Dancing and basketball

Maria had her eighth-grade dance on Friday night. We hit the jackpot with the first online dress we bought. She loved it, it looked spectacular on her, and I did not need to go into a shopping mall. Win all around! Being on student council, she had the task of coming up with the theme of the dance and decorating for it. They decided on a Hollywood awards theme and she ended up winning “most likely to become a millionaire” (and take care of her parents). The boy who also won it is the boy she has had a crush on for quite a while. Hilarious. I heard from her friends that some of the girls danced but the boys basically sat against the wall. Nothing has changed from the 1980s.

Jon and I realized that we had tickets to see John Cusack on Friday night. We realized this on Wednesday evening while talking with Jon’s brother and sister-in-law at the house. They stopped by late in the evening as they were heading to Colorado. The conversation turned to Christmas gifts and Jon’s brother asked him what he got. We both looked at each other in concern. Had we forgotten to go to our John Cusack event? I had bought Jon the tickets for his Christmas gift and we had forgotten all about it. Luckily, we had not missed it; however, it was two days away. We found someone for Mario to hang with because he gets scared being at the house by himself.

Maria wanted a bunch of her girlfriends to come back for a sleepover after the dance, which we allowed. What were we thinking? We came back to the looks of a sorority house at 4 AM. The kitchen was trashed with empty chip bags, cake mix and batter all over the counters and floor, and random freezer pop plastic tubes with remaining Popsicle juice everywhere. The girls were pumped up on sugar and laughing hysterically in the basement. Jon and I hit the sack at midnight and could hear them loud and clear for some time. We keep saying that this is just our insurance for when we get older and the kids need to watch over us. They better come to our side after we allowed all this!

Jon was a saint and took all of the girls to the eighth grade boys basketball game in Whitehall at 9:30 AM the next morning. They got to see their opposite sex classmates win the championship, and then Jon took them out to lunch afterwards. He is a sucker. Maria got home and headed right back out the door for a Girl Scout campout from Saturday night until Sunday. She loves these types of weekends – filled with friends.

Mario was charged up that Jon and I had something to do on Friday because he got to spend the night with his buddy. His buddy’s mom took them to Target to and they ended up riding bikes around the store. I guess the teenagers who were managing the area didn’t care. Gotta love them. He also managed to buy a whole pack of Oreos that he chowed down through the night. I took him to his basketball lesson on Saturday morning, and he felt good about his shooting for the tournament game that evening. He wanted to come home and show me all of the moves he learned. After he did that, I told him he had to help me fold laundry. He agreed but on one condition – that we watch the most famous dunks on Netflix while we folded laundry.

Peepaw came in on Saturday evening to watch him in Marysville. He got treated to a blowout with Mario making over 10 points. Grandma Ionno came in on Sunday morning for the 9 AM game and got treated to another blowout with Mario making quite a few points as well. But then the noon game came – and the team could not make shots to save their life. I could see Mario’s frustration from a mile away. The team he was put with for this tournament are good kids but a few of them lack the passion and drive that Mario has for the sport. That, in addition to Mario not getting his shots in, caused him to look very flustered on the court. I kept trying to yell for him to get out of his head but he was tuning us all out. Jon finally took him out in the last minute because he was complaining so much. He has got to learn to be a team player and to not blame others or the refs (even if they may be at fault). He’s gotta recognize his own flaws as well. But, a lecture right after the loss was not going to go anywhere. He had calmed down within 15 minutes and even managed to say “love you” when we left him to watch his buddies play another game.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Absolutely adorable.

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

flash mob and chugging

I took Ri and a friend to the Grandview Hop last Saturday night. Mario spent the night with his buddy Zach another football buddy at Zach’s house. His mom texted me at 10 pm “I just walked downstairs to find all three boys in their skivvies playing Madden football.” What a sight.

Meanwhile, Ri and Henley and I sampled pork burritos and listened to the 80’s music blasting from a Young Professionals booth. Two young gals were dancing away to “Centerfold” and trying to sing the lyrics. People make fun of the 80’s yet here they are choosing that music over any other. 

We met up with Doris and Kim. Ri had several important questions for them – the most important being whether they were both wearing dresses to their wedding in a few weeks. Then questions about what color their clothing would be, who would walk them down the aisle and so on…They answered all of her pressing questions as they always do. Love them. 

We walked towards Stauf’s when out of the blue, a flash mob started dancing to one of the latest pop hits. Now granted, the mob wasn’t scores of folks but it was still a flash mob! And what did Ri immediately do? 

Jump right into the mix.

She got her friend out there with her and they jammed through two more songs. Then she was on fire! She ran up and down the street with her friend and another girlfriend who arrived late – laughing and shouting and talking to random people. They met a woman who made art out of her condo and she invited us in to see her studio. Ri and her friends loved it. And they found adorable rings for me to purchase for them…!

