Sledding promotes good health. You get it all – you work out your heart by climbing up the hill, you work out your mind by trying to figure out where best to place your sled, and you work out your abs by laughing your butt off as you fly down the hill on your sled.

However, as much fun as it ends up being, it is a pain in the butt to get ready to sled. You have to throw on three layers of clothes (when it’s 5 degrees like it was for us), you can barely move around, and it’s impossible to pull on your boots without being able to bend at your waist. Then, there is pulling the sled out of the garage and hauling it to the car in the freezing cold. But the pay-off is huge.

Look at the smiles.

We haven’t gotten good sled riding in for a few years. We hardly got any snow last year, and the year before that the little bit of snow that we got came when both kids were out of town. I was scared half to death the first time we went down. I sat on a tiny circular plastic sled with Maria who is not shy about taking up almost all the space on it. My butt was barely in it when we took off. I just kept praying that we would not hit any rocks or ramps because I knew that my tailbone would hurt for days. The things you think about when you’re an adult. I would’ve been looking for that ramp when I was 10 years old.

We laughed so hard together as each one of us took some crazy fall or turn on the hill. I love all of us being together like that – being outdoors, being active, it’s my ideal day. And the one good thing about it being freezing cold all weekend was that the snow did not melt from the hill. Therefore, we were able to go sledding with Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jack through the weekend.

Elena had no fear going down the hill as long as somebody went with her. Sarah went on a little sled with Maria. She screamed as loud as I did when I went down with her.

Sarah and I even took a sledding trip together – both on a tiny little plastic sled. Thank God Sarah has no booty. Jack was a good sport as well. He went down with Maria a couple of times and watched each time the kids yelled “Uncle Jack, watch me!” They also had to impress their Uncle Jack by going down the abandoned hill that has all of the trees interspersed on either side. It scared me half to death but, live and learn, right!?

After sledding, I got cocky that we could build a snowman as well. The snow did not pack well at all for such a task but the kids still humored me and came outside. They shook their heads as I tried to pack down the airy snow. But they saw my strong desire, and decided they would help as much as they could. In the end it looked more like a snowman jabba the hut but it was something. How boring is a normal snowman anyway?

Old Man Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







With the freezing cold temperatures this past week, it was all you could do to run to your car, run inside, run back to your car and head home. I managed to take Rocco for daily walks but did not fathom asking the kids to come with me. He loves the weather and the snow.
I could not believe the three inches of snow on the ground when I woke up this past week. I was all irritated because I couldn’t go for a run. Those morning runs get my endorphins pumping and when I don’t get to start my day with them, it’s always tough revving up my energy.
I moseyed downstairs and made the kids breakfast. Ri had made her lunch and was ready to go with a ham and cheese and ketchup sandwich in hand. She might as well be in college. I kissed her goodbye and reluctantly went back upstairs to get ready for work. I yelled for Mario to put his shoes on. I heard nothing. After getting ready, I briskly walked down the stairs ready to scold Mario for not listening. Instead I heard a joyful scream.
“Mom, look at this!”
I walked out the back door and Mario was building a snowman.




The night was full of wrestling and slamming and playfully punching. Oh, and that trophy-thing. Mario loves getting him a trophy.

“I’m only 7, mom, and I have three trophies. I’m going to have so many by high school.” That’s our competitor.
Meanwhile, Ri came home from school to inform me that she was 1 of 4 fourth graders who made it to the school geography bee! The entire class took a test and the four top scorers get to move on to the school bee. The winners of the school bee go to the state bee and then the national bee. It’s sponsored by National Geographic. The questions are not easy either. It’s not like “what’s the capital of Ohio.” It’s like “in what country would you find a large number of Siberian tigers.” I was so excited for her. She was the only girl out of the four. That is my girl!

How the heck Jon and I managed to have such warm, smart, hilarious children, I do not know. But I rejoice over their presence in our lives every day I wake up. ;

Surviving Winter

This Winter is absolutely killin’ me. I think they said we’ve had over 29 inches of snow and a ridiculous number of days at 15 degrees or below. I can’t stand not being able to get up in the morning and take a run. I actually drove to the gym this morning, which already irritates me because I can’t stand having to drive to a gym (when I got home and Ri saw that I drove she gasped “Mary Menkedick Ionno DROVE to the gym?!”). Once there, I can’t stand to run on a treadmill so I hit the weights. I will look like the Hulk by springtime.
At least the kiddos have gotten out here and there to play. It’s great having Rocco around because he’s always in a playful spirit. The kids immediately latch onto it and join right in with him.


