Happy 10th birthday, Mario!

I can’t believe you are 10, Mario Joseph. With the way you act and what you know, I swear you are 18. This was evident when I went out shopping for your birthday gift. When I typed in 10 year old boy gifts on Amazon, I got a barrage of Lego sets, superhero masks, Nerf guns, and Pokémon cards. This show of gifts was a complete disconnect from what you had been asking for in the last few months. Your thinking was around an iPhone 7, a superb headset to use for vlogging, a pair of Uzzs or whatever those high-priced rapper sneakers are. You love the bling, that is for sure.

This year, you got into Jake Paul and rap music (a boy after his mama’s heart). I would find you in your room with your ear buds in jamming out. You even started to rap a bit after watching a lot of Jake Paul videos. I would try to teach you a few rap tricks while riding in the car, but all you would do was laugh at me and shake your head disapprovingly. 

You also got into YouTube big time. You love to watch videos on it but you also created your own YouTube channel. Your dream is to get 1 million subscribers. You started a giveaway in order to try to increase your subscribership. The first thing you gave away was a wallet in the mold of $100 bill. Dad and I watched your clip, and we were so proud of you! Actually, we were in awe that you had even created such a video – we have some homework to do to make sure you are staying within the bounds of a 10-year-old. But what are those bounds? We are still trying to test them out – we want you to be able to have the freedom to express yourself but we also want to make sure you are not engaging in activity that could end up harming you or us. Little did I think that I would have these issues when you arrived 10 years ago.

You continue to assert your independence. Ever since you were six, you felt as though you could walk or bike places all by yourself. Even places that were miles away. You were so excited for school this year because you are able to walk by yourself. Actually, you have chosen to walk with several of your guy friends but you love the thought of not having dad or I have to take you to school. You loved going to the pool by yourself this year and meeting up with friends. Of course, you depended on me and dad to give you $5 to spend while you were at the pool but that’s as close as we got to you there. You also enjoyed hitting the library by yourself. I think you may actually read a book up there but for the most part I think you just enjoy hanging with friends or playing on the Wii. 

You have also gotten into gym shoes this year. And not just any old gym shoes, but the best of the best. Kyrie basketball shoes, Jordans, and  expensive Saucony running shoes. Of course, you know your mom’s weakness. I cannot say no to a sweet pair of gym shoes. You and I have found I love in going to the running store and trying on 10 different pairs of shoes (we only walk out with one or two pairs each though:)). 

As much as you like receiving nice things, you also exercised your giving muscles this year. You attended Feed the Streets with me and you went to the shelter to help pack food during the summer. You also collected backpacks for homeless kids going back to school, and talked up a storm to the YMCA coordinators when we delivered them to the shelter. You enjoy giving to people, both in donations and in laughter. You had the coordinators cracking up and amazed at how confident you were at your age.

You and your cousin have gotten into scootering. You love to watch tricks being performed online by skaters, and then trying them out yourself. You have been trying to master some flip turns at the skate park. You love heading to your grandma’s house because she takes you and your cousin to the skate park everyday. 

You talk about moving to LA every other day, and buying a Lamborghini or a Bugatti. You dream of hosting a killer YouTube channel and having millions of fans. Somehow, dad and I can picture this dream coming true for you based on your personality. 

You still love chocolate and sugar just like your mom – you will chow down a chocolate long john donut at any time of the day or night. You love a good action or comedy film – the days of watching Pixar movies with you are over – you want PG-13 everything, if not R…. You would drop everything to go fishing or hunting with your dad. The only activity I engage in with you where I get that reaction is wrestling. You still love to wrestle with me (it’s getting harder and harder with your increased strength).  You fight with your sis at times but in the end, you always have her back. If you see her getting messed with, you move right to her side. You are still an emotional thing and very sensitive. You get really upset when someone interrupts you and you get sullen when someone says something that hurts your feelings. You want respect (but you have to remember to give it, too). You have gotten better at expressing your frustrations more calmly since you have gotten closer to the double digits. We are working now on letting go of comments that may hurt your feelings and enveloping a greater sense of worth about yourself and your abilities. 