  We walked back out to the party only to find a boy in Ri’s class eating ice cream with his mom. The girls had to get a picture with him before they’d leave him alone. Poor guy.  I bought the girls some Jeni’s ice cream (sugar – just what they needed) and they each got a cup of water. Maria stopped them as soon as they got out the door and yelled “let’s chug the water and the first one to chug and throw their cup down wins!” 

Seriously?! I had visions of her at age 18 in the college bar with her girlfriends. Yikes.   Maybe she will get it all out of her system now and hole herself in her dorm room to study every night when she hits college?

Weekend round-up

We got treated to a visit from Aunt Jane, Uncle Steve, Robert and Laura on Saturday morning. They came up to see Mario’s football game. We took Rocco to the vet at 9 am to hear that he was looking good and then rushed to Tim Horton’s to get lucky timbits for Mario to eat pre-game. The line inside and out was ridiculously long so Jon took me and the kids home and drove to another Tim Horton’s while we changed. The ovens at that Tim Horton’s were down so there were no donuts. You would have thought Mario was just told he would never be able to walk again. He lost it. Flailing everywhere. Bawling.

Once he calmed down, I told him we could get some magical donuts at BP and a cereal bar. Maybe they would work even better to allow him to score touchdowns. We stopped for them and got on the highway at 10:15 – his game started at 10:30. The highway we needed was closed. We spent the next 20 minutes trying to find an alternate route that wasn’t busy. I was irked because Jane and Steve had come to see the game and we were late. Jon was irked because I was irked. The kids, luckily, were oblivious listening to Radio Disney on their headphones. I was telling myself the whole way that I cannot control the situation; stay calm; breathe. I eventually convinced myself when we were two minutes away.

It was great having Jane and Steve and Robert and Laura at the game – they completely got into it jumping up and down and yelling for Mario as he ran for a touchdown.
I had ice cream with them later and reminisced about the good ol’ days when I rode in the trunk of the station wagon with no seat belts and played in the deep water with no life vest!

When we got home, Jon swept Mario away to Big Mario’s and Aunt Vickie’s house to fish and go four-wheeling. Mario’s dream come true. He got treated like royalty between cookies and pasta and a coyote skin that Big Mario had treated just for him. He couldn’t wait to show it off when he got home Sunday night.

Meanwhile, Ri and I got her present ready for her sleepover at the Hyatt. Yeah, a hotel sleepover. The birthday party detail continues to be raised up notches. Pretty soon you will be expected to rent out a ballroom and boy band for an eighth birthday party.

After I dropped Ri off at 4:00, I had the night to myself. I got a massage at 4:30 and then spent the rest of the night with little dude.

I was like this with Cy, too. I would make big plans in my head to go to the movies or the coffee shop to read but then Cy would look out the window at me and I’d turn around and spend the evening with him. So Rocco and I enjoyed the evening together with a walk to Pet People that took two hours with all the stops we had to make (between sniffing, laying down, and people petting) and watched a Sarah Polley documentary (which was quite good). We hit the sack at 10:15 pm and started all over at 6:30 am.
Maria texted me from her friend’s mom’s phone at 9:30 am asking me to pick her up. One of her friends had called her “heavy” and not let her participate in a game. Ugh, girls. But Ri is such an old soul and was able to process that her friend was probably mad about something else that had happened at the party and took it out on Ri. Pretty impressive intuition for an 8 year old.

She wanted time with her mama anyway – we took Rocco for a walk, bought a pooper scooper and a toaster at Target (she loved that I combined these two things in one sentence), and got a pedicure!


As the night wore on, and Rocco got in his chew stage (Maria’s friend came over to apologize and Rocco accidentally caught her little brother with those sharp puppy teeth while chasing him), I started to get testy. I made Ri get on Xtra Math and she complained. Then, once on, she did poorly. She was not answering simple subtraction quick enough and I let my end of day fatigue take over.
“Come on Ri, you have to get these more quickly. This is why you have to do Xtra Math everyday. You aren’t getting simple problems right.”
She started crying as I peered over her shoulder and watched her every move. I let out a sigh when she missed another and she jolted up and ran upstairs crying and yelling “you are the worst mom ever!”
I sat on the kitchen chair staring at the computer. I definitely could have handled this better. I know how much Ri hates pressure and stress so why did I stand over her shoulder? Yea, I know why….

I called her back down to finish Xtra Math, which she did. Then I swung her legs around to meet mine, looked her straight in the eyes (those beautiful blue eyes) and told her I loved her more than anything. I also apologized for putting undue pressure on her. She reached out and hugged me and apologized, too. We both decided that the fight warranted an ice cream cone so we headed off to UDF for double dip peanut butter ‘n’ chip.