Last weekend, Grandma Ionno came down to stay with us. Alana and Gio came over, too. It was a whoopin’ good time. We took the kids to Galaxy Games and Golf on Saturday afternoon. They climbed up and down the gym set for 45 minutes. I joined them for 20 minutes and was exhausted when I went to sit down. All of them were actually sweating when they came out. Love it.

It wouldn’t be such a hit in the pocket if we left after the gym. But the kids are addicted to the video games, or moreover, the tickets generated from playing the video games. It floors me how a kid can spend over $20 to get 100 tickets and then have a choice of a plastic alien, a bag of sweet-tarts, or a balloon. But, I’m the idiot that keeps buying tokens….




It’s worth it to see the smiles on their faces. Patty hung right in there with me amidst the insanity of people running all over the place (kids and adults). She can hang really well. No wonder she can still take all four grand kids for days on end. She is the energizer bunny.

After Galaxy, we headed home to chill for a while. The kids played the rest of the day and evening (they got a sleepover!). It is a beautiful thing to have a niece and nephew practically the same age as my kids. And to have them at an age where they get along well and get excited at the prospect of a sleepover is all the better. Weekend trips to hang with my aunts (who were only a couple years older than me) make me appreciate the importance of routine cousin get-togethers.
On Sunday morning, the kids begged to head to DK Diner for breakfast. Ri and Mario had been filling Alana’s and Gio’s heads with stories of their incredible, gargantuan donuts. We made it before the big rush and promptly segregated ourselves to a girl table and boy table. Mario had to sit at the bar where he and Jon sit every Saturday morning (and Ri when she goes). Mario interacts with a cook named Mario. The cook Mario hooks little Mario up with some serious scrambled eggs. Then Mario adds a big chocolate long john to the mix. Gio copied Mario’s order, and they both sat staring at SpongeBob on the tv.

Meanwhile, us ladies sat at a table and talked about fractions and our favorite music and our crushes. Alana got a cinnamon roll the size of her head and Ri switched it up with a chocolate croissant. They both decided on Mickey Mouse pancakes and devoured them.

I wish Patty and I could have taken a walk but the cold and snow kept us inside. The kids loved having us all together though (all the kids slept with Patty on the floor in the family room Saturday night). Alana and Gio had to leave us on Sunday evening to get ready for school but Patty stayed to watch the first half of the Super Bowl. We made chili and got chips and dip. The kids wrestled with me and jumped all around with glee in having Grandma around. Mario wanted us all to root for Denver but Grandma was adamant that she wanted Seattle. She must have had that grandma intuition…!



Snowball personalities

Nothing like the snow to bring out our respective personalities:

Maria, the muscle. She rolled that snowball until it took both Jon and I to lift it.


Mario, the provoker. He threw snowballs at me and Jon and Ri every time we turned our backs on him.


Jon, the machine-lover. He couldn’t wait to get home to his snow blower and clear off the bit of snow at the end of the driveway that had accumulated throughout the day (Mario in the foreground making his snowball move).


And me. The do-er. “Let’s stop this nonsense and build our snowman!”
And since I have trained my kids well, we ended up with not one snowman but five of them scattered throughout our lawn (the neighbor kids did come down and help to their credit).





All in a day’s work

We got our Ri back today and it was so marvelous to have her running around the house. Our first activity was sled riding on Wyman Woods hill. It was quite a taxing event for Ri and me. We didn’t have any traction on our boots ( we wore rain boots) and the hill was icy in more places than not. We literally had to crawl up to the top of the hill from mid-way up because of the ice. People were laughing really hard at our expense. Meanwhile, Mario just cranked it up the hill without us and sped down on an old-school wooden sled that his friend brought to the park. Maria and I broke his red plastic slide within five minutes of arriving at the park when we tried to go down on it together. It cracked in 10 pieces and my bottom was soaked from Ri using me as her sled the rest of the way down the hill.

Ri was not as big of a fan of the sled-riding as Mario. She was nervous heading down the hill and tried to stop herself by putting out her hands and legs and then flipping over on her stomach and jumping off her slide half way down the hill. When she did go down properly, she liked it by the end of the slide but she had no desire to do it more than twice. She was much more happier making snow angels.


Mario finally joined us after his friend left and proceeded to bombard us with snowballs. He even managed to get one down my pants, the bum.



The kids played around in the snow a bit and then it hit them that they were freezing. They whined all the way to the car. Once home, they tore off their clothes and got in warm ones and we took down the tree. Yes, I am Scrooge as Jon says. Ri helped me take it down while Mario dropped pieces of an ornament that slipped out of my grasp to see how many more pieces he could see shatter. I did make him watch out not to step on the broken pieces….