When I asked you what 10 would bring, you told me you wanted to learn more scooter tricks. When I asked about school, you said you wanted to read faster. When I asked what you wanted to do with your mom, you stated that you wanted to do more for the homeless (you knew the right answer!). When I asked what you wanted to do with your dad, your immediately chirped back that you wanted to go hunting, and lots of it. 

Dad and I are so lucky to have you in our lives. You bring much laughter to the household and beyond. You also remind us to play hard and let go of chores and work. Jump on the bed and wrestle. Head out back and play basketball. Watch the skater on Xbox take a head dive. It’s all cool, just like you. Happy 10th birthday, my darlin’. We love you!

Happy 9th birthday, Mario!

Mario turned nine yesterday. At least, he turned nine in biological years. In Mario years, he’s 21. 


If he could break free from the confines of his parent’s house, he’d do it in a heart beat. If he could head to the bar and drink a cold one, he’d be off. If he could head to the coffee shoppe and get an espresso, he would walk there in a second. If he could bike to campus to hang out with millennials, he’d grab his helmet and take off. 

This is not to say that he doesn’t still ask me to get him water or rub his back at night. It’s not to say that when he’s chillin’ on the couch he doesn’t ask me to sit next to him and snuggle. He even still let’s me squeeze and kiss him in private (he’d die if I did it around friends). 

But he has definitely hit an independence streak. I think he may deal with us until age 16 and then pack his bags for California and take off to hang with the surfer dudes and make vlogs. But he loves  money so much that if he did move out, he’d be one of those young, hip entrepreneurs who drops out of high school but makes millions.

So, how to sum up Mario’s eighth year of life? He loves you tube. He loves watching music videos. He loves playing video games with his buddies. He loves going to football games and playing on the hill with his friends and talking with the older kids. He loves wrestling and jumping all around the house. He loves sports. He enjoys biking by himself to the library or down to school. He still craves chocolate everything. He will drop all plans to go fishing. He remains a total character. He is compassionate and sweet, and loves to make people laugh.

Some highlights from his eighth year:

1. Football games with his buddies and sideline passes with his dad.


2. Halloween trick-or-treating with his two friends (and mom not standing too close to them as they went house to house)…and a boatload of candy!


3. Serving Thanksgiving meal to homeless men at the Y and chatting it up with them.


4. Christmas morning opening presents – oh, the drama and anticipation!

5. A broken arm! At 11:20 pm on NYE, you ran into my friend’s dining room  holding your arm and crying that it was broken. Your friend had fell down on it as you were playing. Sure enough, it was. We sat at the hospital as the New Year was brought in laughing at you in your “high” state from the pain meds. 


6. You took care of Grandpa Ionno’s grave in Marietta.

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7. You went to Feed the Streets with me and walked a mile passing out water and lunches to people in need.

8. You went hunting with your dad and “had the best day of your life!”


9. You watched OSU hockey with your buddies in a suite with tons of cookies, and met Brutus!


10. You got all dressed up for Easter and killed it on the volleyball court.


11. You went on Spring Break with the Webers and Muellers to Hocking Hills. You went fishing and hiked. I met you there two days into break and we explored together. You loved taking risks and climbing steep rock climbs.


12. You cranked baseball this year – one of the strongest players!


13. You fed a baby calf and named it after a girl at school (romantic, just like your dad).

14. You starred in your first talent show singing “We will rock you!”

15. You became enamored with ball pythons.

16. You started sporting sweet Panama Jack hats.


17. You won Elena’s heart by making her laugh with your silly antics.


18.You kayaked and fished on Lake Erie.


19. You went white-water rafting, zip lined, and completed a mud obstacle course in West Virginia!


20. You blobbed your sister!

21. You swam in the creek at Park of the Roses with your pup!

22. You won a poop emoji at the Ohio State Fair!


23. You started third grade – your last year at RLS!


24. You celebrated your birthday with a bunch of friends at Get Air and a sleepover!


Happy birthday our sweet Mario. I hope this year brings you lots of learning experiences and lots of adventures. And guess what?