And we both concurred that ice cream solves all problems.

Partyin’ til the Cows Come Home

Party Girl

Maria slept over at her friend’s house last night.  Her friend turned seven and had Maria and two other girls over for a birthday party/sleepover.  She wrapped her friend’s presents (two barbies) in Christmas paper (I never buy wrapping paper besides Christmas time); signed her card, and found a big party bag to place all of the goodies.  These are the times that I think she could make it by herself in her own apartment better than most 20 year olds.  When I told her she could call me or dad if she got scared, she looked at me with an exhausted look.  “Mom, pleease!”  And sure enough, Jon and I never heard a peep from her until we picked her up.  She had gotten a manicure, perfume, and made up with her girlfriends. 

Meanwhile, Jon and I had chilled with little Mario all night.  He wanted to play on my iPhone or ipad all night long.  He is completely and totally addicted to all things electronic.  He could sit on the floor, legs crossed, head cocked downward to see the screen, and tap on the iPad all day long.  He is mesmerized by whatever he is playing.  You could call his name ten times and he still doesn’t hear you.  Scary stuff.  Was I like that when I played PacMan on Atari?  He gets away with murder when Maria is gone because Jon and I let him stay up while we watch a show or read.  He plays the iPad the entire time.  I figure he is in school all week with no electronics so why not let him live it up on the weekends. 

Mario and his iPad

In any case, after we make him turn off the electronics, I read to him for at least 20 minutes.  He enjoys that time with me, which is good. At least he is not crying for more electronics or covering his ears yelling “I’m not listening!”, which is how he reacts anymore when he gets mad at you (learned behavior from his sister, I believe). And he understands the books we read – he can tell me the main idea of the story every time.  So, his fixation with electronics doesn’t concern me… yet.  

We picked up Maria from her friend’s house this afternoon and visited our old neighbors, Doris and Kim.  We had not visited them since we moved in our new house (we are so bad that way).  They always welcome us into their house, and the kids love them.  They hung out with Kim outside while we talked to Doris.  Kim does anything they want; today she let Maria act like she was driving her car and let Mario toss a ball to Gunther (their dachshund). 

As soon as we left and walked in our door, Maria asked “when am I going to Alana’s house”  My brother-in-law invited her to spend the night tonight through Monday since they are going to watch Maria on Monday while Jon and I work.  Jon and I are chopped liver anymore.  The girl likes to get her party on.  We packed her up and Jon took her over.  She’s gone until Monday. 

Mario, meanwhile, loves having his sister gone for a day or two (any longer and he misses her like crazy).  He gets Jon and me all to himself.  I play baseball with him (he has got an arm on him and can hit pretty good, too).  I take him for a bike ride and he is in the lead the entire time (when Maria goes with us, she always gets in the lead).  We go to the library and he gets all my attention while he plays his computer games (usually I read to Maria while he plays).  We play Wii  table tennis and he kicks my butt!  We play Hi Ho Cherry-O, and he refuses to stop playing until he wins a game.  No, he’s not competitive at all…. 

Jon and Mario  play hunting games on the iPad.  Mario yells “Dad, I shot the bear right in the heart!”  Jon gives him the rock and then takes a turn.  Mario watches in awe.  They are hilarious together.  I think Mario will be supplying the meat for the family in no time.  Meanwhile, Maria will be busy having sleepovers and partying it up til the cows come home.

Broken windows and dreams

We survived the holiday weekend.  Maria’s cousin, Alana stayed with us from Saturday through Monday morning.  I love having her over because the girls get along so well.  They go up to Ri’s room and play barbies or listen to Justin Bieber or play Pet Shop in the basement.  I can actually read a little bit of a book or clean the house without having Maria at my heels asking me to play.  Alleluia.  And I love that they are so close.  I wish I would have been as close to my cousin when I was little.  They are good for each other, too.  Maria shows Alana how to be more daring and Alana shows Maria how to play something for more than three minutes.

Mario stayed at Grandma Ionno’s house on Saturday night until Sunday.  He loves himself some Grandma and Grandpa time because he is all by himself and spoiled to death.  He gets to wrestle, show-off, watch tv, and lay around in his pjs.  Not a bad life.  He did want to come home on Sunday night, however, because he knew Alana would be there.  Jon explained to him that the girls may want alone time and Mario chirped back “Alana will want to play with me because she tells me all the time how cute I am.” Oh, ok…. We gotta watch that head of his.

When he walked in, the girls showered him with hugs and love (no wonder his head is big).  They all went upstairs and played “Big Time Rush”. This game consists of Maria and Alana being themselves and Mario being one of the BTR singers.  He played James when we saw him.  He walked by us with his nose in the air as Maria and Alana fawned over him.  It seemed to come natural to him – scary.