They eventually got bored with that activity and decided to massage each other on our cushion in the front room. Maria belted out orders to Mario: “Massage my back, go higher, get my arm, now my head….” Mario smartly decided to charge her $20 and then she decided to leave the massage joint.

We got outside before the evening set in and built a snowman. Ri and I actually built it while Mario threw snowballs with Jon. Quite impressive snowman compared to our past attempts.


After freezing ourselves again, we headed in for warmth. I decided to pull out Maria’s homework with the hopes I could get her excited about it. Somehow, by the grace of a higher being, she didn’t complain and even turned the page after doing the first set of problems. I wanted to set off fireworks.

We got stuck on one question involving a trapezoid and three triangles. It asked what traditional shape the four shapes could make. Jon and I thought about it and drew some things but couldn’t get anything. We were thinking triangle or square…. So Ri and I called in reinforcements – Peepaw and Mama Meg . We gave the scenario to Peepaw and he immediately thought that the shape would be a parallelogram. At the same time he told Ri that, I had drawn a parallelogram. Us Menkedicks are always on the same wave length. We texted the shapes to Peepaw and Mama Meg to see if they thought we were right, and Meg also came up with a hexagon. We are set!




Talk about a full day – sledding, snowman building, breaking down the Christmas tree and ornaments, and solving math problems. I think it’s pjs and movie day tomorrow.

Mario and me time

mariocardsMario Joseph got stuck with his mama and papa the last three days while Maria partied with Alana and Grandma Ionno in Marion.  But he managed to have a decent time with us, I think.  We spent Wednesday night eating Cheese-Its and chocolates while playing Three Little Pigs.  Three Little Pigs is a card game like crazy eights but with the characters from the Three Little Pigs story.  They were my grandma’s playing cards, and when she died last March, I begged to keep them.  Now every time I deal them out to Ri and Mario, I think of her playing the game with me at their age.  I don’t ever remember her telling me that she wouldn’t play with me.  She was always ready for a hand.

Mario places his cards on the chair next to him because he can’t hold them all in his hand.  He loves to win, imagine that, and usually does with me.  He rubs it in for a few minutes and then says “that’s ok, mom, I will play you again and see if you can win the next time.”

Wednesday morning and afternoon were rough because it was snowing like crazy outside and we were stuck in the house.  We watched some tv, played on the iPad, played Wii, read some books, and Mario amused me with his imaginary play.  We even got in a nap in the middle of the day, or I should say that I got in a nap while Mario watched SpongeBob for an hour. Mario kept saying “it’s ok, mom, you need your sleep, you can keep sleeping.”

mariosledThursday was much better. The snow laid thick in our yard and the sun shined bright.  It was cold enough to keep the snow from melting but sunny enough to not feel frozen when you walked outside.  We walked to the library to find a Wii game and then walked to the park with our plastic sled.  The park was awesome.  There was only one other person on the hill with his two kids and we got to sled down non-stop for an hour.  Mario wanted me to go with him the first two times, and I must admit that I was a tad hesitant to go on our tiny red plastic slide.  Last time I went with Ri, I broke it.  But the sled held up sledwell, and we laughed hysterically as we sled down the hill.  Mario decided he wanted to go by himself the remainder of the time.  I sat at the bottom of the hill (or the top depending on whether Mario wanted me to walk up with him) and smiled incessantly as I watched Mario speed down the hill.  I think sled riding is an activity that you can’t help but feel good watching.  Everyone has huge smiles on their faces and thrill in their hearts as they descend the hill.  It lifted my spirits and when we left, I felt a bit lighter in my step.

We returned later in the afternoon for more fun and the hill was packed with people. The snow had all but disintegrated and the green grass poked through.  But people were still flying down on their sleds so Mario and I jumped in the fray.  Mario took all of the sledders by storm and whisked past them landing ten feet farther than all of them.  He was mighty proud of that achievement.

mariosnowJon picked us up and we headed home to shovel the sidewalk and build a snowman.  Mario and I made a sad little snowman that looked like someone had flattened it with a large griddle.  We used carrots for its eyes and nose and a “v” shaped stick for its mouth.  Mario was happy with it so that is all that mattered. We came inside for the night, ate macaroni and cheese and fell asleep at 7:30 on the recliner chair.  Jon nudged me, and I walked Mario up to our bed at 8:15.  I had big plans of heading back down to hang with Jon but Mario woke up when I put him in bed and begged me to lay with him.  I was back out in five minutes and woke up again at 11:30 pm with Mario snuggled up in my chest, his forehead laying perfectly on the bottom of my neck.  Pure heaven.