We love you (you weren’t here to say it before me:)!).

Lunch with my boy

  Right as we were getting ready to head to school yesterday, Mario asked me to take him to lunch. He’s been asking me to do that here and there over the last month. I saw that I had a break on my calendar from 11:30-1:30 so I told him I could do it. A huge smile swept his face. 

I picked him up at 11:40. He was sitting in the office reading a book and waiting for me. The principal asked him where he was going for lunch and he responded “Marshall’s.” I am thankful for a restaurant across the street from his school since I biked to meet him. 

We took a look at the fish as we entered Marshall’s. They have some big ol’ goldfish swimming in a pool of water. Mario loves to watch them. Mario chose a table and we skimmed the menu. He had already decided that he wanted chocolate chip pancakes. 

I asked him about his day and told him about mine. I told him I had asked a question to my colleagues to start my morning meeting and the question was “what would you do for a living if you weren’t a lawyer.” He was intrigued. He asked what people answered. I started to tell him and after about the third answer I gave him, he said “what was the most dangerous job that someone wanted to do?”

Of course. I had to be more exciting! So I told him about the guy that wanted to work on a safari and be around lions and elephants. That intrigued him a bit. Then we talked about Perkins pancakes and how much I loved waitressing there throughout my late teens and twenties. 

I enjoyed having time with just him. Typically, when Jon or I have alone time with a kid it is paired as dad/Mario and Mom/Ri so it was all the sweeter to have some quality time with just Mario. He’s such a good kid with a sense of humor and a desire to learn and ask questions. He also loves to hear about his past. We spent a good chunk of time talking about his growth development from the time he was an infant until now. We went to the doctor’s office this week and learned that he was in the 50th percentile for height and 83rd persontile for weight. I told him he used to be in the 20th percentile for weight and height. He was charged to learn that he shot up so high in height and weight. It also was used as an argument by him that he did not need to eat any more of his eggs.   

His friends were right outside the restaurant window as we were eating. I asked if he wanted to go play with them at recess but he chose to hang with me. Yes, that is one for the memory banks. I will bring that back to light when he is older and begging to go hang with friends at the park. 

We headed back to his school with five minutes to spare. He asked me to go to his classroom. I gladly obliged. He showed me a game they play with a globe. All the kids rushed in shortly thereafter and it was time for me to head out. I knew better to hug Mario so I just whispered bye and he waved bye to me. As I walked out, Mario’s teacher stopped me and quietly told me “Mario was so excited to go to lunch with you.” Little did he know that the feeling was mutual.

Chili contest 

Last Friday, one of my colleagues announced that we needed more people to enter the chili cook-off the following Monday. I have never participated in the cook-off. Why? Real simple. I don’t cook.

As Maria and Mario attest “dad is a good cook with the grill and mom is a good cook with the microwave.”

I agreed that I’d submit a chili because I figured I could make extra to feed the family for a couple of days. On Sunday, I dropped Ri off at basketball. Mario and I hopped in the car to head to Kroger’s to purchase a gift card for Mario’s friend’s birthday. 

“I volunteered to make chili for a cook-off at work, Mario. We need to get some ingredients when we are at Kroger’s.”

“What’s a cook off, mom?”

I explained to him that three OSU football players come in and taste all the chilis and choose a winner. The winner gets a football (I embellished the story a bit – it’s two former players and an athletics outreach director and the football stays in the office, but hey, I had to capture his attention). 

“Mom, we have to win!”

He asked for my phone and typed in “world’s greatest chili recipe ever.” He handed me my phone with the first recipe that came up. I made him help me get all the ingredients, which he merrily did. 

“We are gonna win, mom.”

I made the chili later in the evening while Mario was at his party. He came home and saw the skillet and smelled the goodness. I gave him a bite and he smiled. “That’s gonna win.”

And sure enough, Stan Jefferson and the two young men he brought with him chose our chili as the winner. I squealed when they called out my chili as the winner like I had won a trip to the Bahamas. I was so excited to tell Mario (it had to be the salsa addition to the chili mix). 