I walked up to Stauf’s to do some reading around 5 pm.  Jon watched the kids.  I got a call around 5:45 from Jon.  “Get home now” he stated firmly.  “Mario punched his window out.” My mind leapt to blood everywhere, glass shattered all over.  Luckily, his had suffered a couple of cuts with no glass in them and the glass mostly landed on the roof.  Jon had already subjected him to the wall when I arrived home.  He held a tissue on his hand.  He looked like a mean mama-jamba.  He looked like a prize-fighter.  Jon and I are in for it.  I made him put alcohol on it so that he felt the sting – until that time, he really didn’t see any negative consequences to his behavior.  After I stung him with the alcohol, he cried and shouted “I don’t want to do that again!”  When Jon asked him why he would want to punch his window, this was his response: “I wanted to get on the news.” Oh, are we truly in trouble.

Mario showing his wounds

After that chaos, the kids fell asleep in Maria’s room; Maria and Alana in the bed and Mario on the floor in his sleeping bag and band-aid. 

On Monday, we all talked about what an incredible figure Martin Luther King was and is in our society.  Both girls knew what he stood for and what he fought against.  I told Maria how we walked across the Broad Street bridge when she was one year old in order to honor him.  She couldn’t remember.  Mario knew that MLK “had a dream.” I told him how I remember going to his classroom when he was two and seeing his picture on the bulletin board.  The teachers had taught the kids about MLK’s famous “I have a dream” speech.  They then had the kids tell them what they dreamed of.  The words underneath Mario’s picture were “I dream of ‘popsicles’!” 

Thanks for giving us dreams, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Hangin’ with the Cousins

Baby Grace

Liz and Baby Grace came to visit us today. Maggie and I were hoping she would come up and spend the day with us! Baby Grace has been my biggest fan lately running up to me when she sees me and begging to be held. I love the way that she chirps “Aunt Mary.” Mario showed her all around the house and played with her in Maria’s room. He tried to find books that she would enjoy, barbies she would like, and toys that were “baby toys.”

Maria taking Zach over!

Soon after they arrived, Maria came home from a sleepover with her friend, Zach (when are girls too old to sleep over at boys’ houses?!). Zach and her are the best of friends and the worst of friends. They play really well for an hour or two, and then they scream at each other non-stop. They both are passionate, loud people and neither will back down when they believe they are right (and they always believe they are right). Zach’s mom reported that they woke up by 8 am and by 11 am, it was time to split them up. Maria was bummed about coming home until she realized Gracie was here. She grabbed her up and gave her the “Maria Bear-Hug” smothering Gracie in pure love.

The kids danced to  Wii Dance Party 3. Mario and Maria both figured out that the number of stars you get relates to how well you followed the moves. They both get upset when they doesn’t dance perfectly. They should add stars if you sing along to the song – Mario would have the max. He tries to sing to every song. After we danced for a while and I carried Gracie to every room, we decided to get some lunch at Champps. Thank god for electronics. Maria and Grace played with my Iphone and Mario played his leapster allowing for Liz, Maggie and me to talk. A wonderful gift! How did Maggie and Liz turn from little babes to smart, funny, endearing women? I swear it was yesterday that I was changing their diapers and playing peek-a-boo with them!

The crew at Champps

After lunch, Maria opted to hang with Liz and Mag and Grace at Target and Mario and I went home. We got out the stroller (it hit 52 degrees today) and headed to Giant Eagle to find discount Christmas toys and candy. I supply M&Ms at work and getting the big bags for $1.00 is too good of a deal to pass. We also scored a baby doll for Gracie. On the way home, Mario asked me to tell him a story. Mario loves stories about him in different situations. Typically, he is in the forest saving animals or on a boat catching big fish. After my fourth one, I looked down and he was fast asleep (yeah, I have quite enticing stories)! It reminded me of when Mario was one-year-old and I used to stroll him around the neighborhood to get him to sleep. I miss those days… somewhat.

Making "grass" angels

When we got home, the girls were waiting for us. Maggie and Liz were on the couch watching football and Maria and Graice were playing in the basement. Maria loves to watch Grace and try to teach her things. But Grace is an independent little soul, too, so she often wants to do things on her own. This leads to frustration on Maria’s part and a bit of crying. We decided that we would take a walk with Gracie to see if she would close to Maria on the playground. Sure enough, Gracie started to take to Maria as we walked along and maria continued to play peek-a-boo behind the trees. When Maria made a “grass” angel at the park, Gracie was hooked.

When we got home, we sat around watching football, eating ribs and ice cream, and taking turns playing with the kids. Liz and Mag left around 7:30 and the house felt empty. Messy, but empty. When I took the kids upstairs to bed, Maria asked if Gracie could come over again soon. In a heartbeat, I told her. I miss the chirping of “Aunt Mary.”