that collision, as well as me. 

But not Ri, not our roller derby gal.

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…! 

Legal career?

Maria called me last Wednesday evening on my way home from work. She talked excitedly about her day. All was going well over the telephone wires until she asked me if she could come to work with me for National Bring your Child to Work Day. 
Huh? I had not heard anything about this day being Thursday. I had a conference to attend and work to complete. It fell on a bad day; and besides, she just brought it up to me (could she really have been excited for weeks to come to my work as she alleged?)! I told her I didn’t think I could swing it. 

Tears, lots of tears. 

She had a rough week with her crazy allergies. And tears. I couldn’t stand it. I caved and told her that I could take her to work with me in the morning but then she would have to stay home and hang with Morgan. She was thrilled. 

We dropped off Mario in the morning (he thought we were heading to the doctor’s office – little white lie) and headed to High Street. Ri had on her black boots and vest. She looked more stylish than me (not too hard to accomplish). 

We had to head to an 8:30 am meeting. By 8:45, she was begging to go up to my office so she could play on the computer. I made her stay and endure the pain of the infamous “meeting” until 9:10 and then I let her go up to my office. She loved the swipe badge she had to use to get in the office and took every opportunity she had to use it.

We went to Starbucks for a morning beverage after my meeting and then she went to town on cleaning my bookcases – a much-needed task to complete. While she was sorting through binders of junk from 1998 she posed a question: “since its bring your “child” to school day, we should really bring Mario, too. He would be so pumped up, mom.”

Always looking out for her little bro.

So we picked Mario up at his lunch time and took him back to my work. He was pumped. Maria taught him how to use the swipe card and showed him where all my candy was stashed. 


They played in my office and continued to clean. Maria wanted me to sit in another office far away but Mario wanted me to stay. I answered questions about what books to keep and toss and posed legal hypotheticals to them. Mario was intrigued with the hypotheticals; Ri not so much. She was wondering about lunch. We decided to get lunch downstairs at the cafe – they had 50% off pizzas, which Ri knew would make me smile. They wanted to eat in my office so we trekked back upstairs and dug into our discounted pizzas. After another half hour of watching me answer email and research, they were ready to call it a day. 

“Can we go home now” they both pleaded. 

They didn’t last as long as I thought they would but I give them credit for trying. My next career will be much more exciting as a park ranger in Yosemite…

I dropped them off at the house to Morgan and gave them a writing assignment: write a paragraph about whether you think you’d like to be a lawyer when you grow up.

I came home to two paragraphs: one from Ri and one from Mario. They couldn’t have had more different take-aways.


I think Mario was more intrigued with the notion of having his own office and being able to boss people around than actually being a lawyer; although he was intrigued with managing a “case file.” Ri was definitely not a fan of meetings; she still has bad memories of her last “bring your kid to school” experience three years ago where she wrote a poem titled “meetings are boring, boting, boring.” But she loved the perks of an office setting: free food (actually, she didn’t realize that me and others stocked the fridge) and jumbo post-it notes at your beckon call. 

Only time will tell what influence this day had on their future careers. I’m perfectly happy if they choose to run faraway from the legal profession or if they choose to embrace justice. I just want them to be as happy as they were when we were in the car driving to my office that morning. 

Trooper 

The girl is a trooper. Her poor little eyes have been swollen for three straight days. Swollen, itchy, stinging. Yet, she does not stomp around the house blasting her misery in every direction. She does not cry and wail and pout in the corner. 

Rather, she lays in our bed with a washcloth over her eyes and begs for her little brother to give her a hug. She only wants her Mario. And Mario innately knows that he needs to be there; his brotherly love is in full force and comes through when Ri truly needs it. 

Mario is not one to give away free hugs to his sis (whereas Ri would hug her bro every millisecond if possible – as seen below).  But he senses when it’s necessary and he obliges. Last night, she was upstairs crying after I put her to bed. I didn’t hear her but Mario did. He yelled for me, and I stopped doing the dishes and walked upstairs. I found Mario holding the washcloth on Ri’s eyes and Ri’s arm wrapped around his waist. 

She had stopped crying. 

Mario repeated “you got this Ri; you will be ok.”