  
I walked in the door with the football in my book bag. Mario was looking at his iPad. I whipped out the football and broke the news. Mario jumped up and fist bumped me. I knew we’d win, mom!”

It helped that I used two pounds of ground beef – double the amount called for – knowing my audience would appreciate that call. But I believe it was Mario’s optimism that ultimately pushed us to victory. He tasted victory all along.

  

watchin’

It’s been quite a week. Came back from our weekend in Cape Cod with a nasty cough and headache. I worked from home on Monday and took off Tuesday because I was so miserable. I worked yesterday and felt a bit better but was so inundated with emails and tasks that I wanted to crawl into bed as soon as I got home. 

After dinner, Mario walked up to me and asked “are you still coming on my field trip tomorrow?” Ahh, the field trip. I had completely forgotten about it. I had so much work waiting for me, my head was still aching, I just wanted to sleep for 48 hours. His blue eyes sung to me. I couldn’t say no. I told him I could go for a half day but that I would have to leave at 11:30. He hugged me and said that was fine.

10 pm arrives. I am answering email. My boss’ assistant emails and asks if I can be on a call at 10 am the next morning. Immediate distress. I will be with Mario at the creek. But my boss needs me. But I rarely take days like this with Mario and he’s so excited. But my boss rarely needs me for emergency meetings.

I email the assistant and ask her if we can move the call up to 8:15 am. She can do it. I get the call the next morning on my way to the creek and am still on it as I park and walk over to Mario. He sees me and runs towards me. I hang up. 

We walk to the field full of crickets and katydids. Mario catches a female wolf spider with an egg sack. He is proud of himself. Next, we catch a colorful field cricket. Then, Mario whispers for me from a few feet away.

“Mom, come fast!”

He has spotted a katydid resting on a leaf. It took me a while to spot it because it blends in so well with the plant. He captures it after a few tries in his empty peanut butter jar and runs it over to the guide. The guide is impressed. Mario is pleased.

   
 We move onto the creek where the kids will get to use nets to try and find different water life. I really need to head out to get to my work meeting. Mario begs me to stay a bit longer. We listen to the guide give instructions on how to hold the net and what they may find. Mario and his buddies are excited. They endure the guide’s instructions and jump up at the end to get their net. I listen to the boy chatter as they head towards the creek:

“Dude, the water is going to be cold! Dude, did you bring other shoes? Dude, we get lunch after this.”

Mario looks for me as he climbs the hill with a net full of crawdads and silver dollars. He reaches down to pick up a crawdad and peeks up at me with those siren eyes. 

“You watching, mom?”

Yes, darlin’, I am.”   

 

Boy Scouts! Boy Scouts!

Mario counted down the days for his Boy Scout meeting. Finally, Wednesday arrived and Mario begged to leave for the meeting from the time I got home at 5:45 pm until 6:45 pm when we left. We walked down the stairs to the basement of the church where meetings are held and Quinn came running towards us.
“Mario, look at all the medals you earned!”
He and Paxton and Mario ran to the board where the medals hung.

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Mario wrapped his arm around Quinn and I heard chatter between them. Surely Mario was bringing them up to speed on all of his achievements. He was so excited.
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He sat dutifully as the troop leaders spoke and followed his leader back to the kitchen to work on a project. Finally, an hour later, they presented the medals. He looked so innocent and sweet standing next to the Scout leader while he congratulated Mario on earning so many medals. Then the Scout leader presented him with a certificate that Mario earned at the Shoot-A-Ree for nailing a tomahawk into a piece if wood. He was the only one to do it. He beamed at me. And then he walked proudly back to his chair and showed them off to his friends.
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He ran over later and showed them to me. He was so incredibly happy. As we were standing around after the meeting, he pulled at me.
“We have to get my uniform tonight, mom. I want to put my medals on my belt and wear it to school tomorrow.”
I explained the store wasn’t open but promised is go there during the week. Thursday came and went and as we were getting ready for bed, Mario asked “did you get my uniform?” I had to break the news that I hadn’t. He got upset and ran to his room. The boy is a Boy Scout fanatic. I promised him we’d go on Friday.
Friday morning brought pleas from Mario to not forget we were going to the store after school. I did not disappoint. Bethany dropped him off to me at the store and we got all the items he needed and more. He left a happy camper.
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As soon as we got home, he got out his belt and slipped on his medals. He kept asking when dad would be home.
Jon pulled up in the driveway.
When he walked in the door, Mario asked him to stay in the kitchen. He put on his shirt and neckerchief and belt and tucked his shirt into his shorts. He placed his cap on his head. Jon watched in delight.
Our boy.

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Mario time

It was just me and Mario for 24 hours straight on Saturday and Sunday morning. He played his football game Saturday morning with his dad on the sidelines (Jon is the videographer lately) and me shivering over on the fan side with some other parents. He got one unassisted tackle and I missed it – ugh!
We got home around noon and he dove straight to his iPad. He wanted me to watch him build a place in Roboblox. Now, I remember as a little girl begging my folks to watch Family Feud with me – a plea to which they routinely declined. I don’t particularly remember being heart-broken – I got my Doritos and planted myself in my bean bag but I am sure a part of me processed their denial as not wanting to be with me or not being interested in me. I see today that it was far from that reasoning – it was that they had two seconds to do something they had an interest in like reading a book or writing a story. Or maybe not even so idyllic – they had time to do laundry or wash dishes.
So when Mario asked me to watch him play, I agreed. But damn if I didn’t channel my parents as I watched him for five minutes and was ready to move on to a book or some chores. I hung in for a bit longer with him and then told him how impressed I was with his building. “What a cool spaceship you built in the middle of the field!” (I am quite sure that sitting with him for five minutes and acknowledging his work will do the trick – when he’s an adult, he will undoubtedly remember how much his mom was there for him…!).
After mowing, I got a text from the mom of one of his friends telling me that they were at a Taste of Grandview. Mario agreed to bike down to the event with me, which made my day. I love that time together. We talked the entire way down. Two of his buddies were down there when we arrived and were playing in a little patch of grass behind the food stands. They played football and played in the trees (throwing pine cones at one another – what fun!) for five hours straight. I could not believe it. We got down there at 3 pm and did not leave until close to 8. Another mom and I kept praying that maybe they’d go to bed as soon as we got home from exhaustion.
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Not so much – Mario is a night owl. We biked up to Stauf’s and ate a bagel. I told him how he used to love to go to Stauf’s with me and eat blueberry muffins and bagels. I’d break off the smallest pieces and dip them in cream cheese worried that he’d choke with any bigger pieces. Mario rolled his eyes at me and asked me to watch him play Wipeout on my phone. He thinks it’s hilarious to watch the person ram her head against the foam rollers or fall into the water. Boys. Then we biked home and talked about poop the entire way – easy to do with a boy. He was fascinated that certain foods weren’t digested and came out in your poop. The little things in life….
I promised him that I’d watch a movie with him – no computer or iPad on my lap as we watched (I’m really bad about that). We snuggled on the couch with popcorn and Milk Duds and watched Spiderman 2. I thought he’d surely doze off but that boy stayed up for the entire movie. It was 11 pm and he was still wide-eyed. I made him go to bed knowing that he’d be up at 6:30 am no matter what. He begged me to do “spider up his back” which entails me gently tickling the length of his back up through his hair and whispering “spiders crawling up your back….” He loves it and becomes completely relaxed by it. He was out in five minutes.
I carried him upstairs and tucked him in bed next to me. Little munchball boy. To my elation, he did not wake me up until 7:05 am. What a gift he gave me. And even then, he let me lay in bed as long as we could talk. Gladly. Poop came up as a subject again but so did other more appropriate topics. We laid and talked until 8 am. Heaven. Then we got up and started our day with waffles and chocolate chips and a trip to the grocery store. He helped me pick out food for the farm and found out that Kroger’s donuts are even better than Giant Eagle’s donuts! I know where we are heading every Sunday morning.
We got home and he helped me round up Rocco and his food. He even gathered up his books and markers for the back seat. Yea, he is definitely a keeper.
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